The Red Caps

Someone in the Trump campaign is an excellent student of history.

The campaign has been very effective in stoking fear and resentment for political gain. Chris Christie, who was reduced on Super Tuesday to being a grotesque caryatid standing behind the new leader, said that Trump was heading up a “movement“. Trump is a leader, indeed, of a movement fueled by a propaganda machine that attracts the white working class by – not in so many words – appealing to family, faith, and folk.

The white nationalist fuse has been lit. The Republican establishment that is trying so hard now to extinguish it has only itself to blame.

“Make America Great Again” is a facade; a subtweet.

How do we know this to be true? Suggesting that “black lives matter” is, astonishingly, a point against which many argue. People are stabbing each other with flagpoles at Klan rallies. Muslim Buffalo schoolgirls wearing hijabs have eggs hurled at them at a bus stop. African-American students in Valdosta are escorted out of a Trump rally although they had done nothing wrong. In Louisville, meanwhile, at least one African American anti-Trump protester was subjected to assault and battery by Trump supporters while leaving the premises. A Secret Service agent throws a Time photographer to the ground in a chokehold at a Trump event.

This isn’t new. As far back as November, Trump supporters assaulted and battered a protester.

Typically, political campaigns will be subjected to protests. Typically, these are handled with boos, chants, and security escorting the protesters out of the venue. It is atypical for the crowd to become a violent mob and put its hands on someone yelling a slogan at a campaign rally.

Kicking out a protester is one thing. Kicking out someone who happens to be Black is another.

Kicking a person out of a rally is one thing. Assault and battery on her is another.

“I was called a n—– and a c–t and got kicked out,” said Shiya Nwanguma, a respected student at the University of Louisville to a local interviewerin a video posted on Facebook.

“They were pushing and shoving at me, cursing at me, yelling at me, called me every name in the book. They were disgusting and dangerous.”

Another demonstrator, Molly Shah, watched as Heimbach tried to recruit other attendees.

Heimback refers to a neo-Nazi who was at the Trump rally.

One protester recalled,

…one disturbing chant, which was lead by the white supremacists, “You’re scum, you’re time will come. You’re scum, you’re time will come.”

It wouldn’t take much for Donald Trump – a billionaire who relies on his last name’s goodwill – to not only condemn, but work to prevent these outbursts of violence. It wouldn’t take much for Donald Trump – someone who has quick condemnations for Mexicans, Muslims, and the Pope – to as quickly condemn white nationalists, the Klan, and the neo-Nazis attracted to his campaign like termites to wood.

But he doesn’t, and from his silence we can only infer assent.

If you don’t think this hearkens back to Germany in the 30s, you need to brush up on your history. We’re just replacing brown shirts with red ballcaps.

Kanye Trump

Bizarre Twitter rants? Megalomaniacal, aggro-narcissistic behavior, diva complex, a toddler’s petulance, victim complex – but enough about Kanye West.

This is why cults of personality are horrible. People are following Donald Trump around for millions of reasons, but for some reason his almost Kanye-level childish behavior is a turn-on for them. These two mononyms – Kanye and Trump – share myriad parallels. For instance, they’re both entertainers. They’ve both had money problems – Kanye begs for Zuckerberg to bail him out like the Saudis bailed Trump out

Kanye is famously beefing with America’s sweetheart, Taylor Swift

But Trump is the ultimate petulant rapper. While he freestyles on the campaign trail, he’s beefing with the Pope.

On Thursday, while Pope Francis was on a flight back to Rome from Mexico, he was asked about immigration issues facing Mexico. Then, a reporter asked Pope Francis about immigration in the US and the rhetoric surrounding the southern border. The Pope said this:

A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.

The right wing freaked out. Donald Trump freaked out. How dare the Pope question Trump’s faith? The Pope is a hypocrite – the Vatican is surrounded by walls!

Here is the exchange in full:

Phil Pullella, Reuters: Today, you spoke very eloquently about the problems of immigration. On the other side of the border, there is a very tough electoral battle. One of the candidates for the White House, Republican Donald Trump, in an interview recently said that you are a political man and he even said that you are a pawn, an instrument of the Mexican government for migration politics. Trump said that if he’s elected, he wants to build 2,500 kilometers of wall along the border. He wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, separating families, etcetera. I would like to ask you, what do you think of these accusations against you and if a North American Catholic can vote for a person like this?

Pope Francis: Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ At least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.

Do you get that? It’s ok for Donald Trump to accuse Pope Francis of being a “pawn” of the Mexican government, but it’s horrible for the Pope to suggest that people be kind to one another. This is at the heart of this freak-out. Maybe Mr. Trump just needs a safe space to say what he pleases without fear of argument or contradiction.

Yet just a week or so ago, Donald Trump questioned Ted Cruz’s faith. “[N]ot too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay.” And here, “[h]ow can Ted Cruz be an evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?” Is that “disgraceful“, too?

Now – the Vatican walls. Believe it or not, Pope Francis didn’t build them, nor is he suggesting heightening, strengthening them, or pulling them out into St. Peter’s Square. After all, the Vatican is a 100-acre medieval city-state, and all of those had walls. And gates. I knew Trump was regressive, but I didn’t know he’d make America great again by sending us back into the economic heyday of 12th century feudal Europe. Tax cuts for nobles, cut off the serfs, and beef with the clergy.  Trumpamagne.

But re-read the Pope’s microaggression that so hurt Donald Trump’s and the right’s tender fee-fees. “A person who thinks only about building walls”. Well, here’s a picture of the Italian/Vatican border:

There are no customs checks, no passport controls, and no immigration checks (Vatican citizenship is unique in the world where there is no citizenship by either jus sanguinis or jus soli – only jus officii; granted when you are recruited to do the work of the Holy See). There’s a knee-high gate with two access points on either side of the square.

Donald Trump is talking about building 2,000 miles of wall to keep out Mexicans and Central Americans, but also to forcibly expel 11 million people, including their American-born kids. This is next-level xenophobic authoritarianism, and not remotely comparable to the Vatican’s medieval walls, which date to the 16th and 17th centuries.

SNL didn’t make Kanye’s stage exactly the way he wanted, and he flipped out like a toddler.

The Pope said that people should be kind to one-another, and the right wing freaked out like babies.

Trump, Sanders: Two Sides of an Anti-Establishment Coin?

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines teaches us that any headline ending with a question mark demands the answer, “no.”

Donald Trump easily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary Tuesday night. That’s not surprising – he was leading for weeks. What was surprising is that Ohio Governor John Kasich came in second, Texas Senator Ted Cruz finished third, and Marco Rubio’s brief post-Iowa momentum collapsed. Granite State Republicans picked a coarse celebrity populist, and followed him up with literally the only sane Republican candidate left standing.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders utterly destroyed former Secretary of State, First Lady, and Senator Hillary Clinton 60-38. That’s a humiliating defeat for Clinton, whose own inevitability seems to be getting the better of her in 2016 as it did in 2008. Sanders makes a far more compelling argument to frustrated left-of-center voters than Clinton; her poor showing is her own fault.

It’s time now for Fiorina, Carson, and Christie to leave the race. Christie bet everything on New Hampshire and couldn’t break double-digits percentage-wise. Carson is now a punch line, and Fiorina is simply not a contender, and never was.

A lot of pundits argue that Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same anti-establishment coin—that they are the figureheads of movements that are sick and tired of politics as usual. All of that takes place before a backdrop of politics as usual that will only outrage Sanders’ supporters—the Supreme Court enjoining the administration’s rules to address pollution and carbon emissions, and Congress’ refusal to hear the President’s budget. The latter is especially galling, because the behavior of Congressional Republicans towards President Obama has been little more than an 8 year-long temper tantrum, with the sole aim being to oppose and embarrass him. But in so doing, they beclown and disrespect themselves.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders voters are dissatisfied with the status quo, but there the similarities end abruptly. Donald Trump (and, frankly, Ted Cruz) are so pugilistically right-wing that they know exactly what they’re doing—they’re planning to fundamentally transform America, to coin a phrase. The America they envison, however, would be a horror not only for us, but for people around the world. They are literally battling over who can commit more war crimes once elected.

Cruz is unliked and has carefully crafted a reputation for being someone completely unreasonable, unthoughtful, rude, and unproductive. Remote are the chances that the American people would elect someone so fundamentally uncharismatic and unlikeable, and as many hard-right Republicans who love him for what they think are his “conservative” bona fides, the general electorate is much broader and politically diverse.

Trump’s rise is predictable because he’s a celebrity and he knows how to put on a show. He knows what to say to rile his crowd up, and he’s unapologetic about it. He lurches from bellicose point to crude threat and his followers eat it up. The fact that he has literally no idea or plan to actually carry out any of his empty diktats matters not.

It’s not just about rah-rah war crimes though.

But my God, Trump is a phony. He’s a guy who was born a millionaire, but pretends he’s Archie Bunker. He lives in a palatial high-rise, but talks like he lives in a modest one bedroom in Astoria. He has never not been a member of New York’s real estate and media elite, but he talks like a cab driver or a character in a Damon Runyan short story. All of this is a carefully crafted tactic because his whole schtick is to appeal to the angry, disillusioned older white male.

Trump’s almost Putinesque conspicuous, nouveau-riche glitz and consumption are attractive to people who would spend their money exactly like that if they hit the Powerball. The demographic appeal comes in as a direct reaction to a feeling that the country under Obama has changed into something they don’t recognize. They don’t like same sex marriage, they don’t like Planned Parenthood, they don’t like that we haven’t invaded Syria or “bombed the shit” out of ISIS. They don’t like Obamacare or Medicaid or TANF or SNAP or anything else that in any way helps the poor and underprivileged, thus unreasonably constraining the ability of the rich or big business to get richer or bigger.

Sanders’ supporters are also fed up with the establishment and status quo, but they are younger, more diverse, and don’t think Obama went nearly far enough in transforming America from a country that spends $600 billion on its military with a casual routineness—will invest a trillion dollars to completely de-stablize the Middle East, but then cries poverty when asked to help feed the hungry, care for the sick, or educate the young. Sanders supporters don’t want to roll back the rights of others, but seek to ensure that America return its power to her people, as the founders intended.

Trump appeals to hatred, division, scapegoating, and resentment. He is quick to resort to schoolyard bullying, calling opponents names and carefully affixing blame on people whom it’s easy for his constituency to hate: Muslims. Mexicans. Women. China. Obama. On the other hand, Sanders expands upon Obama’s own 2008 playbook. He calls for unity, hope, shared ideals, goals, and purpose.

This is Brooklyn vs. Queens; left vs. right; love vs. hate; red vs. black; unity vs. division; help vs. harm; thought vs. reaction.

There’s one very critical thing separating Trump’s movement from Sanders’: evil. Donald Trump is sinister, and he isn’t just inciting an angry mob, he’s handing out the pitchforks and torches. Ezra Klein boils the danger of Trump down perfectly,

Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

But before you demean Trump as just another carnival barker,

He’s not a joke and he’s not a clown. He’s a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment. This is politics.

Do you think that Donald Trump would run a thoughtful administration? While Sanders preaches equality, access, change, fairness, thoughtfulness, democracy, and reinvigorating the middle class, Trump preaches hatred, misogyny, war, racism, resentment, and anger. The whole thing is based on resentment and anger, but if Trump wins the nomination, there simply aren’t enough angry, resentful, xenophobic white people available to win. He is a populist demagogue and a textbook reactionary. Klein goes on to explain, accurately, that Trump addresses anger with anger, and is completely without scruples or shame.

Bernie Sanders takes hits for being an old socialist hippie with disheveled hair and lefty ideas. Indeed, his amazing showing in New Hampshire isn’t because he’s from the neighboring state of Vermont, but in spite of it. But there is a fundamental goodness in him and his proposals that, at least in part, informs his support across almost every demographic. Call it democratic socialism or social democracy, all of it is just words, and as awful as the right-wing attacks on Sanders will be if he’s the nominee, most people agree that he has identified the correct problems, even if they disagree with his solutions.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, would “make America great again” by ruling like an African dictator—an intemperate strongman who would lead through fear and threats—things that are decidedly ungreat and un-American.

The establishment is under attack, and that’s good. That’s how peaceful political revolutions work at their core, by shaking up the status quo when the people become dissatisfied. Our system doesn’t allow for you to take up arms against dysfunctional government; it gives you the power to effect political change, if you want it.

If Sanders and Trump win their respective parties’ nominations, the choice will be very clear: empower the average American, or transfer power to an even more exclusive, less temperate, one-man elite? Trump isn’t a joke and he isn’t a clown. Sanders wants to feed the hungry whom Trump dismisses. Sanders wants to ensure that people who need it get health care, while Trump would repeal Obamacare and replace it with vaporware. Sanders wants to educate the youth while Trump quite literally ran a for-profit online college that is accused of massive fraud. On top of all of this, there’s not a whole lot of Democrats nostalgic for the 90s.

This is real life, and it’s time people took it all seriously. Sanders and Trump aren’t two sides of the same coin. Sanders has one side of the coin, and Trump has junk bonds.

The Iowa Caucus: Determining Nothing

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are essentially tied at 49% and change, each. As of Tuesday morning, Clinton appears to have a minimal lead. It’s somewhat inexcusable, since Clinton has been running for President since 2007 and lost Iowa in 2008. One would expect her to learn from the 2008 primary, and would have used the following 8 years to anticipate how to deal with a surge from a surprise candidate like Bernie Sanders. Clinton is five votes ahead, and has one more delegate than Sanders, so far.

Can someone explain why O’Malley was still in the race at this stage, given his ridiculous showing?

Make no mistake, though, Democrats. You might be rooting for Sanders, you might be rooting for Clinton. You might be in Sanders’ camp because of Clinton fatigue – getting past the 90s, for instance. You might find Hillary Clinton untrustworthy, unlikeable, susceptible to attacks based on scandals old and new. But never forget this fundamental truth:

Even among those who don’t believe in the phony scandals, there is, as there was in 2008, a desire for someone new, who they imagine won’t bring out all that ugliness. But of course they’re wrong: if Sanders is the nominee, it will take around 30 seconds before Fox News is nonstop coverage of the terrible things he supposedly did when younger. Don’t say there’s nothing there: a propaganda machine that could turn John Kerry into a coward can turn a nice guy from Brooklyn into a monstrously flawed specimen of humanity in no time at all.

It will take 30 seconds before Fox News whips out the mothballed red stars and hammer and sickle graphics, because smears are the name of the game over there.

Here’s what happened on the Republican end:

All you Trumpistas – bored with winning yet? Because America’s own African dictator lost to the far better organized and exponentially more unlikeable Ted Cruz, with Marco Rubio coming up right behind him. That translates into a big win for Cruz and Rubio; the former for obvious reasons, and the latter because he out-performed expectations.

Trump, on the other hand, is a loser, looking now for New Hampshire voters to bail out his campaign much like a Saudi prince bailed out earlier failures. What happened? From the Washington Post:

Donald Trump may have been hampered by two unexpected factors: Weaker than expected performance among new voters and a late surge by Marco Rubio. In the last Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll in Iowa, Trump led Cruz among first-time caucus-goers by 16 points. On Monday night, Trump’s margin among this group was closer to half that. Rubio earned about as much support from new voters as did Cruz, and was the preferred candidate of about 3 in 10 Iowa Republicans who made up their minds in the last week.

The article goes on to say that fully 45% of Republicans made up their minds in the last week. Just 14% of them went for Trump. Cruz won among evangelicals and movement conservatives.

It’s not over for Trump, though. Cruz will do poorly in New Hampshire, where his brand of obnoxious, Christianist brand of conservatism won’t play as well as in Iowa. Recall that Huckabee won Iowa in 2012, and Santorum won in 2008. This last week, they sheepishly shared a stage with Trump at his “screw you, Fox News” rally.

Polling in New Hampshire shows Trump at 33%, with Cruz, Bush, and Kasich trailing at 10 – 11%, and Rubio at 9.5%. Expect Iowa to give Rubio to get a bounce, and a second look from New Hampshire voters. Trump’s lost his sheen of invincibility, and that might hurt him with the low-information crowd who find his boasting about poll numbers to be substantive and compelling.

After New Hampshire come Nevada and South Carolina, where the results will be much more interesting to watch.

Bad Day for Right Wing News

Trump Chickens Out

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump – which is a phrase that really speaks volumes – has declared that he won’t participate in an upcoming Fox News debate because he can’t handle questions from Megyn Kelly.

Let that sink in for a second – Donald Trump is too chicken to answer questions from a right-leaning reporter on an ultra-right-wing news network because she had the audacity to ask him some tough questions at his first debate. This guy is the right’s macho man? This is the WWE wrestler type guy who’s going to be Randy Savage and Ronald Reagan reincarnated all at the same time?

This racist multiple-bankrupt – and, to quote the late Bob Grant, “fake, phony, fraud” would have you believe that he would erect a wall to keep Mexicans out and get Mexico to pay for it, but he can’t answer a few questions about politics and policy from Megyn Kelly. Fox trolled Trump about it,

We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings

This heavily coiffed Paladino clone will “kick ISIS’ ass” but he can’t handle a tough question from a reporter FROM FOX NEWS. Hey, Rus, how you like Trump now? Hey, Carl, this is the best you could do? A coward?

I know that a lot of conservatives are having a hard time dealing with the fact that Donald Trump is little more than a parrot, willing to say whatever the right wing wants to hear, regardless of his actual opinions or beliefs. This fundamental act of sheer, unadulterated cowardice should make even his most hardcore fans shudder.

Donald Trump is a coward. He was a coward when it was his turn to go to Vietnam, and he’s a coward now. He’s trying to Twitter-block Fox and Kelly in real life, but ends up looking like a milquetoast who can’t take the heat.

Oregon Cretins Engaged, Arrested

It looks as if the dildo-and-snack fueled “occupation” of the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve may soon be over. Ammon Bundy and some other morons were taken into federal custody after some sort of shootout. Hopefully, no one from law enforcement was hurt.

Just remember: the same people who support Bundy and his band of dummies and their weeks-long occupation of land that belongs to all Americans would have you believe that Eric Garner just should have complied.

Obama Tackles Trumpinismo

President Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday really captured the zeitgeist. The media have been so consumed in Trumpgasm and measuring the Republican horserace while ignoring the battle for the Democrats’ soul, that a simple reminder was needed; and Obama delivered.

We don’t need to make America great again; America is great now.

The victory lap was muted. There was no grand legislative goal on which President Obama asked Congress to act. This was, to a certain degree, legacy building, but it was also a stinging rebuke of the pathetic, xenophobic fearmongering that has infected our politics thanks to the virus of Trumpism.

Remember “hope” and “change”? Obama sought to rekindle those flames. Hope – you don’t have to fear the future. The President reminded us that there’s no past glory for which we need to be nostaglic; on the contrary, every time we’ve undergone change in our society, we have overcome the fear that goes with it. We let our thoughts and actions mature, so that we as Americans made that change work for us. Our diversity, our optimism, our spirit of innovation, and the rule of law help to see us through tough times, and transformation. They are what we need to ensure our security and prosperity.

The President assailed Trumpism’s inherent cowardice by reminding us that it’s far better to face the future with confidence, rather than fear.

The speech focused on four questions:

1. How do we ensure that everyone gets a fair shot and opportunity in this new and changing economy?

2. How do we reignite our spirit of innovation, so that this economy works for us?

3. How can we best keep our people safe, and lead the world without becoming a global policeman?

4. How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us as Americans?

As to question one, Obama took his somewhat muted victory lap, touting his record of job creation and saving the American auto industry after the great recession. He proposed that benefits and retirement savings should be simplified and portable, and that “wage insurance” might be offered so that people can pay their bills if they lose their jobs or go back for training or school. We should, he said, make sure that the system works for average people and small businesses, and not just for megacorporations.

On innovation, Obama alluded to climate change, noting that we were stunned in the late 50s when the Soviets beat us to space. We didn’t “deny that Sputnik was up there”, but in 12 years we developed our own space program and put a man on the moon. The President then called for a “cancer moonshot”, asking Vice President Biden to head it up, adding, “let’s make America the country that cures cancer”.

On the issue of security, the President explained that his priorities were keeping the US safe, and going after terrorist networks. No matter how many innocent civilians Daesh or al Qaeda slaughter, none of these terrorist groups poses an existential threat to the US, so we should stop elevating them to that level through our rhetoric. Sort of like how we shouldn’t call the Occupy Malheur crowd “terrorists”. Daesh are killers and fanatics – nothing more, and the President again asked Congress to authorize military force against it.

Appealing to our better selves: this was Obama essentially campaigning against Trump and Trumpism. The President called on Americans to reject any politics that targets people on the basis of race or religion. Diversity, openness, and mutual respect make us strong as a nation – not discrimination and name-calling. When people like Trump insult Muslims, they’re not “telling it like it is”; they are instead diminishing us in the eyes of the world and betraying who we are as a country. It weakens America maliciously to act in such a way.

Hatred and division won’t fix anything, and they’re un-American.

The most extreme voices get all the attention, and when you pair that with a sense that the system is rigged against regular people, in favor of the rich and powerful, you stand on a dangerous precipice. The President called for an end to gerrymandering; so that politicians can’t “choose their own votes”. We need to reduce the influence of money in politics. We need to make it easier for people to vote – not harder.

America is great already. We don’t need to be nostalgic for the good old days either because they weren’t that good, or they weren’t good for everyone. The President concluded,

They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.

We have challenges. Change is scary, and if you pair it with economic inequity, it makes people angry. But America is great because, among other things, we can sit here and debate all of this. America isn’t any one thing: America is the sum of our daily acts of citizenship.

Donald Trump: One Step Away from Fascism

OK, maybe two steps.

The two things missing are these: 1. a principled ideological or political belief or dogma of any sort; and 2. a paramilitary organization that pledges fealty to him personally.

Other than that, he’s already there. Yesterday’s downright idiotic, fascist, and impossible “proposal” to ban all entry to the United States to people who are Muslim is the latest example of Trump’s careful dismantling of his personal brand, and his descent into madness.

The Trump campaign is now a hate group.

It started with Mexican immigrants (incidentally, net migration of people from Mexico is now in deficit), moved on to calling for an end to birthright citizenship, and now Trump indicts all Muslims everywhere as unworthy of entry into this country, until, as he so eloquently puts it, “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on“. What a well-reasoned and thoughtful plan! It’s literally the sort of thing you say when you’re trying to incite violence.

Forget for a second how fundamentally impossible and, likely, illegal any such scheme might be. Forget for a moment that you can’t test for “Muslimness”. Set aside, if you will,  that 1.6 billion people in the world are Muslim, and jihadist terrorists make up an infinitesimal percentage of that population.

Rolls-Royce Wraith - 602034 - Qatar

How does Mr. Trump expect his neighbor, Saudi Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to get back to his luxurious apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower if he travels abroad? 

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe - 444 VVV - Saudi Arabia

What will happen to Trump Tower tenant Qatar Airlines?

Rolls-Royce Wraith - 222202 - Qatar

Keep a close eye out on who supports Donald Trump in the wake of this latest racist outburst. They’ll be worthy of your contempt.

The Safest Space is the First Amendment

This simply amazing video is making the rounds. You need to see it.

That video depicts students and faculty at the University of Missouri harassing and assaulting two journalists, including undergraduate MU photojournalism major Tim Tai, who was freelancing for ESPN. These protesters affirmatively prevented two photographers from doing their jobs. More ominously, towards the end of the video, Assistant Professor of Mass Media Melissa Click called for “muscle” to help physically assault and remove the videographer – MU junior Mark Schierbecker – from the area.

So, we had a faculty member – an employee of a public, government institution – calling out for people to help her assault a student in a public space at a public university for the vicious crime of documenting a news event. Adding to the irony, Click chairs the Student Publications Committee on campus. The blonde woman with the North Face yelling at Tai to, “back off” is Janna Basler, UM’s director of Greek life and leadership.

Click has since apologized and resigned one of her appointments. (Text here). As usual, internet cretins have called in loads of death threats and worse. The chairman of the communications department on campus wrote,

Faculty (and students) have a right to express their views, but they do NOT have the right to intimidate others. This has been an awful time for the university, but that in no way condones intimidation.

The underlying purpose of the protests themselves is laudable – to confront and end systemic racism at the university. The protest organizers, “Concerned Student 1950“, invoke the year that black students were first allowed to attend that school. They use the tactics of the 1950s and 1960s to battle against racist incidents that took place at the school for which its administration had no reaction whatsoever. It wasn’t until the football team threatened to boycott and forfeit a game to spur some sort of positive action from the administration.

But it was charges of persistent racism, particularly complaints of racial epithets hurled at the student body president, who is black, that sparked the strongest reactions, along with complaints that the administration did not take the problem seriously enough.

The video above was shot in the wake of the University president’s resignation. The protesters randomly – and virtually – cordoned off an area of the quad where they were encamped and physically blocked reporters from doing their jobs. If you hold a public protest on a public space at a public university, you don’t have the right to assault a reporter, to touch him in any way, to censor the reporting, or to otherwise use force to remove him from the premises.

In response to the imbroglio, Tai wrote,

As a photojournalist, my job is often intrusive and uncomfortable. I don’t take joy in that. …You take the scene as it presents itself, and you try to make impactful images that tell the story. … And sometimes you have to put down the camera. But national breaking news on a public lawn is not one of those times.

If you show up to a protest in a public place, you don’t get to withhold consent to be photographed or otherwise documented by reporters.

I don’t know why another student with a camera reporting for the NY Times or ESPN renders your “space” “unsafe”, but what those people did to those reporters has absolutely nothing to do with “political correctness”. The 1st Amendment trumps your desire to be left alone if you do it outside in public.

What you see in that video has to do with fascism – pure and simple. Those students and faculty were no different from blackshirts or militia intimidating and assaulting reporters in pre-1975 Spain, Pinochet’s Chile, or pre-war Italy. Harrassment and violence against members of the press, and aggressive hostility against press freedoms is a hallmark of anti-democratic totalitarianism.

The students – they get the benefit of the doubt. It’s neither novel nor surprising that students would be somewhat ignorant of the 1st Amendment and how it works. But the adult members of faculty and administration – their behavior is shocking and inexcusable.

Basler and Click tried to regulate First Amendment activity in a public forum (i.e., the media’s peaceable assembly and newsgathering).* That potentially exposes them and the University of Missouri to liability under 42 USC § 1983, a federal law that allows individuals to sue public agents and entities for deprivations of civil or constitutional rights. Because of the physical contact shown on the video, it’s even possible that they could be liable for assault in the third degree under Missouri law.

Ultimately, that behavior undermines whatever point the protesters are trying to make. The 1st Amendment not only protects the protesters’ right to demonstrate, speak, and assembly, but it also protects the rights of reporters to photograph, video, and report.

GOP Whining and the Mainstream Media

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Tim Wenger, the “Operations Manager at Entercom Radio/Director of Content & Digital Strategy” posted that series of Tweets last night during the CNBC Republican Presidential debate. Wenger is an employee of a publicly traded Pennsylvania-based media conglomerate that owns over 125 radio stations in 27 markets. Each one of these stations exists pursuant to an FCC license and is subject to byzantine federal regulations. In Buffalo, Entercom owns WBEN, which is the top-rated news talk station in this market, and second overall only to the FM country music station. As one of the most listened-to radio stations in western New York, it is without a doubt a member of the “mainstream media”.

Anyone whose voice is broadcast on WBEN – from Sean Hannity to Rush Limbaugh to Sandy Beach to Tom Bauerle on down – is part of the mainstream media. Likewise, Fox News Channel – a 24-hour cable news outlet owned as part of an Australian mogul’s worldwide media empire, is also the “mainstream media”. For the anemic ratings that these news channels get, Fox’s are generally highest.

The Republican Party’s decades-long descent from a reasonable governing coalition of conservatives and the center-right into an ultra right-wing nihilist activist movement could not have been sustained without an enemy; some vague “other” to embody and absorb all of the post-Goldwater conservative movements’ hatreds and fears. Today, the Republican Party is a pitiful shadow of what it once was, right down to the lightly informed tea party tail wagging an impotent but noisy establishment dog.

Just about every revolutionary activist movement needs a scapegoat – some “other” to hate – and on CNBC Wednesday night, the “mainstream media”, embodied by the three moderators you never heard of before and will never hear of again, fit the bill quite nicely. CNBC – a channel that caters to Wall Street types and day traders, which employs pretty hardcore wingers and generally promotes a viewpoint closely aligned with business executives and bankers. Indeed, repulsive reactionary Ted Cruz made news by defending his opponents against what he characterized as unfair questions lacking in substance. So did Chris Christie. Marco Rubio denounced the “mainstream media” as Hillary Clinton’s most effective “PAC”.

The audience cheered. The enemy – the liberal media – was getting its smack-down; its just desserts. You can see it in Mr. Wenger’s excited series of Tweets – statements that must immediately end any further doubt about WBEN’s palpable right-wing bias in not just talk and commentary, but also in news itself. If you come to the news party with your own bias hanging around your neck, it’s downright comical to attack the bias of others.

In anticipation of some criticism of this column, note that it’s labeled as “commentary”. I am biased, and that bias is the very stock in which I trade. I adopt an opinion and back it up with facts. I don’t generally do “news” or “reporting”. Indeed, although I’m liberal, I’m not a member of the “mainstream media”. Almost all of my material appears only online, under the umbrella of an independent alternative startup newspaper.

I don’t watch CNBC. It took me several minutes to even find it on my cable line-up. I have no idea who its hosts are, what its bias is, or why it was selected to host a debate of the likes of Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson. But what made big news during and after the debate was the supposed unfairness of CNBC’s questions. 

 

What were those questions? Let’s take a look at every single one.

The proceedings began with a typically corporate bullshit interview question, directed to all of the candidates:

What is your biggest weakness and what are you doing to address it?

Questions to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. Let’s be honest, is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?

after some back-and-forth,

I gotta ask you, you talked about your tax plan. You say that it would not increase the deficit because you cut taxes $10 trillion in the economy would take off like…the economy would take off like a rocket ship. I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.

Later on in the program,

Mr. Trump, let’s talk a little bit about bankruptcies. Your Atlantic City casinos filed for bankruptcy four times. In fact, Fitch, the ratings agency, even said that they were serial filers for all of this. You said that you did great with Atlantic City, and you did. But some of the individuals — the bondholders, some of the contractors who worked for you, didn’t fare so well. Bankruptcy is a broken promise. Why should the voters believe the promises that you’re telling them right now?

In round 3, after a similar question to Senator Rubio,

Mr. Trump, let’s stay on this issue of immigration. You have been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who has wanted to increase the number of these H1Bs.

Trump denied this, yet it’s on his website. This came up later,

Mr. Trump, I want to go back to an issue that we were talking about before, the H-1B visas. I found where I read that before. It was from the donaldjtrump.com website and it says — it says that again, Mark Zuckerburg’s personal senator, Marco Rubio has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities. Are you in favor of H-1Bs or are you opposed to them?

Another question shortly thereafter,

Mr. Trump, you’ve said you have a special permit to carry a gun in New York. After the Oregon mass shooting on October 1st, you said, “By the way, it was a gun-free zone. If you had a couple of teachers with guns, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.” Would you feel more comfortable if your employees brought guns to work?

After saying he would, and saying that, “gun-free zones are a catastrophe. They’re a feeding frenzy for sick people.”, Trump was asked, 

We called a few Trump resorts, a few Trump properties that — that do not allow guns with or without a permit. Would you change those policies?

Later on, and this question was also directed somewhat awkwardly to Jeb Bush,

Mr. Trump says that he is capable of growing the economy so much that Social Security and Medicare don’t have to be touched. Do you want to explain how that is going to happen, Mr. Trump?

Perhaps a record, perhaps an indication of his character, Trump lied about Zuckerberg and visas, and he lied about his campaign’s funding. Trump also simply made up his statements about gun free zones being targets for “sickos”. 

Questions to Ben Carson

Dr. Carson, let’s talk about taxes. You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and — I’ve looked at it — and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to took a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you’re gonna come in with bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it’s gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?

CARSON: Well, first of all, I didn’t say that the rate would be 10 percent. I used the tithing analogy.

QUICK: I — I understand that, but if you — if you look at the numbers you probably have to get to 28.

CARSON: The rate — the rate — the rate is gonna be much closer to 15 percent.

QUICK: 15 percent still leaves you with a $1.1 trillion hole.

CARSON: You also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes. You also have to some strategically cutting in several places.

Remember, we have 645 federal agencies and sub-agencies. Anybody who tells me that we need every penny and every one of those is in a fantasy world. So, also, we can stimulate the economy. That’s gonna be the real growth engine. Stimulating the economy — because it’s tethered down right now with so many regulations…

QUICK: You’d have to cut — you’d have to cut government about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole.

CARSON: That’s not true.

QUICK: That is true, I looked at the numbers.

Round 2 to Carson:

Dr. Carson, in recent weeks, a number of pharmaceutical companies has been accused of profiteering, for dramatically raising the prices of life-saving drugs. You have spent a lifetime in medicine. Have these companies gone too far? Should the government be involved in controlling some of these price increases?

Round 3 to Carson,

Dr. Carson, we know you as a physician, but we wanted to ask you about your involvement on some corporate boards, including Costco’s. Last year, a marketing study called the warehouse retailer the number one gay-friendly brand in America, partly because of its domestic partner benefits. Why would you serve on a company whose policies seem to run counter to your views on homosexuality?

After denouncing same-sex marriage and claiming to not be a homophobe, Carson was asked,

One more question. This is a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer, they paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet you’re involvement continued. Why?

Carson complained that this was propaganda, and although he likes and takes the product, he claimed to have no “involvement” with Mannatech.

QUINTANILLA: To be fair, you were on the homepage of their website with the logo over your shoulder —

CARSON: If somebody put me on their homepage, they did it without my permission.

QUINTANILLA: Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgment in any way?

From Rick Santelli,

Dr. Carson, you told The Des Moines Register that you don’t like government subsidies, it interferes with the free market. But you’ve also said that you’re in favor of taking oil subsidies and putting them towards ethanol processing. Isn’t that just swapping one subsidy for another, Doctor?

Later on, during a back-and-forth about Medicare,

You’ve said that you would like to replace Medicare with a system of individual family savings accounts, so that families could cover their own expenses. Obviously, that would be a very controversial idea. Explain how that would work, exactly.

Carson lied about being a seller and endorser of snake-oil. The conservative National Review called it a “bold-faced” lie. Carson is just another GOP grifter.

Questions to John Kasich:

That is, you had some very strong words to say yesterday about what’s happening in your party and what you’re hearing from the two gentlemen we’ve just heard from. Would you repeat it?

and

Well, let’s just get more pointed about it. You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who were you talking about?

Later on,

You’ve called for abolishing the Export Import Bank, which provides subsidies to help American companies compete with overseas competitors. You call that corporate welfare. One of the largest newspapers in your state wrote an editorial, said they found that strange, writing, that if that’s corporate welfare, what does Kasich call the millions of dollars in financial incentives doled out to attract or retain jobs by his development effort — jobs Ohio. If subsidies are good enough for Ohio companies, why aren’t they good enough for companies trying to compete overseas?

And,

Governor Kasich, let’s talk about marijuana. We’re broadcasting from Colorado which has seen $150 million in new revenue for the state since legalizing last year. Governor Hickenlooper is not a big fan of legalization, but he’s said the people who used to be smoking it are still smoking it, they’re just now paying taxes. Given the budget pressures in Ohio, and other states, is this a revenue stream you’d like to have?

Later on,

Most people can’t get a college degree without going into debt. Over 40 million Americans have student loans and many of them cannot pay them back. This country has over $100 billion in student loan defaults. That’s billion with a b. What will you do to make sure that students, their families, taxpayers, won’t feel the economic impact of this burden for generations?

Questions to Sen. Marco Rubio:

You’ve been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You’ve had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don’t support anymore. Now, you’re skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or least finish what you start?

Then

So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?

In round 2,

Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced (ph) foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?

Rubio attacked the question and Democrats before adding how he didn’t inherit his wealth, leading to a follow-up:

Senator, I understand all of that. I had a lot of student loans when I got out, too. But you’ve had a windfall that a lot of Americans haven’t. You made over a million dollars on a book deal, and some of these problems came after that…but you liquidated that retirement account after the fact, and that cost you about $24,000 out of that in taxes and feed. That — that was after you’d already come into that windfall. That’s why I raised the question.

Round 3, 

Senator Rubio, Wired magazine recently carried the heading, “Marco Rubio wants to be the tech industry’s savior.” It noted your support for dramatically increasing immigration visas called H1B, which are designed for workers with the special skills that Silicon Valley wants. But your Senate colleague, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, says in reality, the tech industry uses this program to undercut hiring and wages for highly qualified Americans. Why is he wrong?

Later on,

The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

Rubio lied about what the Tax Foundation said about his tax plan – that it would benefit the top 1% twice as much as it would the middle class.

Questions to Jeb Bush:

…it’s a question about why you’re having difficulty. I want to ask you in this context. Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given in to know- nothingism. Is that why you’re having a difficult time in this race?

In round 2,

Governor Bush, in a debate like this four years ago, every Republican running for president pledged to oppose a budget deal containing any tax increase even if it had spending cuts ten times as large. A few months later, you told Congress, put me in, coach, you said you would take that deal. Still feel that way?

Later on,

Governor Bush, the tax reform bill that Ronald Reagan signed in 1986 cut the top personal income tax rate to 28 percent — just like your plan does. But President Reagan taxed capital gains at the same rate, while you would tax them at just 20 percent. Given the problems we’ve been discussing, growing gap between rich and poor, why would you tax labor at a higher rate than income from investments?

Later still,

Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year. But to play you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that’s out of your control. Isn’t that the definition of gambling, and should the Federal Government treat it as such?

Questions to Carly Fiorina:

You are running for president of the United States because of your record running Hewlett-Packard. But the stock market is usually a fair indicator of the performance of a CEO, and the market was not kind to you. Someone who invested a dollar in your company the day you took office had lost half of the dollar by the day you left. Obviously, you’ve talked in the past about what a difficult time it was for technology companies, but anybody who was following the market knows that your stock was a much worse performer, if you looked at your competitors, if you looked at the overall market. I just wonder, in terms of all of that — you know, we look back, your board fired you. I just wondered why you think we should hire you now.

When Fiorina brought up how the guy who fired her, Tom Perkins, now supports her candidacy, this question:

[Mr. Perkins] said a lot of very questionable things. Last year, in an interview, he said that he thinks wealthy people should get more votes than poor people. I think his quote was that, “if you pay zero dollars in taxes, you should get zero votes. If you pay a million dollars, you should get a million votes.” Is this the type of person you want defending you?

Later on,

in 2010, while running for Senate in … California, you called an Internet sales tax a bad idea. Traditional brick and mortar stores obviously disagree. Now that the Internet shopping playing field has matured, what would be a fair plan to even that playing field?

Some time later,

Mrs. Fiorina, you were the CEO of a large corporation that offers a 401(k) to its employees. But more than half of American have no access to an employer sponsored retirement plan. That includes the workers at small businesses, and the growing ranks of Uber drivers and other part-timers in the freelance economy. Should the Federal Government play a larger role in helping to set up retirement plans for these workers?

Fiorina’s answers are fact-checked here, and the one about women losing jobs under Obama is “mostly false”.

Questions to Sen. Ted Cruz:

This is the question that led to his anti-media rant:

Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of — another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?

Cruz’s rant read as follows:

You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?

After that, the moderator reacted, “OK. (inaudible) I asked you about the debt limit and I got no answer.” Cruz tried to answer,  but he had, “used [his] time on something else,” including a quip insulting the Democratic candidates as presenting a choice between “Bolsheviks” and Mensheviks”.

Later, Cruz was asked,

Senator Cruz, working women in this country still earn just 77 percent of what men earn. And I know that you’ve said you’ve been very sympathetic to our cause. But you’ve also you said that the Democrats’ moves to try and change this are the political show votes. I just wonder what you would do as President to try and help in this cause?

Round 4, from Rick Santelli, the guy who coined the phrase “tea party” (the same question was also posed to Sen. Paul)

Senator Cruz, let’s focus on our central bank, the Federal Reserve. You’ve been a fierce critic of the Fed, arguing for more transparency. Where do you want to take that?

Do you want to get Congress involved in monetary policy, or is it time to slap the Fed back and downsize them completely? What are your thoughts? What do you believe?

Ted Cruz lied about women earning less under Obama than before, incidentally. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/oct/28/fact-checking-republican-cnbc-debate/

Questions to Sen. Rand Paul:

Senator Paul, the budget deal crafted by Speaker Boehner and passed by the House today makes cuts in entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security disability, which are the very programs conservatives say need cutting to shrink government and solve our country’s long-term budget deficit. Do you oppose that budget deal because it doesn’t cut those programs enough?

When Paul complained about how Republican and Democratic compromise was really an “unholy alliance”, he was asked,

Senator, if what you just said is true, why did Speaker Boehner craft this deal and why did Paul Ryan, who has a strong reputation for fiscal discipline, vote for it?

Later on,

Senator Paul, among the leading conservative opponents to the creation of Medicare back in the 1960s was Ronald Reagan. He warned that it would lead to socialism. Considering the mounting cost of Medicare, was he right to oppose it?

Questions to Gov. Chris Christie:

In your tell it like it is campaign, you’ve said a lot of tough things. You’ve said that we need to raise the retirement age for Social Security. You think that we need to cut benefits for people who make over $80,000 and eliminate them entirely for seniors who are making over $200,000. Governor Huckabee, who is here on the stage, has said that you and others who think this way are trying to rob seniors of the benefits that they’ve earned. It raises the question: When it is acceptable to break a social compact?

Round 2 to Christie,

Governor Christie, there has been a lot of political rhetoric that some bank executives should have gone to jail for the 2008 financial crisis. But General Motors paid more than $1 billion in fines and settlements for its ignition switch defect. One hundred and twenty- four people died as a result of these faulty switches. No one went to jail. As a former prosecutor, do you believe the people responsible for the switch and the cover-up belong behind bars?

Later on, after Christie complained about a question to Jeb Bush about fantasy football gambling,

Governor Christie, you’ve said something that many in your party do not believe, which is that climate change is undeniable, that human activity contributes to it, and you said, quote: “The question is, what do we do to deal with it?”. So what do we do?

A quip Christie made about Senator Bernie Sanders was judged to be a “pants on fire” lie. Christie’s claim about how there’s a war on cops is also statistically false.

Questions to Mike Huckabee:

The first question came well into the program:

Governor Huckabee, you have railed against income inequality. You’ve said that some Wall Street executives should have gone to jail over the roles that they played during the financial crisis. Apart from your tax plan, are there specific steps you would require from corporate America to try and reduce the income inequality.

Later,

Governor Huckabee, you’ve written about the huge divide in values between middle America and the big coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles. As a preacher as well as a politician, you know that presidents need the moral authority to bring the entire country together. The leading Republican candidate, when you look at the average of national polls right now, is Donald Trump. When you look at him, do you see someone with the moral authority to unite the country?

Those are the questions that were asked. There were a few interruptions and candidate demands for time, but as far as actual questions from the debate moderators, the list above contains ever single one. Where the hell is the problem?

Let’s break it down even further:

  • Trump, Carson, Rubio, Huckabee, and Bush were asked specific, pointed questions about their tax plans and how they would fix perceived problems. (Tax plans, incidentally, that Politico and Slate characterize as existing only in an “oddly imaginary” world, “insane“, and  “an exercise in economic fantasy.”)
  • Trump and Rubio were asked about immigration.
  • Trump, Carson, Paul, and Christie were asked about Social Security and/or Medicare.
  • Kasich was asked about the state of the GOP, marijuana, and student debt. Carson and Kasich were asked about corporate subsidies.
  • Trump was asked about his companies’ bankruptcies, and the second amendment.
  • Carson was asked about a sketchy business relationship.
  • Rubio was asked about his relative youth and inexperience, and also about his business savvy.
  • Bush, Fiorina, Cruz, and Paul were asked about budget policy and the debt ceiling.
  • Bush was asked about the recent controversy over fantasy sports leagues.
  • Fiorina was asked about private retirement savings accounts.
  • Cruz was asked about equal pay for women.
  • Paul and Cruz were asked about the Federal Reserve and monetary policy.
  • Christie was asked about climate change and holding corporations accountable.
  • Huckabee was asked about values.

These questions were direct and almost completely substantive in nature. Given that CNBC is a business channel, many of the questions dealt with issues surrounding money – taxes, the Fed, subsidies, trade, and immigration. A few questions were outliers, like pot for Kasich and gambling for Bush, but for the most part, when you read the text of the questions alone, they’re all dealing with important issues that matter – if not to you, then at least to the people who watch CNBC.

What you’re missing here is the emotion. You’re missing the whining and complaining about the perceived hostile tone of the questions or the questioners.

That’s what happens when the GOP slate leaves the friendly and compliant bubble of the conservative media’s Bullshit Mountain, and find themselves confronted with substantive, challenging, probing questions. In the end, the whole things came out a bit of a mess, but the best way for the denizens of Bullshit Mountain to deal with the glare of reality is to simply attack the media. Their acolytes love it, because they, too, hate the liberal media!

Asking candidates about how their tax plans would work is “gotcha journalism”? Well, congratulations to us, since it would appear we’ve come a long way since “what newspapers and magazines do you read” was considered a “gotcha” moment. Immigration? Budget policy?

And all of these characters whining about media bias and a lack of substantive gravitas in the questioning – what sorts of important issues do they tackle up on Bullshit Mountain every day? The republic endured years’ worth of Orly Taitz / Donald Trump – style birtherism, but asking pointed questions about policy to Presidential candidates denotes elite liberal media bias? From Drudge to Limbaugh to Fox to AM radio on down, the right-wing movement and its activists have turned politics into a blood sport where trivial nonsense uttered by a member of the right-wing club is treated as something very important, but genuine issues affecting average Americans are denounced as gravitas-free evidence of journalistic prejudice.

These are the people who brought you “Planned Parenthood sells fetus parts”, or “President Obama is a Kenyan usurper”, or “the war on Christmas”, or “Saddam Hussein is actively manufacturing weapons or mass destruction”, or “Obama’s coming for your guns”, or “Obama won’t say the word ‘terrorism'”, or “Climategate”, or Michele Obama’s “Whitey Tape”, or “net neutrality is a government takeover of the internet”. They have the chutzpah to condemn CNBC after years of lies, mythology, and faith-based economics. To characterize what the Republican media do as lowest common denominator rumormongering would be insulting to math.

Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave 11 hours of testimony before a mostly hostile Congressional Committee purporting to investigate the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. It was Mrs. Clinton’s second time testifying about this event. 11 hours of blistering insults and allegations from preening backbenchers, including an odd obsession with Mrs. Clinton’s exchanges with friends via email. 11 hours of Clinton’s relationship with Sidney Blumenthal, but ask Ted Cruz one question about the debt ceiling, and he crumbles into a self-righteous temper tantrum.

As for the supposed love-fest that the Democrats got at their debate, let’s consider for a moment the very first question posed, to Hillary Clinton:

Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.

You were against same-sex marriage.  Now you’re for it.  You defended President Obama’s immigration policies.  Now you say they’re too harsh.  You supported his trade deal dozen of times.  You even called it the “gold standard”.  Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it.

Will you say anything to get elected?

If CNBC had asked a similar question of any of the weak-kneed, whiny, professional victims on stage in Boulder Wednesday night, the Republican National Committee would have aborted the entire program early.

If the Benghazi hearing was an 11-hour Republican paid advertisement for the Clinton campaign, then every one of these GOP debates – and the accompanying whinging – also have to amount to an in-kind contribution to the Democratic Party.

NFG Government

United_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2_jpg__2953×1529_

When President Obama came to office, it became congressional Republican policy to simply oppose and block anything and everything he wanted. Whether it was the tax cut stimulus or Obamacare and everything in-between, the Republican minority in Congress made it a central theme and strategy simply to reject everything the President wanted. So soon after the McCain campaign’s “Country First”, Republicans put party and partisanship first, country be damned.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That was the sole policy aim, as Senator Mitch McConnell so succinctly put it, and they failed. They weakened the stimulus, but didn’t destroy it – as a result, our recovery is weaker than it needed to be, but still better than the UK, where its conservative government is now reaping the myriad failures of austerity. They weakened Obamacare by rejecting the public option, but they couldn’t kill it. They’re still trying.

Disagreement and partisanship are to be expected and accepted within the context of representative pluralist democracies. But in 2008, the Republican Party twisted that into not just political, but governmental sabotage. It’s how the now-weakened tea party was conceived and was built on a foundation of denigrating President Obama as being foreign, un-American, not one of us. As Carl Paladino emailed on Monday, Obama wasn’t just a Kenyan usurper, but an “affirmative action” President.

But Obama is now finishing up his second term of office, and will likely never run for office again. Therefore, the constraints of electoral politics no longer hold him back, and he can give “no fucks“. Similarly, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner – pushed out by tea party hard-liners – gives no fucks, either. Because they no longer fear political consequences,  they are free to govern. They’re free to compromise.

In point of fact, our federal congress was specifically designed to require and encourage compromise. Ours is not a parliamentary system where a majority government has, in effect, the political equivalent of carte blanche to implement the policies on which it run and won election. Here, a Senate minority can block legislation, and compromise is often required, if not encouraged.

Today, the NFG Congress and NFG President will cut a budget deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government shut-down until some point after the 2016 election. This is Boehner and Obama unconstrained by political considerations acting in the best interests of the country. This is compromise. This is how our government is supposed to work, and was designed to work.

For one day, at least, the grownups are back in charge.

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