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So-called President

On Saturday, Donald Trump angrily tweeted his displeasure at federal judge James Robart, who had just temporarily blocked Trump’s travel ban:

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

Calling Robart a “so-called judge” is clearly an attempt to delegitimize the US judiciary. After all, Trump can’t accuse Robart of issuing a partisan decision, as Robart was nominated by George W Bush and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

But the hypocrisy here is that — as noted by this blog and others — Trump commonly accuses others of things of which he himself is guilty. Which means Trump should be called a “so-called president”.

Why would the president attack one of the other two branches of our government? Especially the branch whose most important job is to provide checks and balances on executive power?

Even Republicans noticed this. In a rebuke, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said:

We don’t have ‘so-called judges,’ we don’t have ‘so-called’ senators, we don’t have ‘so-called presidents’. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

But Trump continues to attack Judge Robart. As long as he does that, it is only fair that we should call Trump a “so-called president”.


Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jan. 11, 2017]

“Donald and Melania Trump are scheduled to ride with the Obamas to the Capitol on Inauguration Day. And you thought your Uber pool was uncomfortable.” – Jimmy Fallon

“In his farewell speech, President Obama said being a father to his daughters was his proudest achievement. In response, Donald Trump said being a father to his daughter is the reason he’s not allowed to date her.” – Conan O’Brien

“Obama offered to leave behind the swing set that he had installed for his kids so that Trump’s grandkids could use it, but Trump turned him down. Trump said he’ll be building a bigger, better swing set and he’s going to make the kids pay for it.” – Jimmy Fallon

“At his press conference today, Donald Trump said America will build the border wall and then be reimbursed by Mexico. The invoice will be submitted to Mexico’s Department of ‘In Your Dreams, Pendejo.'” – Conan O’Brien

“CNN reported that last Friday intelligence chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him. I gotta say, that is an awkward first meeting with your new boss. ‘Hey, so, looking forward to working together, watercooler’s down the hall, we heard you’re a puppet of a hostile foreign government, Barbara validates parking any time you need it, any questions?'” – Stephen Colbert

“The big story right now is the new report claiming that Russia has enough embarrassing material on Donald Trump to blackmail him. On the other hand, so does anyone who follows Trump on Twitter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Intelligence officials prepared a two-page summary of allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. Trump received these documents as part of his intelligence briefing, so we know one thing for sure: He didn’t read them.” – Stephen Colbert

“In a tweet today, Donald Trump compared the way he’s been treated to Nazi Germany. Which is unfair, because everyone knows Hitler won his election without the help of the Russians.” – Conan O’Brien

“Trump immediately denied the report, tweeting, ‘Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to leak into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?’ So true — we all remember how unfair Nazi Germany was to their charismatic leader. Those people were always going ‘Talk to the hand!'” – Stephen Colbert

“There will be a ’20/20’ special on Trump’s inauguration that has forced ABC to push back its premieres of ‘Scandal’ and ‘How to Get Away With Murder.’ Yeah, to make room for the special about Trump called ‘Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.'” – Jimmy Fallon


The Muslim Ban

I think it is important to show what the Muslim ban means to real people. In that vein, meet Mo Farah, who is a British athlete living in the US.

Farah was born in Somalia — one of the seven countries listed in Trump’s ban — but at the age of eight was welcomed into the UK as a refugee. Farah followed his dreams and went on to win three gold medals in Track and Field at the Olympics — the most ever won by Britain in that sport. On January 1 of this year, he was knighted by the Queen, even though six years ago he became a Nike athlete and started living in Oregon in the city that is Nike’s headquarters.

When Donald Trump announced his ban on people from Somalia entering the US, Farah was in Ethiopia. As a top athlete, Farah often travels all over the world for events or just to train with people. Realizing that he may not be able to come home, Farah wrote on this Facebook page:

On 27th January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien. I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years – working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home.

Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home – to explain why the President has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice.

When did we forget that America is a country of immigrants? You just have to look at a piece of money to see the slogan “e pluribus unum”. It is what made us great. We forget at our own risk.


While We’re On the Subject of Sean Spicer

© Jack Ohman

PolitiFact already has a file on Sean Spicer and 83% of his statements are on the negative side of the truth spectrum — Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire.


SNL on Spicer

Melissa McCarthy does a hilarious take on White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Trump is already making Saturday Night Live great again!

Is this a parody, or a reenactment? And props to the props.


Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jan. 10, 2017]

“Tonight on all the channels President Obama gave his farewell speech. It’s the Obama speech that Republicans have been looking forward to.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Obama said while he was preparing the speech, he said ‘I’m thinking about this as a chance to say thank you for an amazing journey’ — sounds to me like someone’s been watching ‘The Bachelor’.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Music streaming app Spotify today offered President Obama a job as ‘President of Playlists’. And they say America isn’t racist – white ex-presidents get offered jobs as corporate lobbyists and they ask the black guy if he wants to be a DJ.” – Seth Meyers

“President Obama gave his farewell address tonight in Chicago and thousands of people waited outside in freezing temperatures to get tickets. Now those people have a week to get over their pneumonia before they lose their health insurance.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Republican Senator Rand Paul said that this week he will introduce a GOP replacement plan for Obamacare. The new comprehensive health initiative will be called ‘Don’t Get Sick’.” – Conan O’Brien

“Rumors are circulating that Hillary Clinton could run for mayor of New York City later this year. While Bill could run to be the next ‘Naked Cowboy’ in Times Square.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Hillary and Bill Clinton announced that they are going to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration next Friday. Trump was really excited when he heard because they’re the first celebrities that said they’ll actually go. Even more awkward, she’s sitting right next to Putin.” – Jimmy Fallon

“CNN is reporting that the Russians have disgusting and damaging information about Donald Trump. Apparently, the Russian report on Trump contains ‘everything we already know’.” – Conan O’Brien

“Eric Trump recently said that the Trump Organization will ‘probably not’ pursue business deals in Russia in the next few years. They’ll also ‘probably not’ tell us if they do.” – Seth Meyers

“Today on Capitol Hill, Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was grilled by senators during the first confirmation hearing of the Trump administration. Sessions is a controversial pick. For instance, in the past, he’s been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization. At one point he said, ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana.’ That dude needs to chill out and smoke some marijuana.” – James Corden

“After past accusations of racism, attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions said today, ‘I abhor the Klan and its hateful ideology.’ Though he refused to answer the follow-up question, ‘Ku Klux or Wu Tang?'” – Seth Meyers

“Another controversial moment was in 1986, when Sessions was accused of racism while up for a federal judgeship. Sessions responded, ‘I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks.’ And as everyone knows, the best way to prove you’re not a racist is to use the term ‘blacks’.” – James Corden

“Donald Trump appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as White House senior adviser. I bet when they first met, Trump was like, ‘What are your intentions with my daughter?’ Kushner was like, ‘I’ll be honest. I’m just sleeping with her to get close to you.’ And Trump was like, ‘Nice’.” – James Corden

“On Twitter, porn actress Jenna Jameson bashed Meryl Streep for her Golden Globe speech. Wow, it’s going to be awkward the next time Jameson and Streep do a movie together.” – Conan O’Brien

“It’s being reported Yahoo might be changing its name to Altaba. The announcement was made so people could get a jump start on saying, ‘You’re still using Altaba?'” – Conan O’Brien


Are We Being Played?

From Heather Richardson, professor of History at Boston College (as posted to Facebook, and verified by Snopes):

I don’t like to talk about politics on Facebook — political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends — but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.

What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries — is creating what is known as a “shock event.”

Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order.

When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.

Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.

Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.

My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like.

I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is.

If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.

But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.

A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.

If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.

Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.


Spite Your Face?

© Matt Bors

Maybe Trump supporters are angry, whipped up into a frenzy by conservatives that it doesn’t even matter what they have to be angry about. But they are so angry, that they will do anything to piss off their perceived enemies, even if it goes strongly against their own interests.

In a situation like that, compromise is futile.


Pissing off the World

Besides Russia, is there any country that Donald Trump has not managed to piss off?

Let’s start with Russia. The only active war in Europe today just erupted again, with Russian fingerprints all over it:

After two years of cease-fire that was observed on a fairly consistent basis by both sides, fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists has recommenced, with more than a dozen people dead. It’s too early to say with certainty what it all means, but observers note that the separatists appear to have had logistical support from Moscow, and that this could very well be a test to see how the Trump administration responds.

So Donald Trump emboldens Russia, and they start causing trouble. This is a very bad sign.

And Russia isn’t the only country that is testing Trump. Iran just conducted a missile test, and Iranian-backed rebels conducted an attack on a Saudi naval vessel in the Red Sea. On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” Just what does that mean? Then of course, they blamed everything on the Obama administration.

And in two personal phone calls in one day, Trump managed to antagonize both the prime minister of Australia and the president of Mexico.

What makes this scary is that Australia is a critical ally of the US as China tries to annex islands in the South China Sea. Indeed, Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has said that “There’s no doubt” that the US will go to war with China in five to ten years.

So what was important enough to cause Trump to threaten our relationship with Australia? An agreement between the US and Australia where Australia would accept refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In return, the US would resettle 1,250 refugees from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, but as even Trump’s press secretary points out, only after “extreme vetting” is applied to each one. But in yet another tweet, Trump called it a “dumb deal”.

Meanwhile, on another phone call, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to explain to Trump the Geneva Convention, which requires the US to accept refugees from war-torn nations. Trump is violating the convention by ordering a halt of refugees entering the US. French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister Theresa May also chastised Trump for the Muslim refugee ban.

Things have gotten so bad that the president of the European Union declared the Trump administration a “threat”, alongside China, Russia, terrorism, and radical Islam.

Trump’s bullying is not going over well with the rest of the world. What will Trump do in response? Threaten to bomb our allies?


Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jan. 9, 2017]

“Meryl Streep’s speech last night at the Golden Globes took direct aim at Donald Trump when she called him a bully. Of course, Trump responded in a tweet saying Streep is quote one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.” – James Corden

“At last night’s Golden Globes, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump, then Trump tweeted that she is ‘overrated’. ‘Overrated’ is different from Trump’s normal insult for women, ‘over 40’.” – Conan O’Brien

“Meryl Streep was given the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes last night and used her acceptance speech to criticize Donald Trump. That’s right, the all-time queen of American drama was criticized by Meryl Streep.” – Seth Meyers

“Look, Mr. Trump. You can refuse to release your taxes, you can call to ban an entire religion, you can play footsie with a dictator, but calling Meryl Streep overrated? No!” – Stephen Colbert

“If you want to see real acting, just watch the Republican Congress as they pretend that everything’s going to be okay for the next four years.” – James Corden

“In a tense exchange yesterday, a U.S. Navy destroyer fired warning shots at fast-approaching Iranian naval ships. So of course, our president-elect tweeted about how overrated Meryl Streep is.” – James Corden

“Last night, President-elect Trump was too focused on defeating ISIS and creating jobs to pick a fight with a celebrity — just kidding, he tweeted: ‘Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood…'” – Stephen Colbert

“Trump spokeswoman and future award-winning Meryl Streep role Kellyanne Conway weighed in on the reporter controversy by explaining we shouldn’t get hung up on little things like what Donald Trump says and does.” – Stephen Colbert

“Donald Trump is reportedly having multiple disagreements with his Defense Secretary pick, James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis. You know you’re in trouble when a guy named Mad Dog is telling you to take it down a notch.” – Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump is making his son-in-law Jared Kushner a senior adviser to the Presidency. Today, Trump said, ‘I’ve looked into it and nothing’s ever gone wrong with a guy named Jared.'” – Conan O’Brien

“A man is claiming that his struggle with sleep-apnea caused him to grope a woman’s breasts on a flight. Said the woman, ‘Nice try, Mr. President-elect.'” – Seth Meyers

“On Friday, the director of national intelligence released a report that found that Putin ordered the effort to undermine faith in the election and help Trump. Apparently, after Russia was embarrassed by the Olympic doping scandal, Putin wanted to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical. Hey, Putin, we don’t need any help looking hypocritical. Okay? We’re the country that invented both chili cheese fries and open heart surgery. We got this one.” – Stephen Colbert

“Over the weekend, Pope Francis gave his support to a woman who was publicly breastfeeding. The Pope defended himself saying, ‘I’m celibate, this is all I have.'” – Conan O’Brien

“The movie ‘La La Land’ won a record seven Golden Globes last night. The movie tells the story of a struggling jazz musician named Sebastian, who against all odds, is white.” – Seth Meyers

“First Lady Michelle Obama gave her final White House speech on Friday where she told young people to quote, ‘never fear’. Though it was weird that she told old people to quote, ‘Watch your backs’.” – Seth Meyers


Supreme Fight

Kurt Eichenwald has a good article in Newsweek about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee entitled “Neil Gorsuch is Supremely Qualified, and Must Not Be Confirmed“. The whole article is worth a read, but I can sum up his main point in one paragraph.

The Republicans, in refusing to even hold hearings on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, are attempting to destroy the Supreme Court’s constitutional role as an independent judiciary. Even worse, when Republicans thought that Clinton was going to be the next president, conservatives talked about blocking any judicial nominee she would nominate. If they get away with this, you can kiss an independent Supreme Court goodbye. Instead, the Supreme Court justices would be no better than Senators for life. If a Republican Senate is only willing to consider a nominee because of politics, then the Supreme court becomes just just another arm of the Republican party, and our democracy dies.

It doesn’t matter if Gorsuch is qualified. Why? Because Garland is every bit as qualified. It is the constitutional obligation of the Senate to “advise and consent”, Not play politics.

I think Eichenwald has a very good point. As much as I hate obstructionism, I think this is important enough to warrant it.


Colbert Comes Out Swinging

The first episode of The Late Show since Trump became president:

I haven’t found an embeddable video of this yet, but if you want to see Jon Stewart appearing on the show and reading Trump’s next batch of executive orders, click here.

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Jon Stewart with Stephen Colbert on the late show:


Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jan. 4, 2017]

“We’re a little over two weeks from Trump’s inauguration. Typically, you’ve got a bunch of stars there at the inauguration to perform for the new president. Reagan had Frank Sinatra, Clinton had Fleetwood Mac, George W. Bush had Ricky Martin, Obama had Beyonce. So, obviously, for Trump, everybody who’s anybody is going to be there, except for anybody. Because he’s having a wee bit of trouble getting famous acts to perform.” – Stephen Colbert

“Turns out the Mormon tabernacle choir is scheduled to perform, but over the weekend, a choir member resigned because she didn’t want to perform for Trump. Now the choir needs to fill that empty spot with a Mormon who has free time and can sing — Trump has a job for Mitt Romney after all!” – Stephen Colbert

“Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend Trump’s inauguration. I think that’s very nice that she’s being a gracious loser. And if you count the popular vote, a gracious winner.” – Stephen Colbert


Be Careful What You Ask For

Monday night, Donald Trump fired the interim attorney general, Sally Yates, because she expressed her (legal) opinion that Trump’s Muslim ban should not be enforced because it was not legal. And she had some pretty good reasons to believe Trump’s executive order was not legal, as since the order was signed on Friday, five federal judges have issued injunctions against it.

In firing Yates, the White House issued a fairly nasty statement, saying that Yates had betrayed the Department of Justice. The statement also claimed that Trump’s executive order was approved as legal by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. But given that Trump consulted virtually nobody before issuing the order, I find this hard to believe.

Yates is an Obama appointee, who was serving until Trump’s nominee, Jeff Sessions, could be confirmed by the Republican controlled Senate.

Now here’s the ironic part. Back in 2015 when Yates was being confirmed as Deputy Attorney General for Obama, Sessions pointedly asked her if she would be willing to do (presumably to Obama) exactly what she just did to Trump. And she agreed with him and said yes.

Sessions seems to be singing a different tune now.


Trump’s View of the World

© Ruben Bolling

Donald Trump’s approval numbers continue to drop (eight points in the last week alone). And so far we are seeing massive protests against him every weekend. How long before this really is his view from Trump Tower?