What matters is doing the right thing now

On Friday I saw two examples of a man faced with a moral decision.

Bill Maher hosted Billy Bush, forever infamous for laughing along with Donald Trump on the Access Hollywood tape, as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.  Bush explained why he didn’t stand up to Donald Trump at the time, which basically amounted to fear of losing his job.

Friday was also the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, a war crime committed by the United States in which at least 347 civilians were murdered by U.S. troops.  Many who know of that crime are unaware that an American helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, caught the perpetrators in the act and put a stop to it, literally threatening to open fire on U.S. troops if they continued to fire on civilians.

Thompson literally saved the lives of people who were about to be murdered.  And he did so at great cost to himself: he was condemned and harrassed by his fellow soldiers.  But in the moment, he chose to do the right thing.

Bush kept quiet, and kept his comfortable job, by keeping silent when he should have spoken up.  He regrets it now, which is not worth nothing, to be sure, but it’s not really worth much, either.

When a future generations asks what we did to stop the rise of fascism in the U.S., are we going to say we wish we had done more when it counted?


Trump admits he just makes stuff up

We knew this, but it’s still shocking when he just admits it right out loud, and more shocking when Republicans go along with it.

The president spoke at a fundraiser about a conversation he had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in which the two leaders discussed which country had a trade deficit with the other. As the Washington Post  reported, Trump bragged last night that he made the private comments without having a clue as to whether or not he was correct.

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in – ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.

“… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know…. I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’”

So, Trump started with the premise that the United States is “stupid” – a curious assumption for an American president – and then based his assumptions on that dubious foundation. It then led him to assume, without having any facts or having done any homework ahead of his meeting with the Canadian prime minister, that we have a trade deficit with our neighbors to the north.

According to last night’s story, Trump’s aide then came back to him to assure the president that he was, in fact, correct about the trade imbalance – which is bizarre, since, according to the Trump administration’s own data, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.

What’s amazing about this story, however, isn’t just the American president being wrong about a simple issue he’s talked about for years.

Rather, what we have here is a president bragging about making stuff up, then assuring his audience that his evidence-free claims are accidentally true, without realizing that he’s still wrong.

Primary opponents of anti-bank-regulation Democratic senators

Please make a small contribution to these primary challengers.  It’s time the Democratic Party stopped electing Senators who represent banks.

  • Bennet – not up for reelection until 2022
  • Carper – primary opponent is Kerri Evelyn Harris
  • Coons – retiring
  • Donnelly – as of now, unopposed in the primary
  • Hassan – not up for reelection until 2022
  • Heitkamp – primary opponent is Dustin David Peyer
  • Jones – not up for reelection until 2020
  • Kaine – as of now, unopposed in the primary
  • King – actually independent, caucuses with Democrats.  Democratic opponent is Zak Ringelstein
  • Manchin – primary opponent is Paula Jean Swearengin
  • McCaskill – primary opponent is Angelica Earl
  • Nelson – primary opponent is Tamika Lyles
  • Peters – not up for reelection until 2020
  • Shaheen – not up for reelection until 2020
  • Stabenow – as of now, unopposed in the primary
  • Tester – primary opponent is Greg Strandberg
  • Warner – not up for relection until 2020

A way to cut the supply of guns

From The Reality-Based Community, a gun control proposal that I’ve never heard before:  nationalize the gun industry.

The ownership strategy would not be profit-maximising. It would include:

  1. Maintaining current sales to the military and (with less marketing effort) law enforcement;
  2. Dropping all sales to civilians of semi-automatic weapons, keeping only two-shot shotguns, one-shot bolt-action hunting rifles, and revolvers;
  3. Selling only through retailers committing to an enforceable code of practice including full background checks;
  4. Setting up an attack-dog legal department to protect patent and trademark IP very aggressively, to discourage new entrants;
  5. Dropping all connection with the NRA or other gun advocacy organisations.

For a few years, the gunmakers would lose money. So you have to add maybe another $1bn for restructuring costs. These would never be recovered, and represent the permanent net cost of the operation.

Notice what isn’t here: repeal of the Second Amendment.  A Democratic Congress could, and should, pass this program with a simple majority vote.  It would slow the spread of weapons of mass shooting, and give us time to deal with the huge inventory of dangerous weapons (perhaps by a voluntary buy-back program).

Sen. Ernst is suddenly opposed to sexual predators

Republican Senator Joni Ernst has called for an investigation into USA Gymnastics after the former team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing female athletes.  She’s not wrong about USA Gymnastics, there should be an investigation.

But she’s been very selective about which sexual predators she thinks need to go to prison.  For example, she had her chance to pull her support from Donald Trump when it became clear that he had bragged about sexually assaulting women, and she stuck by him.  And when child molester Roy Moore was endorsed wholeheartedly by Donald Trump, Joni Ernst sat quietly next to Trump (photo of that moment, above) and didn’t object.

It’s almost as if she thinks it’s OK if you’re a Republican.

Ex-GOP chair to Trump-supporting evangelicals: “Shut the hell up”

I have several bones to pick with Michael Steele, former chair of the Republican National Committee.  But now that he’s out of power, he seems to have some clarity about the Party of Trump that he helped create.

Evangelicals love a president who cheats on all of his wives, brags about assaulting women by grabbing their pussies, and pays hush money to a porn star to keep her from talking to the press about his sex affair with her. Tony Perkins of the right-wing Family Research Council, said Trump gets “a do-over” because evangelicals “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists.” But Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chair, has one thing to say to evangelicals about their unwavering support for the unfaithful Trump: “I have very simple admonition: just shut the hell up and don’t preach to me about anything ever again,” he said on MSNBC.

“After telling me who to love, what to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter, the grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter, the outright behavior and lies don’t matter, just shut up!” Steele blasted.

“They have no voice of authority anymore for me,” Steele concluded.

Ernst defends Trump, audience guffaws

Joni Ernst embarrassing herself in Red Oak:

Republican senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have been back home in Iowa to hold small town halls in rural areas, places they probably thought would be ‘safe spaces’ from angry voters. WRONG. The rural voters who turned out were not happy with Donald Trump and they unloaded on Ernst and Grassley. In one particularly embarrassing moment for Sen. Ernst in Red Oak, Iowa (population 5,476), she drew laughter and scorn after this exchange:

SEN. ERNST: “He is standing up for a lot of the countries, um… where we have seen…”

CONSTITUENT: “Name a few, could you name a few?”

SEN. ERNST: “Yeah, you bet. Norway…”


Trump: “…if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

This reminder of who wants to shut down the federal government is brought to you by the President of the United States.  Trump was already threatening a government shutdown back in August.

Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.

And if the government shuts down at midnight tonight, it will be because there aren’t enough Republican votes to prevent it.

Republicans defend Trump’s “shithole countries” comment

You know by now, because everyone in the world now knows, that the President of the United States called African countries and Haiti “shithole countries,” according to “several people briefed on the meeting.”  Trump later bragged about it to friends.

In the minds of Republican lawmakers, this is a problem.  Not the racist garbage the President said, but the fact the someone repeated it to the public.  Rand Paul is now telling us there can’t be an immigration compromise if people are running around calling the President a racist.

The premise that racist sentiments spoken by party leaders in private should not be repeated in public because allowing party leaders to be racist in private is important for legislative comity is word-for-word the argument used by decades of past southern Republicans. Presenting the two as equal sins—speaking racist things, and informing the public when racist things have been spoken—using the rhetoric of “both sides” behaving badly is the sort of moral grease fire Republican senators have long loved to simmer in.

And why would they turn on him now, after backing Trump for so long?  It’s not as if they didn’t know he’s a racist; white supremacy is his brand, and a core value of the Republican Party.