A Confederacy of Morons

Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
– Mark Twain

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
– Benjamin Franklin

It’s hard to be astonished anymore during the era of Trump. It seems that you barely have time to grasp one amazingly ridiculous proposal, dubious policy, outrageous statement or incredibly inept blunder before another one smacks you right in the gob. I never understood news fatigue until the election of our current president. I have heard talking heads say this is part of some brilliant plan, that the Trump team wants to so overwhelm us with idiotic actions that we become numb to the reality of just what they are doing.

Well, I can’t disagree with the idea that Trump is devious. Nor that he is a greasy, cheap, egotistical serial liar. I think, however, that his greatest attribute is that he is cunning. But not like Dick Cheney was cunning or Lee Atwater was cunning or Henry Kissinger was cunning. There was intelligence behind these examples of cunning, albeit a dark, dangerous intelligence.

There is no intelligence behind Trump’s cunning. There is the street smarts of the greasy snake oil salesman who makes a lot of noise upon his entry into a rural town, peddles his wares and then slides away in the middle of the night before the rubes can realize he’s fleeced them.

He reminds me of the Duke in Huckleberry Finn. One devoutly wishes that Trump could share the same fate.

It would be bad enough if we only had to deal with this intellectual vacuum in the president. Sadly, he has surrounded himself with people who, like him, seem to be as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Take for example the recent comments of Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, another billionaire of dubious integrity in the Trump administration. While appearing on CNBC Ross said that he was puzzled by stories about federal workers needing to turn to food banks and other forms of relief in order to tide themselves and their families over while waiting for the government to send them their paychecks. “They should just be able to obtain bridge loans to tide them over,” Ross burbled on.

Only a man who is lived most of his life in the 1% could fail to understand why people, many of whom must live paycheck to paycheck, need to seek relief from food banks and other organizations. To label it as the statement of spoiled, out-of-touch asshole is an insult to assholes everywhere.

Then you have the human circus that is Rudy Giuliani. Seldom has one man done so much to undermine his employer then Rudy has recently. Not only has he raised serious questions about Trump’s actions during the 2016 election campaign, he successfully knocked the news about Robert Muller’s team publicly disagreeing with the Buzzfeed story about Trump instructing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress off the front pages, airwaves, and computer screens of media outlets across the country.

Giuliani is Mini-Me to Trump’s Dr. Evil. Very much like him in every way except so much “smaller.”

Nor can we forget KellyAnne Conway, one of the official designated liars of the Trump administration (an appointment she shares with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders). Conway, who invented the unforgettable term “alternative facts,” and make sure she uses them every chance she gets, reminds me of what Dandy Don Meredith once said about a running back in the NFL – she’s slippery than a watermelon seed.

I always used to think Conway was at least somewhat intelligent. But the revelations this week contained in the book Team of Vipers by former White House aide Cliff Sims has caused me to reconsider my evaluation of Conway.

Sims writes in the book about the time he was asked to write an official statement denouncing accusations that Conway was one of the sources leaking information to the media from the White House. Conway lent Sims her Mac Book to write the statement. Meanwhile, Conway went into a corner and started using her smartphone.

What she didn’t realize was that every tweet she was sending was also appearing on her computer, now being used by Sims. Sims watched as she tweeted back and forth with several journalists from media outlets like CNN, the Washington Post, and Politico, bashing other officials in the Trump administration like Jared Kushner and the then Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus. Sims notes that the irony of him writing a statement about her not leaking to journalists as she leaked to journalists was not lost on him.

Sims writes that Conway reminded him of a cartoon villain brought to life. But it appears that like all cartoon villains, she is not quite as smart as she thought she was.

Oh, you can write for days about the imbecility on display every day at the White House. But one only has so much time. I leave you with the unforgettable words of Forrest Gump…

Stupid is as stupid does.

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On Being a Boston Sports Fan

It was the best of times… And has kind of stayed the best times, to be honest.

I am among the most despised of human beings. I am a Boston sports fan. I love the Red Sox and the Bruins and cheer for the Patriots and the Celtics.

For me, there is only one sport that really counts and that’s baseball and as a Canadian, I grew up loving the Montréal Expos. (Although I always have always despised the Toronto Blue Jays.) In my youth, I flirted with being a Yankees’ fan. This was largely due to the fact the first movie I ever saw was 1962’s Safe at Home, a story about a kid who loves the Yankees so much that he runs away to join the team.

But that flirtation vanished the moment the Expos appeared. When the Expos finally died in the mid-90s and the franchise was moved to Washington (I like but really do not care for the Nationals) I happened to be living in Boston and so my affiliation drifted to the Red Sox. In those days the Red Sox, well, stunk. Better days were ahead but in 1994 the Sox were the perennial disappointment they had always been.

I loved the Bruins because of father’s and uncle’s affiliation with the team. In the 50s, before hockey became unionized, players’ salaries were nothing to write home about. Therefore professional teams would do barnstorming tours across Canada. My dad and my uncle arranged for the Bruins to do such a tour in Nova Scotia in the late 50s. As a result, my wall was plastered with pictures of Milt Schmidt, Bronco Horvath and John Bucyk (who remain my favorite player until he retired in the late 70s). In my books, the greatest hockey player ever is Bobbie Orr, not Wayne Gretzky. I can remember lying in my bed at night with my little transistor radio when we lived in Saint John, New Brunswick, tuning the radio so I can hear a distant and scratchy broadcast of the Bruins games.

I’m not much of a football fan, but I kind of fell into liking the Patriots because I lived in Boston and they were the Boston team. Growing up I had been an Ottawa Roughriders fan and I really didn’t care much about the NFL and truth be told, I still don’t. For instance, I haven’t seen the last few appearances of the Patriots in the Super Bowl (there have been so many it’s hard to remember which ones in particular) because I was busy doing things with my family. I was glad when the Patriots won but it wasn’t super important to me. Not like the Red Sox.

Which brings me to the past 20 years. As an Expos fan and then as a Red Sox fan I was familiar with losing, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion. (Damn you Rick Monday!) But when the Pats won in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and then the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 (although coming back from three down to the Yankees was perhaps the best moment) it’s been nothing but gravy.

I would’ve been happy with the World Series victory over the Dodgers this year. But it looks as if fate has decided that it’s necessary for a Boston team to beat a Los Angeles team in a championship game once again this sports calendar.

Several years ago, a friend who worked for ESPN told me that after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, ESPN the magazine had planned to feature a story abut how many championships the Boston teams had collected over the previous decade. The picture that the magazine originally wanted to use on the cover showed a fist with the middle finger erect and on that finger a championship ring of each of the four Boston teams. While I cannot think of a better picture that describes the attitude of Boston fans towards the rest of the country than that one, ESPN decided to just use a regular fist with four fingers erected with a ring on each finger.

It was the best of times…And it will probably stay that way for a while yet.

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Mueller’s Non-Denial Denial

Michael Cohen (Photo by IowaPolitics.com)

Many years I ago I took a sabbatical from my job at the Halifax Daily News to finish my degree. I took a course in advanced composition from a battleship of a woman named Patricia Monk, who was maybe the best teacher I ever had. Prof. Monk knew I was a journalist and worked me hard because she expected more from me. I remember when we studied “dirty word” (because in Prof. Monk’s world, dirty words were just as good as regular ones). She would write words on the blackboard that would make a sailor blush but I learned the difference between profanity, obscenity, and scatology. She knew the professor who next used the room was a bit of a prude so she would not erase the words at the end of class.

Prof. Monk drilled one lesson into us again and again. If you know how to use words, they can never be used against you.

Which brings me to the present moment. Robert Mueller knows how to use words. So when I read his statement about the Buzzfeed story alleging that President Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, I paid close attention to language. At no point in the story did Mueller and his team say the story was “wrong.”

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” the statement from the Mueller team read.

Not accurate. Hmmm. That’s the kind of language you use when someone is close to the mark but not quite on target. If something is wrong, then just say it’s wrong or that that story is not true. Not accurate is a completely different kettle of fish.

Then you have Rudy G’s statement made on the talking head shows yesterday that maybe Trump did speak to Cohen before he testified to Congress about him but “So what?” In Rudy’s world, if Trump really did shoot someone on 5th Avenue, Rudy would go on CNN and say “So what?” (Jonathan Swan of Axios explains why it’s not a “so what?” thing.) We already know that after months of Rudy telling us that Trump made no attempt to do business with Russia during the campaign, he now admits that, well, they did talk about it until November of 2016.

Marcia Wheeler of Empty Wheel has a great piece on why Mueller had to make the statement in order to preserve Cohen’s ability to testify in a trail.

I would also argue that Mueller did Trump no favors, especially after Trump then tweeted Mueller his thanks for making the statement about the Buzzfeed story. It’s going to be hard now for Trump to keep crying “WITCH HUNT!!!” It will give the Mueller report much more street cred when it finally comes out.

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed continues to stand behind the story.

And that’s why words matter.

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I Smell Impeachment in the Air

President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

So Mueller knows that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his business dealings with Russia. And Mueller has emails and testimony to back it up. Maybe this is why Rudy G. has thrown everybody overboard except the president.

“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”

If the report backs this up, I see no way that the House cannot begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. It will be then very difficult for GOP senators to not convict Trump with such a blatant example of him ordering his subordinates to lie to Congress.

I think the endgame is starting.

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Canada Sticks Its Finger in Saudi Arabia’s Eye… Again

Young Woman Who Fled Saudi Arabia Arrives In Canada As Refugee

A young Saudi Arabian girl who hid in a hotel room in Bangkok and told the world that she was afraid to return home because of what her male relatives would do to her, is now safely in Canada. After many countries in the world hummed and hawed about accepting her as a refugee, Canada stepped forward to offer her asylum. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs a place to send people in trouble, they know that Canada is one of the best places to turn.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun almost immediately declared that she would no longer refer to herself by her last name. Instead, she would be called Rahaf Mohammed.

This is not the first time Canada has acted against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of women. A few months ago Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized Saudi Arabia for jailing two women activists. Saudi Arabia threw a temper tantrum and expelled the Canadian ambassador in response, as well as recalling its ambassador from Ottawa along with other moves. One Saudi diplomat even tweeted a 9/11 style threat against Canada. That does not seem to have deterred Canada, however, particularly when it comes to the Saudi Arabian treatment of its citizens abroad and of women in particular.

All of this is just fine by me and shows once again how a little nation like Canada is not afraid to stand up to a global bully like Saudi Arabia while its American neighbor tugs at its forelock and refuses to blame the Saudi royal family for murder.

There are reasons for this of course. Canada has oil of its own. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a real shellacking in the media and on social media for selling the Saudis military vehicles. I really don’t care about the reasons why Canada did this I’m just glad they did.

As Mr. Trudeau said during the first altercation with the Saudis, Canada will always speak strongly on questions of human rights.

Finally, I wish Ms. Mohammed a safe and peaceful time in Canada. But as this article from the New Yorker shows, no Saudi citizen living abroad who has dared to criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its citizens or of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is safe from pressure to be quiet or even worse retaliation, as we know all too well from the case of Jamal Khashoggi.

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No Low Too Low for Trump and Health Care Lies from Rand Paul

Trump invokes one of the worst Native American massacres to mock Elizabeth Warren

By now, the vast majority of Americans have accepted the fact that our president is a crude racist. There is nothing presidential about Donald Trump, not in any way, shape, or form – which makes the fact that he is president so hard to accept even two years after his election.

He’s really little better than a schoolyard bully, especially when it comes to the way that he responds to any real or imagined adversary or critic. I know Trump doesn’t like Elizabeth Warren and the fact that he calls her Pocahontas is bad enough but to tie that vile remark to little Big Horn is just one of those things that leaves you speechless. There does not seem to be any bottom for Trump, no crude remark he leaves unsaid, no racist thought he keeps quiet.

On the other hand, watching him lately tells me he’s worried. He knows his time is up and that all of his lies and racism and under the table dealings with Putin and laundered Russian money and his obstruction of justice are about to rain down on him like a monsoon.

I hope he gets soaked.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is going to Canada for surgery

Twenty-eight years ago, my mother-in-law came to visit us in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada to have hip replacement surgery. We had a very good midsize hospital just outside Windsor. Therefore my mother-in-law, who was more or less on a fixed income, knew that the hip replacement surgery costs in Canada, even with American healthcare (what there is of it) were substantially lower than those in the United States. So she came to have it done there.

The key is why they these costs so much lower. With universal healthcare in Canada, administrative costs are reduced, everyone pays into the system through taxes and as a result, the overall cost to purchase healthcare in Canada is substantially less than in the United States for someone who is not a Canadian. Basically, Canadians subsidize the cost of foreigners purchasing their healthcare in Canada.

So Rand Paul is going to Canada for a hernia operation as the result of the attack by his neighbor a couple of years ago. But Rand Paul says he’s not really going to Canada for “healthcare.” He compared the idea of universal healthcare to “slavery” a few years ago. So far be it from him now to seek out the care that he needs in Canada because of “socialized” medicine.

Rand Paul is one of America’s worst senators, who consistently talks the talk, but inevitably fails to walk the walk. A promise from Rand Paul to take a tough stand and two dollars will help you by a latte but you’ll still need $0.75.

Mr. Paul should thank his lucky stars that Canada has universal healthcare or else be paying through the nose just like he would if he were in the United States. What a phony.

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Travails of the Children of the 1%

A Canadian “pom-pom” hat, also known as a toque.

Wealthy NY School Begs Kids to Leave Home $350 Moncler Hats

In Canada, we call “pom-pom” hats “toques.” You can pick up a decent one at Canadian Tire for, oh, $25 Canadian. But apparently at this New York Middle School “fashion is “very important” to the children of the 1%. So they are paying $350 US for a fancy toque-like hat. And apparently losing them, which has led to much sturm and drang.

“We understand that fashion is very important to our middle schoolers,” administrators at Great Neck North Middle School wrote in a letter to parents obtained by the New York Post.

Which only goes to prove two things: 1) A fool and his or her money are soon parted and 2) George Carlin was right when he said if you stuck together two things that have never been stuck together before, some schmuck will buy it.

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Republicans Stand Behind Muslim Party Official in Texas

Texas County GOP Rejects Push to Oust Vice-Chairman Shahid Shafi Over His Muslim Faith

I actually find this story very encouraging. The fact that a group of Republicans wanted to remove Shadid Shafi from his position as the Vice Chairman of local Republican organization in the state’s third largest county because he is a Muslim is horrendous. The fact that he received so much support from fellow Republicans when the vote was held was wonderful. The effort to oust him failed miserably-139 votes for him and 49 against.

The argument used by his detractors was ridiculous. They argued that because he was a Muslim he could not represent all of the members of the Republican Party in the county. This is one step below these people arguing that you can’t elect Muslims to public office because they don’t represent all the people in their constituency. The problem with this argument, of course, is that it is too easy to turn on his head. Using their misguided, bigoted logic, you could then argue that anyone – Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, you name it – could not be elected to a position in the Republican party because they don’t represent everybody.

If you put Mr. Shafi and me in a room and asked us to state our political positions, we probably wouldn’t find that much in common. But I totally support his right as an American citizen to take part in the political process, regardless of his religious beliefs.

And kudos to Republicans in Texas for doing the right thing.

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Go North, Young Man…And Woman

Trump’s immigration policy has foreign tech talent looking north of the border

Trump’s immigration policies are driving talented foreign workers to Canada. Excellent

Part of this article states that Canada is not very good at selling itself. Well, part of that may be that unlike Americans, Canadians tend to understate how great the country is. And it is a great country that offers so much more than the United States.

The weather? Well as the article again notes there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

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“The Soul of America”

Trump claims he never said Mexico would cut a check for the wall. Let’s go to the tape.

I just finished reading Jon Meacham’s wonderful book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.” It is both a delightful read and at the same time a cautionary tale. Meacham cautions us, as the New York Times reviewer notes, that America’s survival is not automatic. The book examines times in the past when fear, confusion, and hatred have gripped the country in situations very similar to our own.

I took two main things away from “The Soul of America.” Something that I have told my own children many times – that the struggle never ends and never will and that we have to keep fighting for what’s right because the forces that would haul us backward never stop striving to undo the progress that we have made as a nation. And secondly, when faced with a crushing tsunami of lies and obstructions to the truth, the media needs to continue to publish the facts, even if those facts are unpopular.

Sometimes this requires the media to publish or broadcast those facts again and again. Such is the current situation in which we find ourselves. President Donald Trump is the master liar. He lies, and lies, and lies… And then lies again. He continues to lie even when his lies have been totally debunked and shown to be lies and half-truths. Trump never uses reasoned arguments against his critics but attacks and slanders them as unworthy or cowards or haters of America because they are unwilling to accept his malignant vision of the nation.

The same is true of those minions that doing his bidding like his children, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Homeland Security Sec. Kirstien Nielsen, to name just a few. They lie in service to Trump. One senses occasionally that they wish they could be more truthful. But access to power numbs any personal misgivings they may have.

This is not the first time a demagogue has sought to rend our country asunder and to divide us into camps. Never before, however, has that person been the president of the United States. As Meacham points out, flawed as they were, past presidents were the ones that help the country move beyond these moments of crisis even if they sometimes did so halfheartedly.

Now we face a crisis unlike any the country has known before. Our president is a man totally devoted to mendacity, to egotism, to personal gain, to the retention of power and not the welfare of the people. This crisis will not be solved easily. Even if Trump is impeached and through some miracle, enough Republican senators voted to convict him and throw him out of office, his malicious and dangerous spirit would survive to haunt us. For, as Meacham again notes, you do not get someone like a Trump without some of the people wanting someone like a Trump.

And so, at the end of his wonderful book, Meacham calls for Americans who care about their country to take up the struggle. And for most of us, that means to take up the struggle politically. To knock on doors, lick envelopes, put up signs or even run for office. We must not shrink from that struggle, and to find a way to talk to and communicate with those who feel differently than we do.

Because the reality is that now that we’ve had one Trump, the chance that we will have another Trump-like politician in our future will be that much more assured. The struggle never ends.

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