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Tooning out the Lincoln Project

Stephen Colbert’s “Tooning Out the News” interviewed Rick Wilson from the Lincoln Project, makers of viral anti-Trump ads. I have to admit that as I watched this, I was alternately laughing, cringing, and shaking my head in disgust.

So what do you think? Is the Lincoln Project made up of good guys who are saving us from Donald Trump? Alternatively, are they actually comparatively responsible for the horror that is Trump, and are just trying to save their own skins (and will be back to their old tricks once Trump is gone)? Or are they merely amoral grifters who realized that there was lots of money to be made? Or all of the above?

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Alternate Facts?

White House adviser (and white nationalist) Stephen Miller’s grandmother has died from the coronavirus this month. Miller’s uncle (son of the grandmother) said that the Trump administration is partly responsible for her death because of their incompetent handling of the pandemic.

In response, the White House issued a statement denying that Miller’s grandmother died from the virus:

This is categorically false, and a disgusting use of so-called journalism when the family deserves privacy to mourn the loss of a loved one. His grandmother did not pass away from COVID.

There’s just one problem. Her death certificate lists the cause of death as “respiratory arrest” caused by “COVID-19”.

When informed of this, the White House doubled down, saying “Again, this is categorically false.”

I mean, who are you going to believe, the President of the United States, or your own lying eyes?

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Irony of Death

On Wednesday, trying to justify his sending federal agents into multiple cities, Donald Trump said the following:

No mother should ever have to cradle her dead child in her arms simply because politicians refused to do what is necessary to secure their neighborhood and to secure their city.

Trump seems unaware that the whole point of the BLM protests is because black people — like George Floyd, and including a 12-year-old boy holding a toy gunare actually dying. And Trump (who, is a politician, or at least is trying to play one) is unwilling to do anything about it. In fact, he seems hell-bent to make the situation worse. But I guess when Trump envisions a mother and her dead child, he sees only white people.

Speaking of Trump playing a politician, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge had a great quote on Wednesday, where he made fun of Trump’s “reality TV approach”.

I’m not even sure they have a plan. Have they talked to the mayor? Have they talked to the chief of police? Have they talked to the US attorney? They’ll leave in a couple of weeks and the lawlessness will reemerge, and they still haven’t dealt with the social and economic conditions that underpin the lawlessness. It’s a very disappointing response to a serious problem, but it’s typical of somebody who thinks reality TV is real.

Ridge also had some choice words on Tuesday, saying that the Department of Homeland Security “was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism. It was not established to be the President’s personal militia.” He also said “It would be a cold day in hell before I would give consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities.”

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Portland Moms Speak Out

This is a powerful video from the Washington Post:

Speaking of what is going on in Oregon, does anyone remember when Ammon Bundy (son of rancher Cliven Bundy) led a takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon? That was a bunch of armed men taking over and destroying federal property illegally, which is exactly what Donald Trump is accusing the protesters in Portland of doing, except worse.

Can you imagine if Barack Obama had sent in federal agents to storm the refuge headquarters using tear gas and other munitions? The right would have gone crazy ballistic. But now, when the shoe is on the other foot in Portland, all they can talk about is “law and order”, and the need to protect federal property.

So much hypocrisy. And here’s one last little bit. The Malheur takeover was a protest over the arson conviction of two Oregon ranchers, a father and son named Hammond, for deliberately setting multiple large fires on federal land and making death threats against federal employees.

In 2018, Donald Trump gave full pardons to the Hammonds. So much for law and order.

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Jackbooted Thugs

From a must-read article in The Atlantic:

For decades, conservative activists and leaders have warned that “jackbooted thugs” from the federal government were going to come to take away Americans’ civil rights with no due process and no recourse. Now they’re here—but they’re deployed by a staunchly right-wing president with strong conservative support.

While Republicans have often portrayed themselves as devoted to law and order and defending the police, there’s also a strong libertarian current in the conservative movement that bristles at the growth of federal law enforcement. This became especially strong following the deadly federal sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and Waco, Texas, in 1993. The ATF in particular became a bête noire.

Yet on Thursday, as reports emerged from Portland of heavily armored federal agents attacking law-abiding citizens, the NRA announced it was endorsing Trump for a second term, praising him for “stand[ing] tall for the constitutional freedoms in which our members believe.”

The silence of many high-profile conservatives (with some exceptions) in the face of Trump’s attempt to create a national police force to crush dissent has much to do with the specifics. The subjects of the government’s repression are not white, rural gun owners, as at Ruby Ridge, but a multiracial coalition of urban residents, who tend to lean liberal, and who are protesting police violence against people of color. (The NRA has been conspicuously quiet when police violate Black people’s right to bear arms.)

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Wall of Moms

Donald Trump is famous for his wall, almost none of which he has built, but now mothers in Portland, Oregon have succeeded in building a better wall. In response to Trump sending in federal officers into Portland under the weak excuse that they are protecting federal property (like statues and other monuments), the city’s mothers have come to the rescue.

The federal agents have been running around wearing camouflage outfits and removing protesters using unmarked vehicles, violating the law that they are supposed to operate only on federally owned property. Their aggressive tactics, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other munitions have mainly made matters much worse.

In reply, the mothers arrived, linked arms and formed a human wall separating the peaceful protesters from the federal agents, chanting “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!”:

Twitter lit up, making sure that if something happened to our mothers, the world would know. Here’s a tweet from a mom and preschool teacher (I guess her job gives her valuable insights into Trump’s behavior).

And now, Trump has announced he is going to send federal agents into Chicago, and even New York City. I sincerely hope that this totally backfires on him.

Trump is trying to act tough, a blatant attempt to position himself as the “Law and Order” candidate. Ironically, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Joe Biden leading Trump on the issue of “crime and safety” by nine points, 50% to 41%.

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Trump’s Wall of Death

Another ad from The Lincoln Project:

I’m not sure, but this ad seems to have a somewhat different style than previous ads. I’m guessing that this might be the first ad since Ben Howe was let go from the project because of sexist remarks he made.

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John Lewis RIP

Heather Cox Richardson has an excellent post about John Lewis. Here are two paragraphs from it, to entice you to read the whole thing:

Tonight, just before midnight, we heard the news that 80-year-old Georgia Representative John Lewis has passed away from pancreatic cancer.

An adherent of the philosophy of non-violence, Lewis was beaten by mobs and arrested 45 times. As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC—pronounced “snick”) he helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington where the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., told more than 200,000 people gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial that he had a dream. Just 23 years old, Lewis spoke at the event. Two years later, as Lewis and 600 marchers hoping to register African American voters in Alabama stopped to pray at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, mounted police troopers charged the marchers, beating them with clubs and bullwhips. They fractured Lewis’s skull.

Rest In Power

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Trump Enablers

I often tell people that I don’t hate Donald Trump. After all, he is who he is, and it is fairly obvious who he is. What tears at my heart are the people who enable him; who think he makes a good president. This includes the people who join his administration, ignoring the fact that he is obviously a fraud and a con man. And the Republican Senators and other politicians, who publicly praise Trump in order to avoid angering his base. And most of all, Trump’s base, the roughly 40% of Americans who believe that Trump is doing a good job and actually revel in his lies.

Like the people who risk the health and lives of their families and themselves by refusing to wear a mask or social distance just because Trump tells them not to.

Which brings us to the new book by Mary Trump: “Too Much and Never Enough”. Slate has a fascinating review by Dahlia Lithwick that points out something new and significant: This is the first book that doesn’t just attack Donald Trump, it goes after the enablers and explores why they get entrapped supporting him:

Too Much and Never Enough may be the first book that stipulates, in its first pages, that the president is irreparably damaged, and then turns a clinician’s lens on the rest of us, the voters, the enablers, the flatterers, the hangers-on, and the worshipers. It is here that Mary Trump’s book makes perhaps the most enduring contribution to the teetering piles of books that have offered too little too late, even while telling us that which we already knew. Because Mary Trump begins from the assumption that other analysis tends to end with: Donald Trump is lethally dangerous, stunningly incoherent, and pathologically incapable of caring about anyone but himself. So, what Mary Trump wants to know is: What the hell is wrong with everyone around him? As she writes in her prologue, “there’s been very little effort to understand not only why he became what he is but how he’s consistently failed up despite his glaring lack of fitness.”

The book is thus actually styled as an indictment not of Donald Trump but of Trump’s enablers.

I see this as being similar to the “big lie” — a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. In this case, Donald Trump is a colossal fake who has conned so many people into believing that he is successful and rich. And once they get hoodwinked, they are trapped because admitting that you were so stupidly conned is unthinkable.

[Mary Trump] blames his family that propped him up (also her family, it should be noted), and then in concentric and expanding circles, the media that failed to scrutinize him, the banks that pretended he was the financial genius he was not, the Republican Party, and the “claque of loyalists” in the White House who continue to lie for him and to him in order to feed his insatiable ego and self-delusion. Even the phrase “too much and never enough” is perhaps deliberately borrowed from the language of addiction, and what Mary Trump describes here is not just her uncle’s addiction to adulation, fame, money, and success, but a nation’s—or some part of a nation’s—unfathomable addiction to him.

Donald Trump’s rise to power was perfectly timed, coming at a moment when Americans have a morbid fascination with being a “winner”, or at least acting like a winner even if you aren’t one.

Taking [Donald Trump] on for transactional purposes may seem like not that big a deal at first, but the moment you put him in your pocket, you become his slave. It is impossible to escape his orbit without having to admit a spectacular failure in moral and strategic judgment, which almost no one can stomach.

I encourage you to read the book review in its entirety. Not surprisingly, the book itself is selling like gangbusters. It sold just under a million copies in its first day, outpacing all other anti-Trump books.

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Donald Trump’s America

The Trump campaign has released a new political ad, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America”.

There’s just one problem — the video is completely in the present tense. The voice-over uses present tense — as if Biden is already president — and the images and video of protests and violence are also from the present, which is in Donald Trump’s America.

The ad seems rather weak, actually. It claims that Biden wants to “defund the police”, even though Biden has consistently said the opposite. Instead, they have Biden saying “Yes. Absolutely!”, which sounds like it was taken out of context and could have been about almost anything. The entire ad has production values of a cheesy horror show, or of a melodramatic movie like “Reefer Madness“. So, watch it if you DARE!

The Washington Post fact checked this ad, and gave it 4 Pinocchios (a whopper of a lie).

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Fauci v. Trump

The Lincoln Project has another very strong ad directly comparing Dr Anthony Fauci to Donald Trump. The Trump administration has started attacking Fauci, trying to discredit him because he often disagrees with (and occasionally contradicts) Trump, when Trump lies. In other words, Fauci is just doing his job, and doing it well. Trump can’t tolerate that.

I really love the ads that The Lincoln Project is doing. I know that many people worry that they won’t move the needle much, because probably very few Trump voters will ever even watch these ads. And the people who are watching them probably already hate Trump.

But I think they may be missing the point.

First of all, (and it has been mentioned that) it is particularly important that the people behind The Lincoln Project are all Republicans. They can say things that the Democrats dare not say and get away with it, because this is not your run-of-the-mill partisan fight. And that may give some die-hard Republicans permission to (perhaps just this once) not vote for someone who is clearly unfit to be president.

But in some ways, it is even more significant that these ads get Democrats excited and energized (it sure does it for me). The Democrats have a bad tendency to take their base for granted. In fact this was one of the biggest mistakes that Hillary Clinton made in the 2016 election. She assumed the “blue wall” would hold and didn’t campaign there, instead running ads in other states in the hope of getting a landslide.

Meanwhile, Trump concentrated on his base and won. This can work for Democrats too — the rise of Bernie Sanders shows how important it is to feed your base, as they were able to accomplish far more than their numbers would normally indicate.

I’m not saying that focusing on your base will guarantee success. Indeed, Trump seems unable to do anything but focus on his racist and angry base. But in this case we are talking about more than the behavior of the candidates. The Lincoln Project is completely separate from Biden. And not only are they energizing Biden’s base, they are demoralizing Trump himself. And that’s wonderful.

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America

This comic perfectly describes how I feel about the US.

© Tom Tomorrow

Heaven help us.

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We’re Number 1

Do you ever wonder why the US has so many more Covid-19 cases and deaths than anywhere else in the world?

Yes, DisneyWorld really did reopen last weekend, despite the fact that Florida now holds the record for most new cases in a single day, and right now has the most number of active cases of any state.

Just in case you think this is not a fair comparison because of population size, Flurida has less than 3 times the population of Hong Kong, and even that is probably offset by the fact that Hong Kong has a much higher population density.

Here’s the numbers from Worldometers:

Can you even imagine what opening up our schools is going to do to us?

Donald Trump said during his campaign “We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” Is this what he meant?

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Free Speech and Boycotts

I don’t understand why some people claim that product boycotts are an attempt to silence free speech. After all, the Citizens United decision clearly established that money was free speech (especially it is money given to politicians for their campaigns!). So isn’t my choice of what products to buy also free speech?

Which brings us to Goya Foods, whose CEO effusively praised Donald Trump in a ceremony at The White House (emphasis on “white”), saying “We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump.”

Calls for a boycott of Goya exploded on Twitter. I guess some people haven’t forgotten that Trump opened his campaign by calling Latinos “rapists”, said an American judge couldn’t do his job because he’s “Mexican”, who continues to ignore and insult Puerto Rico, and is currently trying to deport dreamers and kick college students from outside the US out of the country.

I guess I should not be surprised that Ted Cruz (never a paragon of consistency) condemned the Goya boycott. Cruz somehow forgot that just a year ago, he called for a boycott of Nike for supporting NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For Cruz, perhaps it is only free speech if it benefits Republicans.

And let’s not forget that Goya profits by selling products that are full of sodium and preservatives. So boycotting them is simply a healthy choice.

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No Hoax

A thirty-year-old went to a “COVID party”, where someone who has tested positive for the disease gets together with people who want to know if the disease is a hoax, by seeing if it gets transmitted to them. It did.

The thirty-year-old ended up in the hospital. Just before they died, they said to the nurse, “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

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