Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Tale of Two Mavericks

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
The word "maverick" is as diluted and overused in politics as the word "slugger" is in Major League Baseball. As with the game's legendary sluggers who are mostly dead, the rest retired or ignored into irrelevance, so go political mavericks who are always eager to distance themselves from the always reviled and suspect political power structure that they nonetheless yearn to join.
     Among those of his generation and subsequent ones, the late Senator John McCain perhaps came the closest to earning the sobriquet "maverick", a noun bandied about a decade ago with wearisome frequency and often laughed at by progressives who never tired of noting the fact that McCain voted with the Bush administration over 80% of the time. Yet, others of more analytical mindsets were quick to point out it was not how often McCain voted with the Bush administration but when he didn't.
     Bush couldn't wait to squander the $230 billion surplus left behind by the neoliberal Bill Clinton and his first year in office couldn't wait to hand it out like Halloween candy to his "Haves and Have Mores." John McCain voted against it. He voted against the 2003 tax cut followup that Bush then called for although both Nay votes were in losing causes. And then, in the ultimate maverick move, one of the last votes ever cast by the senior Arizona senator was another Nay vote at the end of a seemingly endless succession of Senate votes to repeal Obamacare. McCain walked out of the Senate cloak room while Mitch McConnell stood near the well of the Senate floor, his tortoise face creased in a smile anticipating victory at last, while Ohio's Sherrod Brown nudged a Democratic colleague as if to say, "Watch this!"
     Then, in a move bringing to mind a Roman emperor's live or die gesture made famous by the movies, McCain flattened his hand to get the clerk's attention then quickly turned his wrist, his thumb down, thereby saving the ACA and the provision his fellow Republicans so desperately wished to repeal: the pre-existing condition penalties that had made the HMOs billions. Only the applause of Elizabeth Warren and Dianne Feinstein could drown out the sound of Mitch McConnell's black little heart breaking as he bowed his head in defeat for the 50th plus time.
     Therefore, it was a shame that the senator who was already slowly dying of a rare form of brain cancer, the one that had claimed Ted Kennedy's life nine years ago, cast as his final vote a Yea for Trump's ruinous $1.4 trillion tax cut for the wealthy. Ted Williams, a true slugger and maverick who always stubbornly hit into the shift, went out with a home run in his final at bat. John McCain grounded into an inning-killing double play that benefited just the owners.
     There were other not so proud moments in McCain's career, such as being the lone Republican caught up in the Keating Five scandal that was just part of the Savings and Loan crisis of 1989. For those of you too young or too old to remember, that was the scandal engineered by Arizona financier Charles Keating, who'd brazenly said, "One question, among many raised in recent weeks, had to do with whether my financial support in any way influenced several political figures to take up my cause. I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so."
     It wasn't the kind of quote one would wish to attach to the resume of a "maverick."

The Other Maverick
And then there was him.
     Long before John McCain began his lengthy political career, indeed at a time when his survival from one day to the next at the Hanoi Hilton wasn't even assured, Donald John Trump was at real Hiltons porking one woman after another. Prior to this time, in the late 50s-early 60s, Trump just playacted playing McCain's role in his tin soldier academy. As you can see from the Academy's yearbook, Trump enjoyed quite an active athletic life before being 4-F'd out because of "bone spurs." So he never got a free tour of North Vietnam that John McCain had after his plane was shot down.
     While McCain was recuperating from a botched operation by North Vietnamese quacks, having bones broken, being starved and made to live in filth, Donald Trump was having unprotected sex and living the typical playboy life of a coddled millionaire scion who had everything handed to him. Years later while he made his own bid for president, Trump had the gall to say that having unsafe sex was his own "personal Vietnam", a phrase that didn't get past McCain.
     Trump was also billed as a maverick, a so-called breath of fresh air in a swamp supposedly created by the sitting president Barack Obama. Trump was the straight-shooting, tell-it-like-it-is political outsider beloved of ignorant voters since the days of Huey Long, the man without a filter. He'd even infamously said of John McCain, "The only reason he's a war hero is because he was captured, alright? I like people that weren't captured." 
     Despite that grave insult to a man who'd endured five years of torture at the hands of our enemy, Donald Trump still expected and demanded McCain's endorsement. McCain reluctantly gave it then, in a true maverick move, withdrew his endorsement of Trump. Trump, a man not renowned for forgiving and forgetting slights, never forgave McCain's about face and waged war on him to the bitter end.
     McCain mainly took the high road, preferring not to engage Trump directly like his colleague, the junior and outgoing Arizona senator Jeff Flake. While John McCain earned both his Purple Hearts, as well as the Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and the Prisoner of War Medal, Donald Trump had his Purple Heart given to him, one that was earned by a seriously misguided Iraq veteran. Trump even callously said, "Man, that’s like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
     John McCain was also quick to spot a slight, especially one given to the military and Donald Trump never deprived him of ammunition. During the transition, the "president-elect" insulted his top generals, disregarded their advice and recklessly got US service members as well as civilians killed in poorly thought out raids. He insulted a grieving widow whose husband was killed in one such raid in Yemen and whose dismembered body she was about to claim at the airport by saying. "He knew what he signed up for." He then proceeded to insult the family's congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, for revealing the contents of the phone call.
     Then there was Trump's running feud with the Khan family, who'd lost a son in Iraq, because Mr. Khan had publicly criticized Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It goes without saying that, too, didn't get past John McCain. And one can reasonably assume all these grave, unforgivable insults to the US military and their families were swirling through the senator's mind as he contemplated the virtually unprecedented act of withdrawing a presidential endorsement.

Will the real maverick please get out of bed?
That brings us back to Donald John Trump, the latest "maverick" to slouch his way through the Beltway. Trump was a maverick in that he didn't wish to shove his family before him like other politicians and wouldbes. In fact, evidence of the softer side of Trump with his family had long since been thrown out and rediscovered in a thrift shop.

     With this nauseating treasure trove of photographs, there are now on the internet countless pictures of Donald Trump in bed (a surprising number not featuring Ivanka) and there are none of John McCain in a similarly recumbent position. And his slothful tendencies have, unsurprisingly, made their way to the White House which Trump had once called "a dump."
     There's nothing like a maverick in Trump, who has done or tried to do everything a Republican president is expected to do- Cut taxes for the wealthy, deport immigrants, roll back environmental regulations, bloat the military's budget. In short, bankrupt, pollute and make whiter a country that is inevitably turning multicultural. But Trump doesn't stop at that.
     Regardless of the number of his detractors, Trump had proven for years that, like a martial arts master in a Run Run Shaw kung fu B movie, he will take on all comers either singly or simultaneously. To Trump, the only sacred cow is Trump himself. He will not be insulted, he will not be slighted and he will certainly not be investigated by the federal government. And he will insult anyone and everyone, whether they be former presidents, political opponents, sitting Congressmen and Senators, even grieving war families.
     A decade ago, while on the presidential campaign trail in his own quest for the presidency, McCain spoke to a woman who said she didn't trust Obama because she believed he was a Muslim, McCain immediately shook his head, snatched the microphone out of her hand, and defended his own opponent, saying he was "a decent family man". It was a small breath of fresh air in a typically raucous campaign rife with the usual mud-slingers, dead-catters and piano wire artists. 
     Compare that to Trump's dangerously provocative mantra of "Lock her up!" and seemingly forgetting about the due process that he even now enjoys as the focal point of a 15 month-long federal probe. John McCain, despite his well-known fiery temper, never once exhorted his followers to beat up dissenters in the audience and wistfully talking about the good old days when cops beat up protesters.
     When Senator McCain passed away in Sedona Arizona last evening, word eventually filtered back to his former North Vietnamese captor, whom the senator had last seen nine years ago during a tour of the Hanoi Hilton in which he was tortured for five years. He expressed sadness at the Senator's passing and Col. Trần Trọng Duyệt had this to say:
At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance. Later on, when he became a U.S. Senator, he and Senator John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Việtnam-U.S. relations so I was very fond of him. When I learnt about his death early this morning, I feel very sad. I would like to send condolences to his family. I think it’s the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Việtnam-U.S. relations.

     Compare that to Trump's generic Hallmark condolences on Twitter that were then recycled on Instagram and featuring, unsurprisingly, a picture of himself.
     While John McCain may have been an imperfect maverick at best, the man still knew where to draw that crucial line between the decent and indecent. It is that invisible, often hard to see line in the heat of political campaigns in a nation in which politics is a blood sport, that often determines the character, or the lack thereof, of a candidate, and John McCain could see that line without squinting.
     Donald Trump squints at everyone and sees "a traitor" in John McCain while calling convicted felon Paul Manafort "a brave man."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

RIP Senator John McCain

     He went through a hell most if us can't imagine, having been tortured for years, having more bones broken than you and I can probably count. He could've cut a deal for an earlier release because of his Admiral father but he didn't. When he met President Richard Nixon, he was still hobbling on crutches but he met his Commander in Chief on his own two feet because that's what patriotic soldiers and good Americans do when they meet the president. McCain was so brutalized at the Hanoi Hilton that, to the end of his days, he couldn't lift his arms above his shoulders.
      At the same time John McCain was being starved and getting bones broken and recuperating from a botched operation, Donald Trump was at the real Hiltons boffing women left and right then decades later had the nerve to say it was own "personal Vietnam." He also said John McCain wasn't a hero because he liked "guys who weren't captured" (like his father at a 1927 KKK rally.)
      Fittingly, he's been barred from McCain's funeral but Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will speak at it. Bush and Obama may speak but McCain really got the last word.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Gotham City Digest, No Honor Among Thieves edition

     In which the only Republican in Washington interested in draining the swamp is Robert Mueller.

     "Why, I'm shocked, SHOCKED there is persistent corruption here!"
     "Sir, here are your kickbacks."
     "Oh, thank you."

     Speaking of no honor among thieves, look who else just got immunity from federal prosecutors. Wow. They're handing out immunity deals like Halloween candy. Allen Weisselberg, the CFO who's been running Trump's empire for like forever, is also about to roll over on the fat man. And in lieu of Republicans using a 1924 law to gain access to Trump's tax returns, Weisselberg may prove to be the government's best shot at getting their hands the tax returns he's been refusing to hand over for better than two years now. And who besides Trump is better positioned to have those tax returns on file but Weisselberg?
     Trump's inner circle is selling him out one by one. Cohen, Pecker, Omarosa, Weisselberg. This is what eventually happens when you demand loyalty from others without giving it in return.

     As I say often, I love it when right wingers eat their own such as when Neil Cavuto destroyed Trump on Fox last night. But I've always wondered about what they do about that nasty aftertaste.

     Even the greatest warriors eventually meet an enemy they can't defeat. John McCain finally found his. I honestly feel guilty about everything I ever wrote about him a decade ago. And I do sincerely hope the senator's transition is as painless as possible. Unlike Trump and his birther conspiracy, when a woman called Obama a Muslim from Kenya in 2008, McCain wanted no part of it.

     Racist twats lose another one. I wrote about this a few days ago, of a proposal to close down seven polling places out of nine in a heavily African American county. And it's no coincidence that one of Kemp's biggest campaign contributors was the one who'd first proposed closing those seven polling places in Randolph County, a county in which 60% of the electorate are African American. And as a final coup de grace, when the two member committee refused to allow the closures, they also terminated the contract of the racist asshole who'd first proposed it.

     Fox poll shows most Americans want a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Trump's base ironically accuses Fox of fake news. I love it when these right wing lunatics eat their own. This is even better than Duncan Hunter throwing his wife under the bus.

     The witches are coming, the witches are coming! Welcome to 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, which in some ways was still more forward thinking than latter day Alabama.

     Is the Republican Party too big to be considered a Fifth Column? And finally...

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gotham City Digest: Guilty as Charged edition

     Where we make America Great, one conviction at a time.

     Russian stooge Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight of 18 counts or, as Fox "News" will put it, followed by Trump on Twitter five minutes later, "Manafort Not Guilty on 10 Counts in Rigged Witch Hunt!"

     Meanwhile, in New York... Anyone hear that high-pitched shriek coming from Bedminster? That's Trump screaming about Cohen and Manafort guilty on 8 counts... each. I hope Michael Cohen brought his mix tapes to the plea deal party.

     And, to round out the right wing trifecta, Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were just indicted on misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses.

     See, here's the problem right here: If your headline and lede keep mentioning the immigration status of the suspect, you're essentially using Mollie Tibbetts's death as sensationalism fodder and giving Trump and his homegrown Bund ammunition with which they cannot be trusted.

     Meanwhile, this happened at UNC Chapel Hill last night. I can understand getting swept up in anti-Confederate fervor but toppling statues is not going to make racism go away. By all means, erect statues to civil rights leaders but do not think this is merely more than a step in the right direction. And, as Charlottesville showed us a year ago, taking down confederate statues only raises ire among racists, neonazis and neoconfederates.

     While First Lady Melania Trump is spewing platitudes yesterday about social media being used for cyber bullying, this is what her husband was up to on social media at the exact same time:
     I'm starting to think that Trump's hair is actually a cleverly-disguised football helmet that he has to wear 18 hours a day.

     The only good thing about right wing corruption in Georgia is that it's not very subtle. There's this story about a server wipe right after news of a law suit broke out. Then there's another scandal brewing:
      In a county in which 60% of the voters are black, election officials are scrambling to close seven of its nine polling places in a year in which a black female Democrat is running for Governor.
      In Georgia, the right wing is racist, it's corrupt and it's stupid.

     Does every single member of the Trump family go out of their way to associate with nothing but crooks and gangsters? Does anyone in that crime family know ONE honest person?

     Speaking of Republicans stealing votes, you don't think Texas Republicans are trying to steal these students' votes in clear violation of the law because young people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, do you?

     Questions for the ICE agents involved in this inhumane arrest:
     Do you take pride in what you did?
     Do you not feel empathy for the family's suffering?
     Do you think you're making the world a better, safer place?
     Do you sleep well at night?
     To judge by ICE's statement on the matter, I think it's safe to say their answer to all four would be Yes.

     I've always hated Chuck Toddler ever since he blocked me on Twitter a couple of years ago. But when he had Mayor Rudy on his show last Sunday, I really felt sorry for the poor bastard.
     This was the exact moment Uncle Fester actually said, "Truth isn't truth." Yes, he actually said that. Welcome to the Bizarro World of alternative facts, peeps. And finally...

     Shorter Michael Williams: "Now, if the president said n-----, Ah have no problem with it cuz it don't offend me as a white man."
     Who else isn't surprised this Neanderthal comes from Georgia, one of the most racist states in the union?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Gotham City Digest, 8/13/18

     Making Nazi Germany Murrica great again, one rolling thunder of fascism at a time!

     Hm. I wonder what came to light? Maybe Manafort's Ostrich underwear was pinching him.

     Freudian slip from a guy whose name is now branding massage parlors in Communist China.

     "When somebody of a Middle Eastern background drove a car into a crowd in Barcelona, he called it terrorism. But when this happened in Charlottesville, 90 miles from the White House, in the home of an archetypal American president, suddenly he says, "Well you know there's good people on both sides." He could not distinguish who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side in a white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally."
      Sen. Tim Kaine nailed it. Either Trump couldn't distinguish between good and evil or he really was in simpatico with the NeoNazis.

      I've always wanted to know what Hitler would've said on Twitter from his bunker.
      I wonder no more.

     Look who just got shit canned a couple of hours ago from the FBI: Peter Strzok, over text messages. As if those outweighed the good he did for this country. Meanwhile, we still have living in Bedminster, NJ an asshole who'd openly threatened nuclear war against two countries.

     Please tell me this is all just a bad dream and that we really don't a president who's this stupid. I keep waiting for my mother to wake me up in my bedroom in Hempstead, NY to tell me it's time to get ready for school.

     Why would the Russians stop at hacking just the DNC? Of course they hacked the emails of Republicans. Lindsey Graham's were among them. The only reason the RNC emails haven't been released is because the Russians are holding them back and using them for leverage. That perfectly accounts for Graham's sudden, suspicious 180 on Russia and the Mueller probe.

     Mayor Rudy and his endless alternative facts.

     Stephen Miller's such a scumbag hypocrite, even his own uncle called him out for it.

     You've all heard about racists hiding behind the American flag. Now they're literally doing it, as CNN showed yesterday during the post-Charlottesville rally in DC yesterday. And finally...

     Please say a little prayer for the Queen of Soul.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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