Why Donald Trump Matters

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump matters because Trump’s candidacy is the most boisterously obnoxious evidence to support the growing empirical case that the Republican Party can no longer function as a national political party.

The Republican party has been taken over by a group of people who hate government and have no interest in helping government serve the people. Today the Republican party has fully embraced the notion that the government is the problem and that it’s their duty to stop it. Yet contrary to the believe that the government is always wrong, Republicans today have no problem doling out tax breaks and kickbacks to wildly profitable companies like ExxonMobil.

So with that as the basis of the party’s platform, it’s no wonder that someone like Trump could do well. Trump doesn’t know the first thing about government or governing, but that’s not what he’s selling. Trump is saying, “Look. I’m not going to go to DC to govern. I’m going there to kick some ass and get stuff done. The way I do it in the corporate world.”

It’s not much different than the argument George W. Bush made in 2000. He was the governor of Texas for a few years. Other than that, Bush worked for his father’s political machine and he cashed out big on his Texas Rangers investment. In 1989, Bush invested $800,000 in the baseball team then sold his share in 1998 for $15 million.

Running for the presidency, Bush positioned himself as the CEO candidate. Even though his corporate career consisted of a bit of bungling around in the 1980s, Bush promised to bring his capitalist skills to the Oval office and revolutionize Washington – get things done. Bush did get things done. His presidency consisted of massive terrorist attacks, war and war profiteering and ended with the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression.

George W. Bush represented the continued Republican party degradation that really began with President Ronald Reagan. Reagan successfully planted the seeds and cultivated hatred toward the federal government. In addition to slashing regulations, taxes on the wealthy, and a full assault on social programs, the Republican party’s message to it’s base for the late 35 years is that the federal government is the problem.

It’s the perfect message. Democrats tend to be left of center and supportive of government action to help people with education, health care, retirement, whatever. So the GOP labels the Democratic party as the party of Big Government while blasting the very notion that government should exist in any form other than that which aids capitalistic endeavors.

And underlying all of what the Republican party does lies capitalism. The view of capitalists of government is one that sees government’s responsibility is to help capitalists and capitalism. The capitalists seek low wages, no environment regulations, high profits and no taxes.

To masquerade some of those less politically palatable ideas, like low wages, ending public education and destruction of the environment, the Republican party will often focus on social issues, like abortion or gay marriage. It’s an effective technique to draw the voter’s attention away from those policies that may be against the voter’s own economic self-interest.

And Trump manifests all of what the GOP is today. It’s the party that loathes brown people, whether it’s the immigrants cleaning your hotel room or black folks killed by the police, like Sandra Bland. It’s the party that never wanted to lose the marriage equality argument because it drew so many small-minded people out to vote Republican. It’s the party that will never overturn Roe v. Wade because without abortion the Republican party would cease to exist.

Unlike Bush, Trump’s not pretending he’s going to do anything positive while in office. He’s going to pick a war with Mexico. He’ll probably bomb Iran. Trump is going to go full Trump all over DC, if he’s elected president. And no one knows for sure what that will look like, but it won’t be pretty.

Fortunately, or unfortunately if you write about politics, Trump won’t be the next president, but the fact that he’s leading by a lot in the polls, and has been for awhile, certainly says something about the state of the Republican party. That problem stems from the fact that the Republican party lacks core planks in its platform that appeal to more than 50 percent of the country. To get elected Republican politicians have to lie about their real intentions once elected. And so whoever is the best liar wins. Right now that’s Trump.

Sandra Bland Stop and Arrest Transcript

The Huffington Post now has what appears to be the complete transcript of Sandra Bland’s illegal arrest.

At no point during the arrest did State Trooper Brian Encinia do the right thing. Encinia clearly violated Bland’s rights repeatedly and provided a perfect example of how to be a really shitty cop.

Bland repeatedly asked why she was being arrested. No response from Encinia. Bland told Encinia that he did not have the right to remove her from the her vehicle for a routine traffic stop. Encinia said he did have that right and he was wrong. According to the transcript it appears that Encinia assaulted Bland, yet Encinia claims she assaulted him.

The transcript doesn’t shed any light on why or how Bland ended up dead, but it sure looks like those cops did not want a black woman, who knows the law, taking them to court.

New York Times Doesn’t Understand the Freedom of Information Act

Update July 24, 2015: The New York Times is now back-pedaling this story. Apparently the probe isn’t criminal or even related to any potential wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. It’s an investigation into whether Clinton was on the receiving end of classified information.

Update July 25, 2015: For more on how shockingly wrong this entire Clinton “scandal” story is, check out this bitch slap over at Newsweek. Basically, as the FOIA folks are combing through the tens of thousands of Clinton emails, they’re finding some stuff in there that shouldn’t be in there, but it has nothing to do with any potential wrongdoing by Clinton.

One would expect that a serious news organization like the New York Times would have a pretty solid grasp of the Freedom of Information Act. If one expected that to be the case, one would be wrong.

On Thursday, the New York Times published this sentence regarding a criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server to handle all of her email when she was secretary of state.

“Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient, but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Wrong. Clinton may have used the personal email account because it was more convenient, but her doing so in no legal way shields her correspondence as secretary of state from Congress or FOIA requests. All communication, whether it’s written on a bar napkin or chiseled into a slab of granite is accessible via a FOIA request. Now it may be that Clinton illegally deleted email messages, thus hiding them from inspection, but that’s not what the New York Times is saying.

In my time as a reporter I’ve probably had this same conversation with a half dozen people. As a government official, you can’t skirt FOIA by using a non-government means of communication. The mode of communication is not the relevant issue, it’s whether what’s discussed is related to your government job.

But this is Hillary, so it’s part of the media’s job to make her seem like someone who can’t be trusted – slick Willie is now slick Hillary. Nicely done New York Times, you’ve done your part.

Sandra Bland’s Rights Violated Before She Died

When Sandra Bland was pulled over, harassed by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, and subsequently arrested before winding up dead in a Texas jail cell, her rights had been violated repeatedly.

The Texas Standard has a question and answer story detailing the numerous times Encinia violated Bland’s rights and should have deescalated the situation rather cranking up the stress and anxiety.

Sandra Bland’s Mother: “This Means War”

Sandra Bland and mother Geneva Reed-Veal

Sandra Bland and mother Geneva Reed-Veal

Sandra Bland’s mother had to say good-bye to her daughter Tuesday. As a parent, the utter pain and destruction losing a child is unimaginable, and despite that, Bland’s mother vowed to fight for justice.

“This means war,” Geneva Reed-Veal said memorializing her daughter at Johnson Phillip All Faiths Church on Prairie View A&M’s campus in Texas.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Reed-Veal said that when her daughter left for Texas she said she was going to “stop all the injustices in the South.”

Bland’s death just might be the catalyst for real change in terms of police brutality and violence against black people.

Reed-Veal said that “something occurred that is going to change the world.”

Eric Garner being choked to death by a police officer caught on video, changed nothing. Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore did result in six police officers charged, it’s far too early to tell whether that case will result in any substantive change. Michael Brown, 18, was unarmed and gunned down in broad daylight in Ferguson. Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by a police officer within 2 seconds of the police officer approaching the young boy who had a pellet gun. There are more cases, like the man who was shot in the back while unarmed and running from a police officer. The list goes on, but none of these incidents ever rises to the level of a full-blown Department of Justice review of all of these police departments, and to have that review result in an improved police department.

Maybe Bland’s death will be the one that will result in real and substantive change to how we staff and manage our police departments.

Donald Trump is Amazing

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is amazing. I’ve been watching, writing about and engaged in politics on some level for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen anyone like him. Trump is an unvarnished egotistical salesmen and he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Here is Trump’s plan. Say crazy stuff every day, get tons of press coverage (free advertising) and just blast away at his Republican opponents.

His most recent shenanigans involve Senator Lindsey Graham of South Caroline and Senator John McCain of Arizona. Trump called Graham an idiot before giving out the senator’s personal cell phone number on live TV. Trump said he gave out Graham’s phone number because it was “fun.” He said that he and his crew had a good laugh and got tons of press coverage to boot. As for McCain, Trump said that McCain wasn’t a hero because he got caught in Vietnam. McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and tortured for five years as a prisoner of war. Trump avoided the Vietnam war with five deferments.

All over Twitter and Facebook, everyone is laughing at Trump and calling him an asshole, but as far as Trump is concerned, if people talking about him, that’s all that matters. And he’s right.

To get on the stage for the national Republican party debates, a candidate must rank in the top 10 on national polls. So it doesn’t matter if Trump is doing well in Iowa or New Hampshire, all he has to do is be in the top 10. Well, he’s got that locked up because most polls are showing Trump in the number 1 or number 2 spot. So he’s in the debates, that’s for certain.

Once he’s on the stage, watch out Republican candidates, Trump has no reason to play nice, he’s going to go for the throat and the other candidates are scared.

I don’t know if his strategy will get Trump the Republican nomination, but I think it will get him pretty far along in the process. Trump will probably gracefully bow out of the race at some point – not really.

Elizabeth Warren Takes on Primerica President Peter Schneider

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 10.07.57 AM
Senate Democrats want to pass a law that makes it illegal for investment bankers to put their own self-interest ahead of their clients. The GOP hates it and so they invited Primerica President Peter Schneider to testify and Sen. Elizabeth Warren made him look like an idiot.

If the GOP has its way, companies like Primerica can continue to manipulate clients into actions which benefit Primerica but is a loser for the client.

Sandra Bland: Arrest Video Edited

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 9.25.54 AM
On Tuesday, Texas Department of Public Safety released a video purportedly recorded from Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia. By Wednesday, video experts say that the video has clearly been edited.

Ben Norton has a good story detailing the various anomalies. What’s odd is that some of the edits appear after Bland’s arrest, so there might be a legit reason for these oddities in the video, but it’s highly suspicious.

I am Sandra

Sandra Bland, 28, died on July 13, 2015 while in police custody of Waller County, Texas.

Why Republicans Love Hating Gays

Republicans are not fighting for the sanctity of marriage or to preserve religious liberty when they blast away at gay marriage and marriage equality. They’re doing so for purely political reasons.

The problem for the GOP is that the party’s actual policies are unpalatable on their own when presented to voters. Most Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy. Most Americans think that corporations shouldn’t destroy the environment to make a buck. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Americans are actually pretty freaking liberal.

So in order to win national elections, for those politicians outside of carefully gerrymandered House districts, they have to talk about something besides their policy positions. Abortion is an old favorite, and it gets a certain segment of the population to rally behind even the most wretched of GOP candidates, like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. But abortion alone isn’t going to win a presidential race. Gay marriage has been the go-to issue for the Republican party for the last few years, albeit not particularly effective, but now the the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples, that issue has been neutered and that makes Republicans mad. Now what are they going to talk about as they charge full speed toward electoral obliteration next year?

I guess they can keep talking about how they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act – stripping millions of Americans of affordable health insurance. But I think that ship has sailed too, not because the Supreme Court has once again reaffirmed the health care law’s constitutionality. Voters I think have figured out that Republicans who claim that they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act are lying. The House has voted like 50 times to repeal the health care reform law and none of those bills has gone anywhere. And no one really expects any such bill to get around a presidential veto. People like having access to health care.

Maybe the GOP will just come to terms with the reality that sooner or later they’re going to have to tell voters what they’re actually going to do once elected. Who knows, maybe Republicans voters will demand that one day.

Really? This is the 21st Century Conservative Movement?

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe the conservative movement was always devoid of serious intellectual thinkers. But up until the late 1990s, the conservative wing of our political world included intelligent people like William F. Buckley and editorial writers like William Safire. There were always the Birchers, but there were intelligent men and women associated with the GOP who could make a cogent argument. Not today. In 2015, the intellectual giants have long abandoned the Republican party and conservative politics.

I can recall listening to conservatives make their case and thinking, “I totally disagree with what they’re saying, but I get where they’re coming from on this issue.”

There was a certain intellectual integrity to conservatives 20 years ago, but now the conservative arguments range from one argumentation fallacy after another. Just look at the conservative Supreme Court justices’ arguments opposing marriage equality. There is clearly no rational basis to deny gay couples the same protection under the law as straight people, so all that’s left are intellectually dishonest arguments that really make no sense whatsoever.

In his dissenting opinion on marriage equality, Justice Clarence Thomas somehow tried to equate allowing gay people the right to marry as tantamount to opposing inter-racial marriages. Of course, the opposite is true. Denying gay people the right to marry is exactly like denying people of different races the opportunity marry the one they love. While inter-racial marriages were criminal offenses, and with gay marriages we’re dealing with civil law, however the same equal protection under the law argument clearly applies to both situations.

And look at the conservative response to yet another blow in the “effort” to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court, once again, has ruled in support of the Affordable Care Act.

And because of that decision, conservatives are confusingly accusing Supreme Court judges of activism. In conservative circles if the court doesn’t strike down a law passed by Congress, it’s being an activist court. Which of course is exactly the opposite of what’s happening, so that’s yet another dumb idea.

The reason for this insane disconnect between current conservative ideas and logic is that the party has been exposed. For the last 50 or 60 years, the GOP has been the party of the rich, for the rich. They’ve pushed massive tax cuts, slashing the top tax bracket by more than 50 percent. They’ve pushed hard for deregulation of the banking industry, which has resulted in a boom and bust economy. That started with the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s, the hedge fund collapse and the most recent Great Recession. Thrown into the mix is the Enron and other similar corrupt corporations gaming the system and rigging markets.

So while they work to suppress worker wages, dismantle unions and gut as much federal and state regulations as possible, the working men and women are living on less money, with bigger bills, more debt and an unpredictable future.

And that’s the problem with the Republican party. They can’t talk about this stuff publicly, or they won’t even win House seats in Texas. So they have to lie. When Ted Cruz says that if he’s elected president he’ll repeal the Affordable Care Act on day 1 in office, he knows that’s bullshit. Cruz must know that the president can’t unilaterally just throw out laws passed by Congress. The president can lobby Congress to change the law or repeal the law, but Cruz knows that the president doesn’t have the authority he is claiming he will have if elected president. Cruz is banking on the fact that those people who are showing up to listen to him speak 18 months before general election, don’t care.

But that’s the only trick the GOP can do. They can throw red meat to their ignorant base that shows up to vote in primaries. While this looniness makes for funny news stories and hilarious Saturday Night Live skits, it’s not particularly useful in terms of honest political discourse. The frightening aspect of all of this nonsense is that some freak thing could happen during the general campaign and one of these stunningly inept GOP candidates could be president. Can anyone seriously imagine what a Chris Christie presidency would look like?