Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Can one "terrorist" act "Trump" hundreds of acts of hate? Probably

The recent attack by an Ohio State University student and Somali immigrant, which ended in his death and the wounding of 11 persons, is exactly the kind of “gotcha” incident that Donald Trump and his supporters will point to in order to justify his anti-Muslim rhetoric.  It is still to be determined if Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s actions were a “terrorist” act, but on his Facebook page he did air numerous grievances, such as America “interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah," a term for Muslim people at large…By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday” and "I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. I'm a Muslim, it's not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don't know what they're going to think, what's going to happen.” 

Artan also expressed reaching the “boiling point” over human rights abuses against Muslims in Myanmar. This is clearly a person who felt “out-of-place” in America, and for the 45,000 Somalis who make their home in Columbus—the second largest Somali community—there seems to be general air of suspicion that has existed for years from the “natives.” One suspects that he imagined he saw “hate” in the eyes of everyone outside his community, and committed the act as a way to exact “vengeance” for the “slights” he perceived he was subjected to. Trump, of course, tweeted that
"ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country." Artan was a refugee fleeing a violence-ridden country like most of the Somali community; given that this community wants to be accepted in this country, to say that Artan should not have been in this country is tantamount to saying that none of them should be in this country. Why doesn't Trump just say what he really means?

A Somali community leader named Omar Hassan admitted that the “timing” of the attack was “not good,” Such incidents only inspire, for example, the actions seen on a video of one of those 53 percent of white women who admitted to voting for Donald Trump, unloading some racist vitriol on black employees in a Chicago arts and crafts store. She is one of those “attractive” types who one wonders what her “beef” is all about.  Maybe someone was “rude” to her, and maybe provoked by her “frustration” with the service.  Maybe she was angry that blacks were employed in the store and she wasn’t being treated properly as one of the “privileged” and “entitled” in this society; maybe because she actually feels this is “true” because she is white is what the “problem” was. Maybe she was deliberately seeking a “reason” to go off on her verbal rampage. Racists who can’t face the fact of their racism tend to seek out “incidents” to “justify” it, although they usually wind-up proving that they are what we think they are. We’re still waiting for Trump’s “tweet” on this incident, although I’m sure he will “excuse” it by saying this person is just another “passionate” supporter.

This woman is exactly the type of person we all knew were the “core” of Trump’s support. She is precisely the kind of “consumer” of Trump’s endless parade of race-infested misinformation that propelled him into office. Hispanics in particular are the targets of this misinformation; for example, claims that Mexico is only “sending” their “worst” are greatly exaggerated but widely believed. But it doesn’t matter if the claims are true or not; white people just don’t like the way they “look.”

For every alleged “terrorist” attack (one) since Trump’s election, there have been 867 hate crimes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the largest part—one-third—have targeted immigrants, mainly those of Hispanic origin: “Deportation threats have often been made during vitriolic face-to-face encounters. In Silver Spring, Maryland, a female shopper berated a Latino worker for not working fast enough. She demanded to know where he was from, and, despite the fact that he was born in the United States, she repeatedly yelled ‘This is my country,’ while derisively referring to him as ‘El Salvador,” and “In Redding, California, students brought ‘deportation letters’ to school for their Latino classmates.” In North Carolina, one Hispanic grade schooler told his mother that “almost every kid in school was telling me that I was going to be deported to Mexico. And I told them no, I was born a U.S. citizen. But they said, ‘Yes you are, ’cause you are Mexican — just look at your skin color.’”

Even those one would expect to be “sympathetic” have felt no need to hide their true feelings: “Even teachers, those charged with caring for and shaping our young people, have reportedly expressed anti-immigrant sentiments to their students. In Los Angeles, a teacher was recorded telling her student that her parents would be deported. She said, ‘I have your phone numbers, your address, your mama’s address, your daddy’s address; it’s all in the system, sweetie.’”

Other immigrant groups have also been targeted:  “In Wesley Chapel, Florida, a teacher scolded the behavior of black students by saying, ‘Don’t make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa.’ In Indiana, a 7th grader demanded to know whether a classmate adopted from China was in fact Mexican, because, if so, ‘Trump is going to kill you.’ A middle-school student in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, had her hijab forcefully removed, causing her to fall. A 13-year-old adopted from Mozambique was told by her classmates in California, ‘Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa — where you belong.’”

Here in this so-called “blue” and “progressive” state of Washington, the SPL Center counts 48 hate crime incidents since the election, which doesn’t seem to have been noticed by the local media; what makes this “fascinating” is that according to Center’s tally, only three other states have had more. But this is less “important” to Trump supporters than one incident perpetrated by someone who is not a “real” American. The website MassShootingTracker counts 450 incidents in 2016 that involved the killing and/or wounding of at least four persons, yet like crimes committed by Hispanics, it seems that who committed the crime is more important than the crime itself—especially when committed by whites who just “excuse” such acts by one of their own as that of a lone, crazed individual, not a stereotyped generalization of an entire group.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Corruption often follows the political novice into office

With those claiming the “spoils” of Donald Trump’s “surprise” victory battling amongst each other for supremacy in formulating policy, there seems to be some “confusion” about the exact direction a Trump administration will go. This isn’t helped by the fact that Trump—apparently caught in the vice of his extreme campaign rhetoric and those who expect him to actually carry out his “promises”—is picking advisors and cabinet members who do not necessarily have the good of the country in mind. Trump may be an “outsider” not beholden to any interest group, but he is also a political novice in an office where his underlings can wield more power than he can control, and with it the prospect of corruption, lawbreaking and unethical and immoral activities. 

We certainly saw this during the Reagan administration. Reagan put forward a conservative agenda, first made clear by his firing of striking air traffic controllers. But he was already losing control of his underlings, in part due to his gradual downward spiral into Alzheimer’s disease, which clearly became evident long before it was admitted to in 1994. Reagan’s “lucidity” was  questioned even during his presidency, to the point where there were doubts he could put together a coherent sentence without a teleprompter before the 1984 presidential debates with Walter Mondale. Some people credit his subsequent landslide victory to the fact that he got through the first debate without appearing to be a bumbling, incoherent fool. Whether or not he actually based his decisions on astrology charts won't be addressed here.

Reagan’s “supply-side economics” is what crippled this country’s economic structure, his tax “reform” is what permanently locked-in the trend toward ever increasing income gaps between the rich and everyone else, and his antipathy toward labor rights led to the continuing destruction of unions. But it was his failure to control what was going on behind his back was where actual criminal activity was going on. It might not necessarily have been a “crime” how Interior Secretary James Watt was raping the land with his pro-business policies, but what he allowed his subordinates to do was.  An EPA administrator, Rita Lavelle, was convicted of perjury and steering “business” toward her previous employer before she actually “quit” that job; of course Dick Cheney faced the same allegations with Halliburton, and Trump will face the same questions, but back then people held their public officials to “higher” standards.

Lavelle claimed that she was a “scapegoat,” but 20 years later she was convicted of fraud for forging documents purporting to do hazardous waste cleanup that was not actually done. Her superior at the EPA, Anne Gorsuch Burford—besides the “crime” of deliberately gutting the EPA in the name of “efficiency”—was accused of pro-business conflict of interest and mismanaging the Superfund program before “voluntarily” resigning. The Justice Department engaged in an investigated the EPA, and although no charges were filed, many other in the department were forced to resign or were fired. 

However, all that was “nothing” compared to the Iran-Contra affair, which was initiated with the full knowledge of Reagan, but who was persuaded to believe it was merely a “weapons for hostages” deal, an “illegality” he could take “like a man.” Despite warnings that there were no “moderate” factions in the Iranian government to deal with, the administration went ahead with the none-dare-call-it-treason actions of selling arms to an “enemy” and terrorism sponsor that continues to this day to refer to the U.S. as the “great Satan.” But this “deal” went far beyond its original parameters when National Security Advisor John Poindexter and his chief operator, Oliver North, decided to go “patriotic rogue” and sell directly to the Iranians, bypassing “third parties” like the Israelis, and at a huge mark-up in order to pass on the profits to the Nicaraguan Contras fighting the Sandinista government. This was in clear violation of the Boland Amendment, after Congress had determined that the Contras were less “freedom fighters” than a criminal gang. In essence, this was a “shadow government” operating outside any law. Although many were eventually convicted of criminal acts in the affair, no one ever served time in prison, and most were pardoned by Reagan’s successor. 

Reagan was like many presidents whose administrations were riven with corruption. He had only loose control of the proceedings, setting a “tone,” but letting business-compromised underlings with “radical” agendas run wild. Another was Ulysses S. Grant, who was said to be personally honest, but had no experience in political or civil administration. He was generally a failure in civilian life, often taking to drink, and distrusted people who were better educated than himself. The Civil War changed all of that, and Grant became seen after the war as the Republicans best asset to retain the presidency following Andrew Johnson’s disastrous term, after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Being a political novice was not necessarily a detraction if competent, responsible people were put in positions of authority, such as the case with the Eisenhower administration.  But Grant depended on friends, family members, supporters and personal assistants to run the country, often overlooking or ignoring the advice of the better qualified. There were a dozen major scandals that originated in his presidency, and others that originated before but continued unabated. Most of these scandals took advantage of an utter failure to regulate rapidly expanding industrial and financial sectors, allowing many unscrupulous operators to enrich themselves illegally.

The Warren G. Harding administration was equally—and probably more so—infamous for its corruption. Harding was “genial” and likeable, read all his speeches from notes, and promised a return to “normalcy” after World War I. But unlike the moralistic Woodrow Wilson, Harding was hardly a man to keep tight control over the ethical behavior of his subordinates, dependent on them to act without being overseen like “children.” Nothing seemed amiss, at least to the public, until 1923, when it was revealed that the director of the Veterans Bureau was illegally selling government supplies for personal profit. Although Charles Forbes escaped prosecution by leaving the country, two of his associates committed suicide in the face of allegations of impropriety; one of them, Jesse Smith, was part of something much bigger as a member of the “Ohio Gang,” which was involved in numerous illegalities, the most infamous being the Teapot Dome scandal, in which government-owned oil reserves were transferred to the Interior Department and subsequently sold for to private contractors for massive personal profit.

Although Harding himself was not implicated in any illegalities, he came to be seen as less an “ideal American” as before, but as someone who was completely ill-equipped to be president. Like the administrations of Grant and Reagan, Harding’s was proof that less government oversight does not mean less corruption—in fact, just more of it. This doesn’t mean that administrations that “promote” government regulation are necessarily less corrupt; the Nixon and Clinton administrations were rife with scandal and corruption, and that corruption began at the very tippy top of the pyramid. I have little doubt that a Hillary Clinton administration would have joined the ranks of the most corrupt in the nation’s history, knowing how little the person occupying the top position viewed any law or regulation that got in the way of her freedom to do whatever she damned well pleased, a view which tended to be shared by her close aids.

But Trump is president. While I think he is too much the political novice to engage in the type of corruption that the Clintons are familiar with, there is the very real possibility that the “team” of social and economic reactionary radicals that he is putting together have little regard for any “regulation” to their activities, and I doubt that Trump has the moral or ethical qualifications to demand proper behavior with any personal credibility. It was incumbent on Trump not to install far-right extremists in top positions, but those who are actually qualified for their positions. The Right, without justification, called the Obama administration “socialist” when there is little evidence of that. But Trump’s “team” shows all the "hallmarks" of an administration prepared to move the country back into a time where robber-barons ruled the land, and corruption was the “law” of the land.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thin-skinned Trump ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Donald Trump may have a case concerning the self-serving nature of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount efforts in three states. Some have suggested that the “donations” that Stein has received for pushing for the recounts are a cynical ploy for money to be used for herself and the organization backing her, but more likely she is feeling “guilty” about her votes “costing” Clinton victories in Wisconsin and Michigan. But it is not all that certain that Green Party voters would have voted at all if they had no official candidate, and if we want to go in that direction we should consider the Gary Johnson vote, which “cost” Trump victories in Colorado, Maine and Minnesota, if we assume that they were largely Republican-leaning. 

But Trump has not been taking this well. Instead of brushing it off as a useless last gasp of the fanatical Clintonphiles, he has reacted in his usual way, making baseless claims both ridiculous and disturbing. It is disturbing because it follows a pattern of thin-skinned behavior in the face of criticism, whether justified or not. In response to the recount, Trump is charging—based on allegations by the usual unreliable sources (such as the one that made the claim that all “Mexican men are rapists”)—that “millions” of Clinton voters did so illegally. At this time, Clinton’s popular voter lead is now over 2 million, and nearly double that is from California; because the state has a lot of “Mexicans,” it doesn’t take a lot of thought to know where Trump is going with this. 

But even if you take a few million Clinton votes out of California, she still won the state handily, and it isn’t doing Trump any favors by making claims for which there is no proof. Trump’s habit of making false claims to support his politicsal ambitions dates back at least to his “birther” days, which only helped derail his first run for the presidency in 2012. His history of false claims is a mile long; his claim that 14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote (based on a debunked Internet survey that found that many respondents “misunderstood” the citizenship question) is just one of the majority of his most egregious falsehoods being immigration-related. 

Making false claims has never seemed to bother Trump or his supporters much, but what does seem to “bother” him is when people talk about his personally. The 2011 White House Correspondent’s dinner, some speculate, may have driven Trump so far off the edge that his 2016 run may have initially been as much about retaliation and revenge than as a “serious” run at the presidency. Trump claimed he was not unhappy about President Obama’s needling, which poked fun at his birther claims, suggested that he was a nut for conspiracy theories, and his political “experience” was more suited for running a steakhouse, but he was obviously upset by Seth Meyer’s “jokes”:  “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican — which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke…Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, which is great for Republicans, because it will streamline their search for a vice president…Donald Trump said recently he’s got a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.” 

Meyer’s “jokes” were a bit too “personal” for someone with an ego as inflated as Trump’s. Trump has been accused of being an extreme narcissist, never tiring of telling people how “great” he is, but at the same time surprisingly sensitive to criticism. Of course Trump has brought most of his “problems” on himself, since he sees himself as a “celebrity” and constantly seeks the limelight. But like most thin-skinned people, he is unable to take criticism—even the “joking” kind—lightly. If he was a “normal” person in his position, he could just wander the world in luxury and comfort, and no one would really care. 

But since Trump craves fame, is not politically “progressive,” and is highly “opinionated” in an often insensitive way, he has made himself a lightning rod for bad press. It hasn’t helped him that many if not most of the statements expectorating from the orifice known as his mouth originate from a mind weaned on a highly personalized notion of  “victimization.” Trump hates people he sees as “envious” of his wealth (however he gained it), but more so anyone who pokes pins into his inflated sense of self, and in turn any groups that fall within the critics’ favored political or social sphere. His whole campaign could be seen as vengeance against the people and what they believe in who said “bad” things about him, and his rhetoric clearly shows how “personal” it was, since much of it is drawn not from reasoned thought, but from paranoia, conspiracy theories and false propaganda fed through the “alt-right” movement and media. 

Trump certainly isn’t “alone” in his thin-skinnedness. Right-wing radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh can never be satisfied with their side winning; the “socialists” and “lefties” are always present to somehow burn off a new layer of skin to excite another round of ridiculous howls of “pain.” But Trump is president now, and he should be expected to be more “composed” and “mature” than he seems to be. In the past, a president’s press secretary or various administration representatives would do most of the talking, so that the president wouldn’t have an opportunity to look like a fool. But Trump is tailor-made to be the media’s fool, because thus far he has shown that he just can’t shut-up. Every time someone says something he takes personal offense about, he “defends” himself by making generalized accusations that “facts” have little relevance in.

If Trump can’t learn to “control” himself and let others who know how to handle the media speak for him, he will go down as a bigger “joke” than he can now imagine. He may become the biggest—and most dangerous—joke in history, given his appetite for “revenge” and retaliation against people who merely say something he doesn’t like.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Week 12 NFL Notes

While people speculate whether Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are the second coming of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, and what will be Tony Romo’s future with the Cowboys, there is still one player still currently with a roster spot who hasn’t been spoken about at all this year: Mark Sanchez. Sanchez did make one appearance in junk time to throw a pass and take a couple knees, but otherwise he has just been some guy taking up space in a uniform. The reason why he is with the Cowboys at all is because the team was in need of an “experienced” hand after Romo’s preseason injury. Sanchez was supposedly the Broncos’ intended starting quarterback this season, but it was determined that since he didn’t look noticeably better than Trevor Siemian, it made more sense to cut him and go with the rookie and as a “long-term” option. Siemian hasn’t actually generated much heat as a starter with the Broncos, with an 85 passer rating that puts him in the bottom quarter of the league. But he hasn’t been turnover prone, and the Broncos defense is still third-ranked in the NFL, and a winning record helps to avoid feelings of second thoughts about the move. 

In the meantime, the Cowboys have to make a decision, and nobody wants to appear to be being “unfair” to either Prescott or Romo. As for Sanchez, he’s just there. If the decision is to move forward with Prescott for the future, then Romo is certainly looking elsewhere next season. Is this “good” news for Sanchez, who just two years ago was declared the “best” backup quarterback in league? More likely, the former “Sanchize”—who couldn’t have been any worse than Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick these days—is just some guy who never really found his “place,” and likely won’t.

Meanwhile in Week 12…

Buccaneers 14 Seahawks 5 Two early touchdowns went largely unanswered by Russell Wilson, who had his worst regular season day as a passer, a 38.8 rating and two interceptions. Wilson was sacked six times and hit 11 more times; he did run for 80 yards, but this yardage was nullified on drives that ended on turnovers, or from deep in Seahawk territory, or just recovered lost yardage on previous plays. With the defense recovering from early game gaffs to hold the opponent scoreless, this was a game that most people would expect that the Seahawks would eventually score enough points to win, especially at the end of the game when Wilson usually seems at his best. Wilson did recover in the fourth quarter, but a Jimmy Graham fumble and an interception uncharacteristically left questions as well as points on the field.

Lions 16 Viking 13 Not a particularly entertaining game, with neither offense putting-up much of an effort. The Lions won as time-expired when with only 38 seconds to play in the game, the Vikings decided to continue to play the dink-and-dunk passing “attack” rather than play for overtime, which ended in disastrous results. Bradford was intercepted deep in Viking territory, leading to the game-winning field goal two plays later as time expired. For the first time this season, the Viking are out of first place in the NFC North, and the Lions suddenly looking like the “cream” of a bad division.

Cowboys 31 Redskins 26 The Cowboys hung-on for the victory, despite Kirk Cousins’ 449 yards passing, half of them in the fourth quarter when the Redskins’ offense mounted a furious comeback, while their defense only did the rollback. Prescott and Elliot were good but not great in this game, and two missed field goals and failed two-point conversion for the Redskins prevented just the second loss of the season for the Cowboys.

Steelers 28 Colts 7 Those concussion “protocols” certainly come at inopportune times, as the Andrew-Luckless Colts failed to take advantage of an opportunity to move into first place in their division. As last season, once more it was demonstrated that Luck is the “difference-maker” on this Colts’ team, regardless what his detractors say. 

Titans 27 Bears 21 The Titans led 27-7 in the fourth quarter before Matt Barkley started filling the air with footballs like it was a hailstorm. Barkley threw 34 passes in the final quarter, 18 of which were completed for nearly 200 yards. However the last four were the ones that counted, all which fell incomplete after the Bears reached the Titans 7 with under a minute to play.

Raiders 35 Panthers 32 The Panthers mounted their own comeback after trailing 24-7 at halftime to score 25 unanswered points and take a 32-24 lead in the fourth quarter. But as often happens, the defense suddenly lost its “desire” and the Derek Carr engineered two long drives that put the Raiders back on top—and as often happens, once Cam Newton feels the pressure, he does something like fumble when the Panthers are moving into range to tie the game late. 

Bills 28 Jaguars 21 The 2-9 Jaguars have been accused being a badly organized team this season, and that is so. The Jaguars played a not-all-that-great Bills tough the entire game, but it still usually comes down to leaving one brains on the field rather than their heart. With the game still winnable late, Blake Bortles threw a short pass on fourth down for four yards when they needed four yards for the first down. Oh goody—except that he forgot he was just called for a delay of game penalty and he need five more yards.

Ravens 19 Bengals 14 On the final play of the game, a punt, the Ravens line allowed their punter to run around the end zone for what seemed like a very long time while Bengal rushers were manhandled and tackled with penalty flags coming down like confetti, before running out the back door for a safety, which effectively ended the game. There ought to be a law against such things, like giving the opposing team an untimed final play at the 40-yard line, or something. 

Falcons 38 Cardinals 19 Carson Palmer has been very Aaron Rodgers-like since last season’s closing 36-6 loss to the Seahawks. Is he “hurt”? Did he lose his “mojo”? But then again, his teams have always seemed to be treading water. Last season saw his only playoff win—and that against a Packer team that limped into the playoffs with a quarterback whose head who knows where. Palmer is a quarterback who can occasionally put up the numbers, but not necessarily the ones that count.

Giants 27 Browns 13 The Browns are now 0-12. Do they have a victory somewhere on their schedule? Let’s see—Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Steelers. I see “potential” against the Bengals, but only that. Since being “reinstated” to the league in 1999, the Browns have won more than five games in a season only five times. Going 0-16 in a season at least has the “advantage” of doing something “notable” in all that time.

Saints 49 Rams 21 Jared Goff was actually very good in the first half of this game, throwing three touchdown passes and keeping the game surprisingly competitive despite the Rams defense being uncharacteristically porous. But the defense continued to be porous in the second half, while Goff’s passing efficiency dried up like a few rain drops in the desert, which has been the story of the Rams’ offense all season.

Dolphins 31 49ers 24 Colin Kaepernick was again a one-man show for the 49ers, throwing for nearly 300 yards and running for over 100 yards more. The 49ers are also 0-6 with him as the starter. In this game like many others, anything can happen when Kaepernick is on the field, but it is not necessarily a good thing when it is too “unpredictable.” Well, that is not exactly true; it is “predictable” that when the game is on the line, Kaepernick is going to find some predictable way to fail, as the 49ers did in this game, failing an opportunity to tie after reaching the Dolphin’s five-yard line.

Chargers 21 Texans 13 If Andrew Luck had played and the Colts had won their Thanksgiving game, we would be “shocked” to discover that after this game they would have been tied for first place in their division. The Texans continue their downward trajectory, as Brock Osweiler continues to prove that the Broncos were right in letting him go; he is certainly no better than Siemian, who is getting paid a lot less. Osweiler’s QB rating is likely to drift below the 70 level after throwing three interceptions in this game, giving him 13 for the season to only 12 touchdown passes.

Patriots 22 Jets 17 Until his late sack/fumble, Ryan Fitzpatrick “outplayed” Tom Brady for most of this game, which it explains why it was competitive. Brady nevertheless won his 200th career game, including the playoffs, tying Peyton Manning and one ahead of Brett Favre. He still needs ten regular season victories to surpass the 186 that both Manning and Favre share, and he will do so in far few fewer games than either. Brady has a .774 regular season winning percentage as a starter, besting Manning’s .702. Russell Wilson has a .713 winning percentage, but after only 75 starts.