Monday, October 2, 2017

REPUBLICANS AND THE HURRICANES

HARVEY III

By Ronald T. Fox

NOTE: This essay is highly critical of Republicans and the Republican Party. In making my points, I admit to taking generalization liberties. Not all Republicans are guilty as I charge below; some, to be sure, are not completely heartless. Such Republicans, though, are few and far between. Today’s GOP is under the control of radical right true believers in unrestrained capitalism and the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government. Their emphasis on economic libertarianism leaves little space for humanity, or, for that matter, democracy. So, when I use the terms “Republican” and “Republican Party,” I’m referring to the party’s dominating--and uncompromising-- radical right.


Hurricanes Harvey was the largest rainfall event in American history. Over 51 inches of rain fell in some areas around Houston. While not bringing as much rainfall, Hurricane Irma delivered powerful winds and vast destruction to Florida, leaving more than a dozen dead and millions without electricity. Not to be outdone, Hurricane Maria, a category five hurricane, brought even greater devastation to Puerto Rico. Ninety percent of the islands is still--two weeks later-- without power or fresh water.

Terrible as this destruction was, it pales in comparison to mega-storm damage elsewhere in the world.  In India, Nepal and Bangladesh torrential monsoon rains and flooding has placed some 16 million children in urgent need of life-saving support.

High magnitude hurricanes, along with record heat waves, wildfires, and draughts, have been occurring with increasing frequency. These destructive natural events, climate scientists report, are almost certainly growing in magnitude because human behavior is causing the earth’s oceans to become warmer.

Each new gigantic hurricane makes me both sad and angry. I feel empathy toward victims, especially low income people who invariably suffer the most. (I’m not so sorry, however, for wealthy folks who choose to build in flood zones or live in fancy houses along a coastline). The know-nothing climate science deniers who have prevented our government from attacking the global warming problem spark my anger, as does the mainstream media, which relishes reporting on hurricane destruction, telling human interest stories, and showing journalists knee deep in flood water, but rarely probes deeper questions about what might be causing storms to grow larger and arrive more often.

In the U.S., climate change deniers are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Republican Party. In alliance with wealthy donors from the oil, gas and coal industries who have a financial stake in opposing any effort to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, the party has blocked meaningful initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In doing so, the GOP has blood on its hands. It has aided and abetted the extreme weather horrors we are experiencing.

And that is not all. Republican support for unrestricted development, opposition to regulations aimed at protecting the environment, and public health and safety, hostility toward immigrants, and opposition to federal spending that compromises principles of economic libertarianism, exacerbates the human costs of high magnitude storms and wildfires.

The GOP can’t help itself. Decades ago it threw in with billionaire and millionaire ideologues bent on changing the rules of democratic governance to promote unfettered capitalism. The party has become passionately dedicated to promoting their various agendas. This means, among other things, pushing for tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else. It also means rolling back regulations that prioritize human beings over profits.

I’ve been wondering how the Republican Party will respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Could these catastrophic climate events, coming so close together, lead them to question Republican "truths" about climate change? Could riveting visuals of destroyed neighborhoods, uprooted families, submerged towns from Houston to Jacksonville to San Juan, and flattened Caribbean islands, along with the realization that it will take years for full recoveries, reach into hard Republican hearts and squeeze out a little humanity? In short, will they learn any lessons from the hurricanes of 2017? 

The extensiveness of destruction in the paths of the hurricanes of 2017 cannot be fully explained by what we know about climate science. Republican opposition to reducing greenhouse gasses, and the party’s policies on land development, deregulation, immigration, and federal spending, made the hurricane-hit areas more vulnerable to destruction. I wish, in the aftermath of the great hurricanes, Republicans will ask themselves the following tough questions.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. President Trump’s Staff. Staff for the self-styled “billionaire” are reportedly pushing the Republican National Committee to pick up the growing Russia-related legal bills for Trump’s attorneys. From the Washington Post:

Another question is who will pay the growing legal fees for the president and administration officials caught up in the Russia inquiries. Some in Trump’s orbit are pushing the Republican National Committee to bear the costs, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, including one who euphemistically described the debate as a “robust discussion.”

Though the RNC does have a legal defense fund, it well predates the Russia investigation and is intended to be used for assisting with legal challenges facing the Republican Party, such as a potential election recount.

The RNC has not made a final decision, in part because the committee is still researching whether the funds could legally be used to help pay legal costs related to Russia. But many within the organization are resisting the effort, believing it would be more appropriate to create a separate legal defense fund for the case. Stay tuned.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRIES IS THE AUGUST IGGY AWARD WINNER

Phronesis readers have voted and the consensus winner of the August Ignominious Absurdity (IGGY) award is the God-fearing Pastor Robert Jeffries. With God on our side, how can we lose?

I case you missed his unbelievable absurdity, I re-post it below:

1. Pastor Robert Jeffries. In a statement emailed to journalists Tuesday afternoon, pastor Jeffries praised Trump’s aggressive statement [on North Korea] as a function of divine will.

"When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

Jeffress has long been one of Trump’s political allies, one central to Trump and his team’s increasingly unsettling conflation of Christianity, nationalism, and pro-Trump cult of personality. [...]

In a follow-up interview with The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jeffress doubled down on his words:

“[Those verses in the Book of Romans give] the government ... the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.”

If Trump were to decide to plunk down a half-dozen Nagasaki-sized nukes on North Korea, that would be just fine with this supposedly Christian preacher. God not only ordains whatever it takes, he also says Americans are biblically obligated to support whatever Trump thinks is necessary. Jeffries is clearly Trump’s kind of guy-- Sec of Defense material.



Friday, September 1, 2017

AUGUST 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD (THE IGGY)

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1. Pastor Robert Jeffries. In a statement emailed to journalists Tuesday afternoon, pastor Jeffries praised Trump’s aggressive statement [on North Korea] as a function of divine will.

"When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

Jeffress has long been one of Trump’s political allies, one central to Trump and his team’s increasingly unsettling conflation of Christianity, nationalism, and pro-Trump cult of personality. [...]

In a follow-up interview with The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jeffress doubled down on his words:

“[Those verses in the Book of Romans give] the government ... the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.”

If Trump were to decide to plunk down a half-dozen Nagasaki-sized nukes on North Korea, that would be just fine with this supposedly Christian preacher. God not only ordains whatever it takes, he also says Americans are biblically obligated to support whatever Trump thinks is necessary. Jeffries is clearly Trump’s kind of guy-- Sec of Defense material.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

JULY 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD: THE IGGY

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I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the term “bonehead absurdity” as an apt description of the asinine statements I nominate each month for the infamous Bonehead Absurdity Award. ”Bonehead” suggests a foolish or stupid person who, possibly without thinking, blurts out an absurdity--a slip of the tongue, if you will. Looking back over nearly four years of bonehead absurdities, it is clear to me, and a number of Phronesis readers, that the absurd utterances I select do not represent momentary lapses of judgment; On the contrary, they provide a window into the character, values, and beliefs of the speakers. The utterances demonstrate ignorance, to be sure, but more importantly they reveal deceit, hate, mendacity, moral corruption, empathy deprivation, and, in many cases, depravity-- some of the speakers are downright evil to the core.

I have not been alone among Phronesis readers thinking that “Bonehead Absurdity” didn’t capture the essence of the shameful utterances. Loyal reader Jim Dubbs responded recently that the speakers defy definition in the extent of their stupidity or, of what he considers worse, "their willful and cynical exploitation of the baser instincts, fears, ignorance and gullibility of so much of the US population." I'd like to think an exploitation purpose motivated their absurd comments, but my sense is they reveal a deeper truth.  I think they really speak volumes about what's in their hearts and souls. These people simply can't help themselves.  A new name for the monthly award is thus called for.

No single term aptly conveys the disgraceful utterances I highlight each month. Perhaps one that comes closest is ignominious, meaning deserving of public disgrace or shame (at least from the thinking public). In recognition of the ignominious nature of the nominated absurdities, I will henceforth call the award the Ignominious Absurdity of the Month, or IGGY for short. Let all future IGGY winners will live on in Phronesis infamy.


1. Rick Wiles of TruNews. By now, you’ve heard that some Republicans have pointed the finger at liberals for the Alexandria shooting. Well, one religious right pastor took it to another level. He called for Democrats and their supporters to be rounded up en masse.

You may recall that in 2014, Rick Wiles called for a military coup against Obama. And yet, ever since Trump took office, he has warned that any opposition to Trump amounts to sedition. Hours after the Alexandria shooting, Wiles took his new line to its logical extreme—calling for a real-life version of Order 66. Listen to the whole thing here, or catch the highlights via Right Wing Watch.

Wiles claimed the shooting was the latest product of an attempt by the deep state—or, as he calls it, “the dark state”—to push Trump out. He accused the deep state and its allies on both sides of the aisle of “whipping up sedition” against Trump. To Wiles’ mind, there is only one solution—the Democrats must be branded as “a violent, seditious political movement” and disbanded.

Co-host Ed Szall asked if the “agitators in the media” should go as well. Wiles’response?

“I think they should be rounded up. It’s getting out of control. This was an attempted mass assassination today. Are we going to wait another month or two, until 30 or 40 members of Congress are mowed down? Are we going to wait until a Democrat socialist progressive commits an act of violence against Republicans?”

He then railed about Democratic attacks on Trump supporters both during and after the campaign—forgetting about the numerous acts of violence at Trump rallies, as well as the ugly and outright criminal trolling by alt-right thugs on Twitter.

But facts didn’t matter to Wiles. He claimed that the Democrats are trying to start an American version of the French Revolution. For that reason, he believes it’s time for the hammer to come down—now.

“Rachel Maddow ought to be taken off the air right now. MSNBC should be shut down. The Democratic Party should be disbanded as a violent, socialist seditious organization. It is NOT the party of Harry Truman. It’s certainly not the party of Thomas Jefferson. This is a seditious group. These are violent revolutionaries."

Wow. He’s openly calling for a real-life version of “Revenge of the Sith.” This is fascism, plain and simple.


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?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FORBIDDEN QUESTIONS

NOTE: I received the following comment from anonymous on my Stupid is as Stupid Does post:

Anonymous: You make some good points about our cognitive amnesia and the failure of Americans to ask hard questions about our country’s foreign affairs. I agree that we have been very stupid about using military force, though I tend to lean toward willful stupidity: too many powerful individuals and organizations benefit from war.  What are some of the tough questions you think should be asked?  

Dear Anonymous,

For an expansive list of questions that should be asked, and very likely won't, I offer the following list provided by Andrew Bacevich, a highly regarded historian, specializing in international relations, security studies, U.S. foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history, which was posted on the TomDispatch website. Bacevich is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.  He is also a career U.S. Army officer who retired with the rank of Colonel.