HELLO

Whether you're a fan of my OSCARBLOGGER site, or if you're just casting your way 'round the web, I hope you enjoy my new blog: WHISPERING IN A WIND TUNNEL. Here I will discuss issues of politics, religion, race, gay rights, gender, you know, the big stuff.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

AMERICA AT IT'S WORST

Image result for george w bush trump




The New York Times recently ran a lengthy article that took a long look at the finances of President Trump and came to a conclusion that should surprise no one who's been following the man's unlikely path to The White House: that he has been lying about the source of his wealth.
Of all the literally thousands of falsehoods that Trump has been saying for years, this one may be the the one that he has repeated the most.  He has often held himself up as the embodiment of the American dream, the hard working, successful businessman who built a multi billion dollar empire out of a "small" loan of  a million dollars from his father.  While always absurd on the face of it (since when is a million dollars a small loan, especially when it was given fifty years ago?), we now know that it's another example of Trump's con artist nature and massive ego creating a mythical world in which he has almost god like powers of success.  In fact,  according to the article, Trump was already a millionaire at age eight!  And time and time again, his father was there to bail him out as he stumbled from one failed business venture to another, surviving six bankruptcies and terrible ideas (Trump steaks?  Trump water?  Trump university?).   He even tried to have his father's will rewritten shortly before his death to gain more power and money to bail him out yet again.  There is nothing self made about this man.
In fact he is, put simply, the living embodiment of everything wrong with American capitalism: the rich get richer and poor get poorer.  The American ideal is that with hard work and determination, anyone can be a success.  But what about the children of those who have had success?  While it's reasonable to want your children to be well provided for, is it right for them to raised in a way where their every desire can be met and every problem can be bought away?  Where prep schools train them for  entrance into ivy league colleges that they very well may not even deserve to go to?  Where a family business can lead to a cushy job that others would have to put in years of experience to get?  Has our reverence for  the American dream led us to have our own form of royalty, a tiny elite of super rich brats who rule over the rest of us because of the station of their birth and little else?

We've gone down this road before: when I hear about Trump's life of enormous wealth and privilege, I can't help but think about our last Republican President, George W Bush.  Not only were both born wealthy, but they also lived lives of entitlement and privilege: they both found ways to avoid serving in Viet Nam (Bush served in the Champagne Unit of the National guard, so named because of the number of rich kids in it, Trump had a mysterious bone spur in his foot), attended Ivy League schools without earning the right to (Bush was a wealthy Yale legacy, Trump  transferred to Wharton Business School after a family member intervened on his behalf) have been able to shrug off years of behavior that would have disqualified many presidential candidates (Bush's drinking led to a DUI and a Drunken Disorderly arrest, Trump's womanizing saw him accused of sexually assaulting nineteen different women).  They both won Republican presidential nominations through dubious means (when Bush was running against John Mc Cain in 2000, somebody spread a vicious rumor about his adopted daughter, while Trump openly accused Ted Cruz's father of somehow being involved in the Kennedy assassination!), lost the popular vote and yet swaggered into office basking in the new power that their privileged birth right had won them.  They then both began cutting taxes for wealthy families like theirs, doing nothing to aid the nation's poor and middle class.  They even both have attacked affirmative action, ignoring the role that their race, money and power had in their own lives.  And their complete and utter lack of any empathy for people not having the pampered childhoods that they had was (and is) often apparent.  It should be remembered that even in the era of crazed Trump press conferences, George W Bush's statement on Hurricane Katrina, in which he reminisced about his drinking days in New Orleans and expressed regret over his rich friend Senator Trent Lott losing his summer home (!) in the disaster, while thousands were left dead or left with nothing, ranks as one of the most tone deaf and thoughtless presidential addresses ever.   Almost as bad, Trump as president has gone to disaster sites and bragged about the turnout or told people to "have fun".  Like all psychopaths, the man is incapable of caring for anyone else but himself.
So what can we do about these smug elites buying their way through life?  Well, back in the 1950's, the top tax rate on the wealthiest people in this country was a whopping 89%.   Flush with cash, the government spent that money on three things: education, infrastructure and scientific research.  The result was the largest growth in the size of the middle class in this nations history.  Sadly, that shared prosperity ended in the 1980's, with Ronald Reagan's deep tax cut for the rich, combined with his assault on unions, beginning a steep decline in the well being of the middle class and a growth in the rich and super rich.  Although right now progressive taxation seems crazy given Trump's latest trillion and half dollar tax cut/hand out to the rich, there will come a day when common sense will finally assert itself in this country, and the wealthy elites like Trump and Bush that buy their way into power will find themselves slightly less well off.   And I hope that all they will be able to do is throw a tantrum about it, like the spoiled brats they are.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

THE PARADE OF LYING WOMEN

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Women are inherently deceitful.  They will lie repeatedly to bring down powerful men and increase their own finances and social standing.  This is one of the core beliefs of Donald Trump.  After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, nineteen different women came forward and accused him of assaulting them in much the same manner that he was heard talking about.   He immediately said they were all lying, threatened to sue them, and, of course, even publicly insulted the physical appearance of one of them.  Later, when serious allegations of his extra marital affairs with a porn star and a Playboy centerfold and his possibly illegal payoffs to those women arose, he again shrugged them off.  More women just lying, as we all know they always do. 
And those are just the women he believes are lying about him.  He has also expressed sympathy for sexual harassers Bill O'Reilly and Roger Aisles, his former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who abused his ex wife, and Senatorial candidate Roy Moore, who was credibly accused of having sexual contact with teenage girls.  He openly endorsed Moore, again shrugging off the accusers; even more lying women.   
Which leads to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination.  With his long history of Republican partisanship   and conservative pedigree, along with the slim but strong majority his party holds in the Senate, it looked like he would be an easy lock for the court.  But now, three women have come forward to allege that in his high school and college days, Kavanaugh drank heavily and assaulted girls or tried to get them under the influence of drugs and alcohol so that he could take advantage of them. Christine Blasey Ford claims that he himself assaulted her, while the two other women describe his aggressive behavior when drunk.  He has, for his part, denied the whole thing, and the Republican party has either said they believe him, or that it happened a long time ago, so who cares?  (Which, of course, means that he's lying in his denial). Remember that Kavanaugh was a spoiled prep school athlete, and he has admitted to over drinking in both high school and college.  Is the notion that his drunken behavior often led to assaulting girls, or treating them like meat for the taking, all that far fetched? 

According to Trump they are; as expected, he has defended Kavanaugh and, while not he did not outright call these women liars, he has claimed that the Democrats are pulling "a con job." “People want fame, they want money, they want whatever.” he said in a recent press conference.  There's one small problem to this: despite what Trump wants to believe,  decades of studies have shown that the people who make accusations of rape or sexual assault are very rarely lying.  In fact, most cases go unreported, or, as in the case of Ford's accusations, are made years later, after much suffering and pain.  The notion that Ford is doing this just for money or fame is absurd: she was reluctant to come forward, knowing that the media attention would often be critical (or downright insulting), but she still felt that she should be heard.  And she and her family has inevitably been hit with death threats, something that Trump naturally, hasn't mentioned, because any sympathy he feels is for the "very outstanding"  Kavanaugh, not Ford. 
As it stands, it looks like Kavanaugh will weather this storm and the narrow Republican majority in the Senate will vote to put him on the court for the rest of his life.  This means that a president who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults may put on the court another accused assaulter who very well may rule to overturn a woman's right to an abortion in this country, joined in that opinion by justice Clarence Thomas, another man accused of sexual harassment.  And the Republican party will be enshrined not just as a safe place for bigots and homophobes, but also for misogynists. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

THE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION

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Imagine if a new organization were formed to comment on the various political and social issues of the day.  Now imagine if that organization's founders openly declared that no woman would ever have any position of authority there.  Oh sure, women could join the group, play a role as secretaries and other minor positions, (and, of course, donations from women would be accepted), but every decision ever made by that group would be made by men and men only, from the top down.  And that this group of men would announce that any use of birth control is wrong, and that women's only choices in life are either celibacy or a marriage in which they will inevitably be constantly pregnant.

Now imagine if an educational organization that sent tutors to help out children in low achieving schools were rocked by scandals over some of those tutors being accused of molesting the children they were supposed to be helping. To make matters even worse, what if the administrators who ran the organization were aware of the accusations made against those tutors, and did nothing to investigate those accusations, even going so far as to send accused tutors from one school to another without a word about the allegations against them endangering innocent children.  Picture this going on for decades, with literally hundreds of pedophiles molesting thousands of children without punishment.

Now look at the Catholic Church, an organization that has done all of the above and more (the Inquisition, part of the church for centuries, tortured and killed thousands for the crime of heresy, but that was a long time ago, so I guess we're supposed to ignore that).  There is no way that any secular organization with a list of horrible behavior anywhere near the Catholic Church's could possibly survive.  Why do we give religious institutions such leeway?  Why are they allowed to openly discriminate and ignore crimes in a way no corporation could?

Religion is, quite simply, such a deep primal thing, something that has such a hold on so many people, that just turning away from it is almost unthinkable for them, no matter what. Many of the first artistic images created by ancient humans were religious in nature, and every civilization has created some kind of belief system in gods and/or goddesses, with some even willing to sacrifice their lives to a higher power.  That is how much strength religion has over people; it defines us to our very core.  And that especially goes for an institution like the Catholic Church, which has a history that goes back centuries and that has spread to every corner of the globe.  That's why it's entirely possible for someone to condemn the history of the Catholic Church, be sickened by the recent molestation scandal, completely disagree with the church's stance on birth control and abortion, and still attend church each week and drop money in the collection plate.  The good feeling that human beings have evolved to get from spiritual belief on a personal level, a feeling that is usually engrained in us as children, often beats the sick feeling one gets when viewing a church's history as a whole.  The logical part of our brain and the spiritual part do not often agree, which  can lead to such seemingly contradictory behavior. 

But there is a slow but steady drumbeat of people in first world countries moving away from religion.  Although the Catholic Church still stands at over a billion members worldwide, more and more people are responding "none of the above" when asked their religious affiliation in both the US and Europe.  And perhaps more pointedly, many members of a church are openly disagreeing with that church's teachings, like when the heavily Catholic country of Ireland voted in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights recently  Despite the grip religion can have a hold on people, scandals like the ones the Catholic Church is going through can take their toll.  Personally, I hope that these continuing scandals, along with the world's evolving views on women's rights and homosexuality, lead institutions like the Catholic Church to start changing their views or fading slowly away. I for one won't miss them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

THE DEATH OF DECENCY



TRUMP VISITS GOLF COURSE WHILE WASHINGTON MOURNS MCCAIN


The headline above from the September 1st edition of The New York Times perfectly illustrates the utterly classless and indifferent way that President Trump responded to the death of Republican Senator and war veteran John McCain.  Not only did he spend time playing golf (something that he once criticized President Obama for doing) during the funeral, he also found time to tweet out his usual dose of lies, boasts and insults while the proceedings were taking place.   Because even the death of one of the most admired politicians in the country can't stop Trump from thinking about himself.  It is fitting that McCain pointedly forbade Trump from attending his funeral services, seeing as how he once turned a speech at his own father's funeral into yet another excuse to brag about himself!
The death of McCain at age 81 from brain cancer is more than a tragedy, it's a sad symbol of what has really died in Washington since Trump took that fateful escalator ride more than two years ago: simple human decency.  McCain had a hot temper, was mostly a down the line conservative, and he was a constant defender of the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq.  But he was also  a decent man who was willing to cross the political aisle to cut deals and build friendships.  He was outspoken in his (sadly doomed) attempt to cut down the influence of big money in politics.  And along with his war record, I will always admire him for three things: when, during the 2008 presidential campaign, he corrected a woman in the crowd who called Obama a Muslim, when he withdrew his (already reluctant) endorsement of then candidate Trump after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, and, of course, when he voted against the Senate's attempts to repeal Obamacare, which would have resulted in tens of millions of people losing their health care.
At the same time, McCain provided a bridge to the disastrous state that the country is in right now: in the 2008 campaign, when McCain's initial choice of vice presidential candidate, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, was killed by the party because Lieberman was pro choice, McCain picked the mostly unknown governor of Alaska Sarah Palin as his running mate.  While she proved to be a terrible choice for the campaign, her plain spoken manner made her very popular in the party.  And as the campaign went on, her misstatements and lack of knowledge, combined with her willingness to embrace the more radical elements of the party (she once accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists") endeared her even more to the Republican base. 

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Is it any surprise that eight years later the party was ready to embrace an unexperienced, insulting, blunt talker as its standard bearer?  And, in typical take no prisoners fashion, is it any surprise that Palin herself endorsed Trump, even after he had personally attacked McCain's war record? By 2016, McCain himself, was already a dinosaur, a remembrance of time when hyper partisanship wasn't the only thing driving the Republican party, as the often openly bigoted Trump wing of the party swept up behind the openly bigoted candidate. 
The good news is that, while Trump remains popular with the Republican base, the number of people in that base is shrinking: recently, Ohio Republican Governor  John Kasich admitted in an interview that  "We’re now down to about 25 percent. It’s all becoming like a remnant."  If any good can come from the Trump presidency, it may be that his open bigotry and conspiracy mongering may well  whittle down the Republican party to only a few remaining lunatics in the future.  But, for now, those lunatics are running the Washington asylum.  And they can do a lot of damage.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

REMEMBER THE DATE


Tuesday August 21st will be remembered as an earth shattering day in politics, even if some people are already trying to down play its significance.  On that day, within the same hour, former  President Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight charges of corruption and tax evasion, while Trump's lawyer for around a decade Micheal Cohen plead guilty to illegal campaign contributions.  While corruption by people around a sitting president is nothing new, the near simultaneous, split screen criminal stories show how far down this president, who ironically claimed that he would be "tough on crime" and "drain the swamp", has taken this country.
Of the two stories, the Cohen one is far more potentially damning for the president: Cohen has testified under oath that Trump himself directed him to pay off  two women to prevent them   from going public about their affairs with then candidate Trump before the election.  The payments were made to specifically keep the women's claims from effecting the outcome of the election, making them illegal campaign expenditures.  In fact, these crimes are considered felonies.
In typical Trumpian fashion, our president responded by sending out tweets that sounded like they came from a mob boss: he praised Manafort for "refusing to break", and dumped on Cohen, whom he claimed might "flip".  It is typical of the appalling nature of Trump that he refuses to condemn or even mention the crimes committed by these men and went straight to how this all affects him personally.  Indeed, his public worrying that Cohen might flip is really him almost admitting that he has committed crimes in the past that Cohen may be aware of; why would Trump worry about his lawyer testifying if he's done nothing wrong?
But then, from day one, this administration has never cared about its public image: from granting security clearances and cabinet positions to his unqualified family members to the first lady going to visit children separated from their parents at the border while wearing a jacket that says I DON'T CARE, DO YOU?, from  Trump holding a private meeting with Vladamir Putin,  the man he has been accused of criminally conspiring with, to his refusal to stop profiting from his businesses, not to mention his constant barrage of bratty, insulting and dishonest tweets.  Yes, violating every norm of presidential decorum and simple human decency is something Trump and the  people around him do every day.
And why should he change?  His cult like popularity with his base in the Republican party has remained high, and if the party stood by him while he insulted John McCain's war record, made racist comments in campaign speeches, was heard bragging about sexually assaulting women on tape (and was accused of making such assaults by nineteen different women), defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville (and retweeted white supremacist posts), called the press "the enemy of the people", and held a fawning press conference with a hostile foreign leader that he claimed to believe over his own intelligence agencies, then having two men that were once close to him revealed to be criminals is just another thing that elected Republicans will have to ignore.
Thankfully, change may be coming; although the Republican party may never have the courage to properly investigate their leader, the coming elections that appear to showing the Democrats at least retaking the House of Representatives if not the Senate, which will allow them to begin properly looking into the many possibly corrupt things that Trump appears to be involved in (along with the Russia connection and mistress payoffs, there's also his violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and his misuse of his charitable foundation).  Quite frankly, it would be nice to see that for once his life Donald Trump may be held accountable for the terrible things he has done.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

TRUMP AND PUTIN: TWO OF A KIND

“Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are - a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”- John McCain

Donald Trump is not a subtle man.  He never has been in his whole life: as a six year old child he once punched his music teacher because he thought she didn't know enough about music and was later sent to military school because he was out of control, where he soon gained a reputation for falsely bragging about girls he dated and sporting events that he had won.
In many ways his entire life is an embodiment of one of the main things wrong with this country: that the system is rigged in favor of the rich and the powerful.  That a man  born into a family of enormous wealth and privilege, who was given a "small loan of a million dollars" from his father when he graduated from college, could hold himself up as a self made successful  businessman,  even as he declared bankruptcy five separate times, is a perfect example of how the wealthy in this country do not have to play by the same rules as the rest of us.  His bragging and bluster are classic symptoms of a rich white male who sees the country as his playground to indulge whatever desires he has.
He has led a life in which he has not even tried to hide his misdeeds, from his bragging about cheating on his first two wives to his refusal to release his tax returns without explanation, to the continuance of his corporate businesses as president, he clearly has never cared about things like the appearance of corruption or impropriety.  He  never had to before in his life, so why change now?

But has his misbehavior finally reached a breaking point? Last Friday, the Justice Department indicted 12 members of Russia’s military intelligence service for a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.   This follows reports by every branch of the government clearly stating that Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin clearly interfered in the 2016 election in favor of Trump.  The following Monday, during a joint press conference with Putin, Trump disparaged his own intelligence agencies and claimed that he believed Putin's denials of interference.  In other words, we have a president who believes the corrupt leader of hostile foreign power over his own intelligence agencies!   Although Trump has always denied that Putin had some kind of incriminating evidence against him (from possible financial links to Russia mob members to the infamous pee tape), it seems hard to believe that he ever could have been more toadying to Putin than he is now.  Even his attempts to walk back his comments the next day by claiming he misstated a  single word feel like a pathetic joke, a dodge put up his advisors after his comments were met with almost universal derision.
Even if we take Trump at his word and accept that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, it's obvious that he knows that Putin helped put him in office and he doesn't care.  The fact that Russia helping him was a criminal act by a foreign country means as little to him as the fact that as president he owns a hotel in Washington DC that visiting foreign leaders can stay in and essentially bribe him through hotel bills is an obvious conflict of interest.  All his life he has advanced by never following the rules, why should he start now?  The only good news here is that, as he stumbles from one reckless decision or offensive statement to another, at some point the Republican party will put country over partisanship and help the Democrats impeach him or at least replace him with another candidate in 2020.  It's the only decent moral thing to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE END OF ROE



Recently, the country of Ireland voted to make abortion legal.  This vote, along with one legalizing gay marriage a few years ago, showed that the country once held underneath the puritanical boot of the Catholic church (divorce was illegal there until 1996!) was entering the modern world.  Sadly, the US now seems to be about to take a big step backward.
On Wednesday July 27th., Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced that he would be resigning, giving Donald Trump another Supreme Court justice appointment.  More importantly, this means that court will soon be moving rightward, given that Kennedy was often a moderate swing vote on many big issues, including Roe Vs. Wade.  There has probably been no time in its 45 year history that the Roe Vs Wade ruling has been in more jeopardy.  The religious right have been supporting Republicans since 1980, just waiting for this very moment.  The second the new judge is sworn in, conservative state legislatures will start passing challenges to abortion rights.  Lawyers have been waiting their whole lives to argue against Roe at the Supreme Court.
Yes, the man who once said he was "very pro choice" is now about to be the president who will almost definitely appoint a conservative judge that will allow abortion to be outlawed in multiple states.  Is there anything that the Democrats can do?  Not really.  The Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, and plan to fast track whatever judge Trump picks to make sure he (it'll probably be a he) is appointed before the November election.
Is there any silver lining here for pro choice progressives?  Perhaps: the most recent Pew research poll done on the issue in 2016 revealed that 59% of Americans overall think that abortion should be legal in most cases, the highest it had been in twenty years.  And an even higher amount, (69%) believe that Roe Vs Wade should not be completely over turned.   And when it comes to women, the support is even higher:  79% of Democratic women and 60% of independents are pro choice.  Even 32% of Republican women support abortion rights, which is quite high given the party's stance.
Put simply, there have now been entire generations of women who have always assumed that getting an abortion was a viable option for them, who may wake up someday soon to find that option taken away.  This may have the effect of radicalizing and mobilizing women into voting more.  Polls show around only 50% of citizens between 18-29 years old voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared to 58% of all eligible citizens.  And while they often reject terms like pro life and pro choice, millennials generally oppose outlawing abortion completely. 
Will this issue be the one that pushes more young voters into the voting booth?  I think it's entirely possible that this and other issues that will soon be ruled on by a conservative court will backlash against the Republican party, who have wanted to over turn Roe Vs Wade since 1980, but have avoided making it  a primary issue in national elections.  In other words, the Republicans may win the battle here, but still lose the war in the long run.  I certainly hope so.