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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Not This Grandma

My, these aging men with their bright ideas.

First, it was the president, who has been openly contradicting medical experts with his pining for an early end to social distancing. This would threaten the lives of millions of Americans during the pandemic. Oh, well.

As he said, via tweet and at the microphone, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” Every time he says that, I can’t help feeling that women like me — over 60 and eternally over him — are on his checklist of things that can go.

It’s not sitting well, I have to tell you.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on the verge of 70, spelled it out for us in an interview on Fox.

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

He added: “I just think there are a lot of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that’s what we care about. … And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see.”

I don’t know who he’s looking at, but it sure isn’t this grandma to seven grandchildren. I would throw myself in front of a 137,000-pound Montana B-Train to save the life of a grandchild, but I will not risk a single hangnail to rescue corporate America.

Next up: Glenn Beck.

“Where do you stand?” he asked.

Nowhere near you, I answer.

“I’m in the danger zone,” he said on Blaze TV. “I’m right at the edge, I’m 56… So, I’m in the danger zone. I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.”

He added, because there’s always something else, “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.”

OK, Glenn.

I’m sorry these men hate their lives. I can’t name a single grandmother of my acquaintance who wants to throw away her life to save companies like Hobby Lobby, which has insisted on remaining open during this pandemic.

The craft company also told its managers to “make every effort to continue working the employees” while denying those same employees sick leave. Billionaire owner David Green is big on touting his right-wing version of Christianity, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wing of Christianity. She said this after Congress passed the stimulus package:

“I wish that every person in America would subscribe to the fact that science is an answer to our prayers so that we can get through this in a very positive way.”

She’s a grandmother, by the way, and what a fine example she is setting in not volunteering for the Trump-Patrick-Beck cliff leap.

Regular readers will notice that I’ve been quoting poetry a lot in the last few weeks, and wouldn’t you know it? I’ve got another poem. This excerpt is from the late poet Grace Paley’s “Here,” about an old woman watching her old man in the yard:

at last a woman

in the old style sitting

stout thighs apart under

a big skirt grandchild sliding

on off my lap a pleasant

summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard

he’s talking to the meter reader

he’s telling the world’s sad story

how electricity is oil or uranium

and so forth I tell my grandson

run over to your grandpa. ask him

to sit beside me for a minute.

I am suddenly exhausted by my desire

to kiss his sweet explaining lips

Mercy.

Silly old men can cling to whatever economy-themed fantasies make them feel useful in the world.

I’ve got other plans, if God’s up for it. I want my grandchildren to know that for them, Grandma lived.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Are So Many In The ‘Resistance’ Ignoring Trump’s Iran Warpath?

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

There are roughly two categories of resistance to President Donald Trump that have emerged over the past few months. There’s the grassroots, earnest resistance marked by mass protests, populated by everyone from radicals to liberals to nonprofits to immigration rights groups to antifascists to the occasional Democratic politician with the backbone to stand up to the administration. Then there’s the Resistance, a loose confederation of media careerists who nominally oppose Trump, but do so often for the most cynical and ideologically incoherent reasons. The “Resistance” consists of, among others, discredited neocon David Frum, racist huckster Glenn Beck, blowhard Keith Olbermann, and former spook and backalley abortion advocate Evan McMullin.

These men comprise the worst of the “Resistance.” Their attacks on Trump, such as they are, are marked by Cold War-mongering, gendered insults, career revamping, and a dislike of a foreign policy they view as inadequately bellicose toward Russia, Syria, and Iran.

Stop with the purity tests! is a common rejoinder to these criticisms. We must, given the stakes, welcome all who oppose Trump, some might say.

But what use is that opposition when it stops at the water’s edge; when it cares only for Trump’s excesses at home but ignores—if not welcomes—excesses abroad? Consider this not an indictment on the whole of their ideology, but an honest question from a potential anti-Trump ally: why does the “Resistance” not seem to care about Trump’s Iran war path?

Since he was sworn in just under a month ago, Trump has signaled a radical departure from the Obama White House’s already hostile (though mild in relative terms) approach to Iran. Trump has surrounded himself with anti-Iran hawks like Michael Flynn (since departed for unrelated reasons) and his Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. Flynn stated time and again that Iran was “intent on having a nuclear weapon” despite all evidence to the contrary. Gen. Mattis, who, as Politico put it, “has a 33-year grudge against Iran,” insists “the Iranian regime… is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”

In their short time in office, Trump has put Iran “on notice” and leveled new sanctions nominally for firing a ballistic missile in January—an act that, according to NPR, did not violate the terms of the relevant U.N. resolution.

Trump has also surrounded himself with radical pro-Israel voices whose antipathy for Iran dovetails with their staunch loyalty to Israel’s far right. Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, once compared the Iran deal to the Dreyfus Affair, the infamous anti-Semitic persecution of a Jewish army captain in 1890s France, saying of the deal, “the blatant anti-Semitism emanating from our president and his sycophantic minions is palpable and very disturbing.”

“The relationship between America and Iran,” Saeid Golkar, an Iran expert at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, recently told Al Jazeera, “is getting very dangerous.”

One would hardly have noticed if they were only listening to high-status Resistance pundits.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote a much-praised 8,000-word piece warning of Trump’s “authoritarianism,” but didn’t mention Trump’s hostility toward Iran, his alliance with Israel’s far right, or any of his foreign policy aggressions once. The only time foreign countries were brought up, whether it was Russia or Honduras or Venezuela, was when Frum needed to use them as examples of backwaters Trump would turn us into, not targets of Trump’s hothead foreign policy.

For Frum, the vaguely defined concept of “authoritarianism” seems to apply only stateside. This is an exceedingly self-serving definition given that Frum worked in the Bush White House and is to this day an advocate for the devastating Iraq war leveled by his former boss.

Limiting criticism of Trump to the damage he will inflict domestically isn’t just bad politics, it’s also a convenient get-out-of-jail-free card for Frum and his neoconservative friends who helped turn Iraq and the Levant into a hellscape less than a generation ago. To this extent, Frum is far more concerned with protecting the GOP brand both in the future and down-ballot than he is with “resisting” Trump. This is why Frum is silent on Trump’s Iran war path and his increasingly close relationship with Netanyahu; Trump’s vision of power in the Middle East, sans perhaps Syria, is entirely in line with Frum’s.

Evan McMullin, who has been calling for the United States to bomb the Syrian government and overthrow Assad for years, routinely discusses how Trump’s posture on Russia will help Iran rather than reading the words the president actually states on the subject. On actual policy, on actual statements threatening Iran and ratcheting up tension, McMullin has little to say. McMullin even lavished praise on Trump’s selection of Gen. Mattis as Defense Secretary, largely because, again, Trump’s policy on Iran dovetails with what McMullin actually believes.

Keith Olbermann, who isn’t nearly as vile as other members of the faux “Resistance,” rants and raves about Trump being a “Russian whore,” but can’t take five minutes out to note Trump’s gutting of Obama’s hard-fought Iran deal. Nor does Olbermann have anything to say on Trump cozying up to the worst elements of the Israeli far right. Olbermann never tweets about or discusses Iran, Israel, or Palestine on his GQ web series. Like Frum, he limits his outrage over Trump to purely domestic issues.

Racist grifter Glenn Beck has used the anti-Trump sentiment to try to rebrand himself as a moderate, principled, conservative crusader, even given validation and airtime by liberal late-night comedian Samantha Bee for a much publicized anti-Trump campaign. Beck (as well as Bee) has been entirely silent on Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric. Beck, showing the nebulous nature of the “Resistance,” has even praised Trump’s far-right Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and gone back to blaming Black Lives Matter for entirely unrelated crimes against whites.

The Washington Post, which raised money saying it would hold Trump to account, publishes op-eds on Trump’s Iran policy ranging from praise (Jennifer Rubin) to procedural handwringing (David Ignatius), but never offers any meaningful criticism. Liberal media watchdog Media Matters and Mother Jones have not covered Trump’s ramped-up hostility with Iran once. Not only has MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid ignored Trump’s surly Iran posture, she even praised Gen. Mattis as the man preventing Trump from “dragging us into bed with Russia.” A pro-Russia stance is, as a matter of dogma, always assumed to be worse than potential war with Iran.

The reason, if history is any guide, is that if someone in the media has three topics to choose from, and two of those topics don’t upset American national security orthodoxy, those two topics will always rise to the top of the press heap. This is why foreign policy, especially as it relates to Palestine, Iran, and Muslim countries in general, always gets lowest priority. Its moral hazard is seen most explicitly during the early Obama years when issues like drone killings, extrajudicial assassination and a sprawling war on terror largely went unquestioned. This is a bipartisan consensus of executive power that, predictably, later came back to haunt liberals after Trump was elected.

Just the same, because Trump’s hostility in the Middle East largely serves the bipartisan consensus on Iran and Israel, it is of extremely low importance to most high-status liberals and centrists who are far more concerned with scoring points and winning the latest 24-hour news cycle than building an ideologically sustainable opposition to the Trump regime and the Republican Party it serves. This myopia is understandable for party flacks and media hangers-on, but it doesn’t mean thinking adults should indulge it or its longer-term implications.

It’s important that the resistance to Trump, such that it is, highlight the clampdown on domestic opposition and liberal programs. But it’s equally important for the resistance not to lose sight of those outside the U.S. who will suffer greatly from Trump’s eagerness to ramp up tensions in Iran and the Middle East as a whole.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter Adam@AdamJohnsonNYC.

IMAGE: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves as he gives a speech on Iran’s late leader Khomeini’s death anniversary, in Tehran, Iran June 3, 2016. Leader.ir/Handout via REUTERS/Files

Trump Embraces Weird Conservative Media Habit Of Fabricating Crowd Sizes

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

When President Trump claimed that as many as 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, and when Trump’s press secretary categorically announced that Trump’s swearing-in had been the most-watched “both in person and around the globe,” the new Republican administration set off a firestorm — not only about the crowd estimate, but about “alternative facts” and truth-telling.

That Trump and his communications team would begin his presidency with such an easily debunked falsehood about the size of the inauguration crowd stunned plenty of Beltway observers. Even days later, the topic was still gnawing at Trump, as he reportedly bragged to congressional leaders yesterday about how enormous his inauguration crowd was.

But in truth, the pattern of lying about how many people assemble en masse to support conservative causes enjoys a long history within the right-wing media; a history Trump has revived. (Note that lots of pro-Trump propaganda outlets gladly propped up the inauguration crowd lie.)

Most famously, when former Fox News host Glenn Beck sponsored an anti-Obama rally in September 2009, the conservative media was awash in wild, unfounded claims about how massive the protest crowd was. Blogger Michelle Malkin even announced two million people had assembled. (That would be a bigger crowd than Obama’s 2009 inauguration.)

According to one aerial estimate that day, Makin’s quote of two million was only off by about 1.9 million.

More recently during the presidential campaign, conservative outlets routinely propped up Trump’s phony claims about crowd size. Breitbart even got caught publishing a photo from a CNN.com news report about a massive gathering of Cleveland Cavs fans celebrating their home team’s NBA championship, and then presented the image as being from a Trump rally in Florida.

It’s one thing for dishonest bloggers to make up crowd size estimates for political purposes. It’s obviously quite another when the White House takes that tact and turns it into official government policy.

What’s so strange about the obsession over crowd size is that conservatives often make fantastic, unbelievable claims about crowds that are already respectably large.

Nothing made that point more clearly than the Beck-sponsored march in 2009, the so-called 9/12 Project rally. Riding the wave of the burgeoning Tea Party movement, conservatives wanted to send a message that American was suffering from Obama buyer’s remorse and that all the good will he had earned the previous year was gone because Americans were appalled by his agenda.

Tens of thousands of activists showed up. But all day long, conservatives online insisted (or fantasized) that the anti-Obama crowd had swelled to astonishing, historic, unimaginable proportions. In a weird game of telephone tag, a Tea Party activist first claimed ABC News had reported the 9/12 crowd was 1.5 million strong, even though ABC did no such thing. Another activist then tweeted that ABC was reporting the crowd at 2 million. (False.) Malkin then embraced the baseless 2 million figure to spread it.

From there, the phony figure ricocheted around the right-wing blogosphere.

Also that day, conservatives bloggers passed around a photo that supposedly proved the march was one-million strong. But the photograph was actually from a rally that took place 12 years earlier. Even after the 9/12 rally, Beck still claimed his rally had attracted nearly 2 million anti-Obama activists.

Two months later, Fox News’ Sean Hannity had to apologize after Comedy Central caught him using footage from the 9/12 rally to tell the story about a much less-well attended D.C. rally, the Super Bowl of Freedom. “The effect was that the latter event seemed like a much bigger deal than it was,” Mediaite noted.

Fast forward to the Trump campaign and the Republican candidate seemed to take the bogus crowd size strategy right off the shelf and put it in play, while supportive conservative media outlets pitched in. “Trump has routinely exaggerated the already large numbers” at his rallies, noted the Washington Post.

Back in July 2015, Trump tweeted out that 12-15,000 people had attended his rally in Phoenix, even though the local police put the number closer to 4,000. Nonetheless, the phony 15,000 figure was embraced by media outlets friendly to Trump. Not to be outdone, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit upped the ante: “20,000 PATRIOTS TURNED OUT TO SEE DONALD TRUMP IN ARIZONA!!”

That’s five times what the local police estimated the actual crowd to be.

On the surface, Trump’s weird post-inauguration obsession with puffing up the numbers of his celebration might seem like a baffling, insecure tick. It is — he’s just advertising that insecurity via an established right-wing media tactic.

IMAGE: PBS

9 Off-the-Wall Republicans Who Find Donald Trump Too Crazy… Even for Them

Published with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump has said some pretty outrageous things. So outrageous that several conservative pundits have disavowed or refused to support the Republican candidate in his election campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the craziest aspect of hardline conservatives refusing to support Trump is that they themselves are guilty of engaging in some pretty off-the-wall rhetoric. Here’s a rundown of the craziest conservative voices who (somehow) find Donald Trump too insane to handle.

1. Andrea Peyser 

Andrea Peyser, the New York Post columnist who once called Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin a “gorgeous and furious Internet cuckold” and suggested President Barack Obama is a closeted homosexual (or as she put it, “a man as comfortable in the company of women as Tom Cruise”) made headlines Sunday when she tapped “out” of Team Trump.

“In my heart, I wanted the smack-talking, hair-challenged, self-absorbed New York City billionaire Republican to nail down this baby,” Peyser wrote. “But in my head? Not so much.”

That’s right, the woman who once referred to CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour as a “CNN war slut” has finally had too much of the bloviating, hate-filled rhetoric coming out of Trump’s… wherever.

“Some of us smitten with his shoot-from-the-lip style have reached our limits,” Peyser wrote in her column, later adding, “Trump won’t back down from his lunacy and bigotry.” The final straw for the Post columnist? His recent fight with a Gold Star family.

Trump’s lunacy and bigotry were evident from the onset of his campaign, but apparently all the sexist, racist, xenophobic, “ban all Muslims,” “build a wall” BS that preceded his fight with the Khan family wasn’t enough to sway Peyser. That’s the thing about final straws—you’re left to assume everything that came before was tolerable.

2. Mark Levin

Conservative radio host and avid Ted Cruz supporter Mark Levin flirted with the idea of supporting Trump in the past. He liked, for example, the nominee’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, telling fellow conservative radio figures last December that Trump is merely suggesting we limit “access to this country, immigration of Muslims into this country for what he has said is a temporary period of time till we figure out what’s going on—in other words, to ensure we have the processes in place.”

Levin, who shares Cruz’s hypocritical brand of hardline conservatism, was totally cool with Trump’s unconstitutional non-solution to immigration. It wasn’t until Trump operative Roger Stone called Levin “a worm” and a “prostitute” that the radio host threw his support behind the Never Trump movement.

“Roger Stone is a thug. He’s a sleazeball,” Levin said, later adding, “as a result of what the Trump supporters have attempted here, particularly Roger Stone, I am not voting for Donald Trump. Period.”

“And if anybody has a problem with that, Donald Trump, you can talk to Roger Stone,” Levin said. “These bully, dirty tricks, Nixonian tactics, they’re only going to backfire. They’re only going to backfire. So, count me as never Trump. There’s been too much of this, folks, way too much of this. The crap in the National Enquirer against Ted Cruz, the attacks on Michelle Fields, I mean, I can go right through the list, too much, too much, too much. At some point, you’ve got to stand up to it.”

Good to see Levin drew a line in the sand after a personal attack was launched against him, though he didn’t seem to object to the trove of racist, sexist rhetoric hurled from Trump’s mouth since the beginning of his campaign. But hey, when your preferred candidate has his own history of racist, sexist rhetoric, it’s hard to know when exactly to “stand up to it.”

3. Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson, who frequently questions President Barack Obama’s Christianity and argues the homosexual “movement” is “destroying America,” has a litany of crude and indefensible comments in his reservoir.

But oddly enough, Donald Trump is too crude and indefensible for the man who once opined the only reason college students study gender is so they can become “professional victims.” Erickson has been a huge voice in the Never Trump movement, writing an essay in February declaring he “will not vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States even if he is the Republican nominee.”

“He will not win in November,” Erickson wrote before listing why the candidate won’t win without a hint of irony or self-awareness: “He will not win because he turns off a large number of Republicans; he turns off women; he turns off Hispanic voters; he turns off black voters.”

Which is substantively true—Donald Trump does turn off all those voters. But you know what, Erickson? So do you.

4. Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is out of his mind; that much has been clear for a while. This is the man who publicly contemplated killing Michael Moore, frequently compared globalization to Nazi Germany and once discussed being “on the verge of moral collapse at any time.”

But much like Erickson, Beck is woefully unaware of just how hypocritical and disingenuous his disavowal of Trump is, considering the constant stream of insanity that flows from his mouth on a daily basis.

“I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton and I won’t vote for Donald Trump. I just won’t. And I know a lot of people that feel that way. I know people in the GOP who are like, look, well, he is better that Hillary Clinton. Maybe, I don’t know,” Beck told Fox’s Megyn Kelly late last year.

“If they put Donald Trump in, try to put him in office, if that’s what the people want, you are going to see an end to the Republican Party,” Beck later added. “It will just be over, there’ll just be nothing left.”

Turns out Beck isn’t the only right-wing institution on the verge of a moral collapse.

5. Rick Wilson

GOP strategist Rick Wilson is no stranger to vulgarity. Last year, he was forced to apologize after he asked fellow right-wing nutjob Ann Coulter if Donald Trump “pays you more for anal.”

Pretty crapulous language from a Grand Old Party operative, huh? Speaking of crapulous language, here’s Wilson’s blanket refusal to support the Republican nominee:

“I have opposed Trump from the first day of his wretched, crapulous campaign. I have opposed Trump when his clownish minions called my clients seeking to have me fired. I have opposed The Donald when his slavish of Trumpbart stooges ran story after story attacking me, and unleashed their fever-swamp yokels on my email, my phone, and my family.

I will continue to oppose Trump, implacably and unceasingly.

I will not bend. I will not cease this fight. I will never embrace this thuggish, venal, gibbering psychotic, and I will not countenance those who do. I don’t care if I’m the last Republican in America standing to resist this man, but with almighty God as my witness, I will not vote for Donald Trump.”

Looks like gibbering psychosis isn’t confined to the Trump campaign.

6. Ben Howe

Red State contributing editor Ben Howe cemented his right-wing nutjob status in 2014 when he refused to apologize after posting on Twitter, “Give me a gun. Put me in Darren Wilson’s shoes. I’d have shot Mike Brown right in his face.” But even with that trigger-happy suggestion, Howe refuses to support a candidate who once bragged he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody,” and “wouldn’t lose voters.”

“I will phone bank for Hillary if Trump is nominated,” Howe wrote in a post on the right-wing website.

“I will, should Trump win the nomination, work to make sure that the other dangerous and untrustworthy person, who has declared themselves to be a representative of progressivism, takes the job,” he added.

7. Steve Deace

Steve Deace, a former Ted Cruz surrogate, wrote an essay for the Conservative Review outlining his opposition to Trump:

“Conservativism is supposed to be about conserving the things that created American Exceptionalism—not defining them down to play a part in a cult of personality. Neither is it supposed to be about race-baiting, ethnic tribalism, authoritarianism, support for Planned Parenthood or progressivism. That’s the left, but that’s also Trump, who’s just repackaging our opponent’s views in pro-American terms.”

To get an idea about what Deace hopes to conserve, look no further than his belief that social services provided gay people with a safety net to explore their “depravity.”

“We have that today, which is why the sexual revolution came after the welfare state, because once it was obvious that people were not going to be held directly accountable for their actions, we removed the inhibitions against human nature that we already had,” Deace said on his radio program in 2015.

His guest, John Stemberger, agreed, adding:

“People who are hard-working and have to be self-sufficient and are not going to be propped up by the government don’t have the luxury of doing stupid, immoral things.”

Ah, yes the golden days of American exceptionalism, when people like Deace got away with saying outrageous things in public and still remained in positions of power. Deace, explain again why you don’t support Donald Trump?

8. Mark Salter

Mark Salter, a former John McCain speechwriter who anonymously published a 2011 novel about the 2012 presidential race titled O: A Presidential Novel and once called Arianna Huffington “a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva,” decided earlier this year that he no longer supported the Republican candidate. Instead, he said he would be voting for rival Hillary Clinton.

“[T]he GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level,” Salter tweeted in May. “I’m with her.”

Salter’s declaration came after Trump floated a completely unsubstantiated story about former Republican candidate Ted Cruz’s father colluding with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Salter has since become a vocal opponent of Trump, posting frequent links to articles about defeating the candidate in November. Too bad McCain, Salter’s former boss, is still drinking the Trumpaide (at least in public).

9. Peggy Noonan

Following the Khan controversy, Peggy Noonan—a commentary writer considered by many on the right to represent a more “moderate” Republican base—questioned the candidate’s sanity, writing:

“Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake.”

But Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter who said that president had “bad luck in Iran-Contra,” stopped short of suggesting she won’t vote for Trump, instead focusing on whether the GOP can survive the fallout if Trump loses the election. And considering earlier this year she blasted the Never Trump movement, arguing, “great political movements should not be run like private clubs,” it’s anyone’s guess where she stands on supporting “a total flake.”

Way to take a stand, Peggy.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr