Facebook has published only self-exculpatory response to the news that Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica used personal data to target pro-Trump messaging during the 2016 election. I am leaving the network, and encourage everybody here to do the same.
Disgusted by the way Bill O’Reilly ran his cage-match shout-fests, I’ve scrupulously avoided FOX News for the last fifteen years. As TV has invaded our public spaces, that has come to require some discipline. Management often chooses to impose their political views on restaurant patrons. So at the local Jack in the Box, I turn my back to the FOX monitor and take the lesser of two evils: watching grown men ruin their bodies doing things that were intended to be forms of play.
Today it was the dual monitors that bracketed the bar at the Best Breakfast and Lunch in Port Hueneme. Confronted with the finishing counter, I couldn’t help but glance around for some visual stimulus. Much to my surprise, I found myself reading a FOX panelist explain that the reason America has a serious problem with mass violence is easy access to military-style weaponry.
Interest piqued, I kept on following along, and couldn’t help but burst out loud in laughter.
The response to sanity came a few minutes later, when another panelist retorted that America doesn’t allow easy access to guns, it protects the rights of citizens to protect themselves from tyranny. Now this is fatuous: a despotic government doesn’t need to wage war to subjugate a modern society – it only needs to turn off the water and power and stop collecting the garbage. But what brought on laughter was the unintended inference from a mouthpiece for a party that controls all three branches of the US government.
FOX admits that the Republicans are tyrants!
So I began to laugh, really heartily, and wondered why Trevor Noah can’t produce such hilarity. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe FOX isn’t shifting to the loony right to protect its brand from Breitbart, maybe it’s competing with Comedy Central.
But what would be the right byline?
The students in Parkland recognize the irresponsibility of Republican gun policy, as do some Republican Party donors. If the young and the sane recognize the need for sensible gun reform, that seems to leave only the senile as defenders of the gun industry. So should we think of FOX News as “Senility Central?”
That seemed to fit when Rush Limbaugh was brought on for the interview. I couldn’t help by think that Madame Tussaud’s had diversified into animatronics. The wavy pouf, painted face and elegant suit brought to mind a story by Horace Mann describing the antics of a senile man who encounters a beautiful boy while at a beach resort. Mann’s telling forces the reader to skirt the shadows of pedophilic sensibility. Limbaugh tends in a different direction, but perhaps no less offensive to the “forgotten men” that he claims to represent. It’s an implicit sympathy for entitled royalty.
Feeling that I was wandering into a Lewis Carroll novel, I listened in incredulity as Limbaugh intoned his support for full amnesty for all illegal immigrants, given a Democratic stipulation that that they not be allowed to vote for 15-25 years. Wow, Rush! Just throw all those jobless listeners of yours under the bus, why don’t you?
But wait, there’s more! The interviewer asked whether the Republican electorate wasn’t concerned that the recent tax bill was going to cause the budget to explode. Limbaugh countered that “not a single listener” had called in to complain. Again, I know that the young and the sane are concerned with the problem, so that leaves the senile as the patrons of Limbaugh’s blather – perhaps most prominent among them being Rupert Murdoch.
Tyranny arises when the political elite seeks to secure its privileges free from the discipline of responsibility to the public. That would-be tyrants take cause with a propaganda machine such as FOX is alarming, until we see how inept and clumsy the lies have become as occupants of the conservative echo-chamber wanders further and further from reality.
The breadth of the GOP conspiracy in the 2016 election was illustrated yesterday when, in response to a demand from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that the FBI produce all documents related to the Steele dossier, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray scheduled a surprise visit with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Nunes, a member of the Trump transition team, is obviously a conflicted choice for chair of a committee so essential to unraveling the Russian investment in Donald Trump. The free press has been steadily amassing evidence that Trump is a Manchurian candidate whose political ambitions were stimulated and financed by Russia, and whose fragility and incompetence alone make it inevitable that American will be humiliated by the two criminal super-powers, Russia and China.
My guess is that Rosenstein and Wray presented evidence that Nunes has been interfering actively in the Russian investigation, probably by funneling information through to the Trump Administration, thereby confronting Ryan with criminal complicity if he did not act to protect the investigation.
But the American public should be tired of this charade. In hearing after hearing, Republican lawmakers have strutted and huffed and humiliated the most dedicated members of American law enforcement. Those individuals have been unable to defend themselves against slurs and innuendo because it would compromise the active criminal investigation led by Mueller.
So I hope that part of what Rosenstein and Wray conveyed to Ryan is:
Go ahead, punk: make our day.
If the investigation is shut down, all these figures will quit, and in defense of our democracy will air publicly everything that they know, exposing GOP criminality to domestic and international condemnation.
The only question left in the balance is whether the Republican base is sufficiently indoctrinated that they will swallow whatever Fox News broadcasts regarding the “Deep State.” Fox News claims that in order to protect the federal civil service jobs targeted by budget cutters in Congress, the right-wing leadership of the FBI is manufacturing evidence that the GOP is a criminal enterprise. That claim is ludicrous on its face, but if the base remains firm, the GOP may indeed be able to hang on to power in the mid-term elections, largely because they have gerrymandered the electoral map to disenfranchise Democratic voters.
But given recent special election results, the odds are long against it.
A Republican friend at work, in the immediate aftermath of the Trump victory, mournfully predicted the death of his party.
I fear that the other alternative is destruction of our democracy as it is transformed according to the Iranian, Chinese and Russian model: pro-forma elections among candidates hand-picked by kleptocrats dedicated to ensuring that the federal bureaucracy no longer intervenes in their rape of the middle class.
Think of him as Rupert Murdoch’s spokesman-in-chief, retransmitting propaganda produced at Fox News.
Further elaboration on Facebook:
The role that Trump played in his grifters’ empire was to throw down a bluster smoke-screen for the legal weasels that intimidated their victims. Truth was of no import. His pronouncements were intended to manipulate hope, and – when the fraud was exposed – to sow confusion and fear.
The problem Trump confronts now is that he’s come to the attention of powerful institutions managed by people of principle, and his style is recognized as self- and other-destructive by those that know the ropes. His legal team – sufficient to handle the unsophisticated – has floundered, and consequently come into doubt.
So Trump has seized upon Fox News as the only relationship that has the weight to feed his ego and secure his empire, and has fallen into the old pattern of acting as an amplifier. Rachel Maddow and others have already remarked upon the correlation between his announcements and what has been aired recently on Hannity and other Fox programs.
A point worth making is that Murdoch is not an interloper in American politics. The continuing descent into the loony at Fox News is about the competition for the viewer base they share with Breitbart news. Murdoch cares only about profits and brand. With Bannon out of the White House and a loser on the campaign trail, Fox can administer the coup de gras to its competitor. Trump is an invaluable asset in that campaign.
Obviously my continued focus on this issue reflects my sense that the GOP is no longer legitimately part of a nation that styles itself as “Under God.” They may continue to wrap themselves in the flag, but I’m going to do my best to beat them over the head with the cross.
Continuing the object lesson that “the end justifies the means” is a slippery slope to criminality, reports emerged yesterday that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – and last-year’s chief strategist for Republican Congressional campaign efforts – made active use of information hacked by the Russians from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. These ties are under active investigation by the Mueller’s team, explaining Ryan’s ongoing coordination of attempts by Trey Gowdy and Devin Nunes to undermine the House investigation of election interference, and recent smears against Mueller brought by the Republican Congressional delegation as a whole.
The singular piece of public evidence is a pre-election letter from Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to Ryan warning that use of the hacked material was to facilitate Russian attempts to undermine America’s democracy
At the state level, one RNC operative that accepted DNC and DCCC materials from Russia has stated that he didn’t care where the information came from so long as it served the campaign. Clearly, the RNC is not applying its resources to ensure that its operatives are knowledgeable of and comply with election law. Winning is the only thing that matters to them, and it appears that Ryan himself was actively involved in the rule-breaking.
That Russia hacked the RNC and failed to provide the information to Democrats is a clear indication of Putin’s affinity for the Republican Party. It is now left to Mueller and his team to discoverer whether that affinity reflects criminal affiliation – and the degree to which the hacked information may make the Republican Party vulnerable to blackmail. For parity, I would hope that Ryan and others in the Republican Party would publish the hacked RNC data. As it is not national security information, it seems inevitable that it will become publicly available through the Mueller investigation.
One of the pieces of cheap wisdom that I have collected is this adage:
A man will change his beliefs before he will change his behaviors.
The fundamental measure of biological existence is Darwinian survival, which validates behaviors through access to resources and reproductive opportunity. This is built deep into the physical mechanisms of our being, in hormonal emissions that generate powerful feelings that guide our brains. It is entirely natural, then, that behaviors should Trump beliefs.
While the unexamined life reacts to those feelings, indulging them, every wisdom tradition tells us that those feelings must be understood and moderated. This is the essence of Stoicism, Daoism, Buddhism, Great Spirit and Christian teachings.
A friend of mine pointed me at an analysis of the active resurgence of American nativism by Neal Gabler. Neal’s view is pessimistic. He notes that Republican Party has displaced religion by providing a cosmological justification for nativist resistance to equalization of social opportunity. In this interpretation, we are engaged in a second civil war, similar to the first in that a political elite seeks to retain the privileges of its behaviors.
Conversely, all great religions – including Christianity – teach that our empathy should be universal. The abandonment of Christian principles for nativist ideology is proof of the opening adage.
America is not isolated in this choice, however, for the confrontation appears throughout human history. I was present in the struggles between the nobility and the priests in Europe, between the princes and Brahmins of India, between the Caliphs and Imams of Persia. It is the struggle between biological expedience and spiritual empathy.
It is not a straight-line path: the institutions of religion also succumb to expediency. The only hope, as Gabler wisely exhorts, is for us as individuals to act ethically. As Trump and the Republican Congress are demonstrating, there is no honor among thieves. They will tear each other apart, and those of us that share will be left holding the reigns of power.
Gabler, being a global media personality, isn’t an easy person to reach. However, for those that sympathize with his sense that religion should be about spiritual awakening, it might be worth juxtaposing his piece with the commentary on Revelation 12, 13, and 14 out at Love Returns. John was “woke”, so to speak, and foresaw this confrontation and its resolution.
Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate seat vacated in Alabama by Jeff Sessions, is under attack for his conduct towards underage girls while working in the district attorney’s office during his 20’s and 30’s. In responding to the accusations, Moore appears to be taking the advice of Steve Bannon, who led Trump around the Access Hollywood (“Grab ’em by the pussy”) debacle. Bannon advised to deny everything and double down.
Moore’s supporters have done their best. On the political level, they charge that the revelation of these claims only four weeks before the election reeks of political manipulation by the Democrats and liberal media (the charges were given national airing by the Washington Post). Others note that the acts, even if committed, have expired under the statute of limitations, and so have no bearing on the election.
Before the scandal, Moore achieved notoriety for his defense of Biblical principles. He was removed as a sitting judge for refusing to honor a court order requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments display he had installed. Appointed later to the Alabama Supreme Court, he was removed again for refusing to enforce the US Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage.
So the political arguments have been supplemented by theological arguments. Co-religionists have implored voters to show Moore Christian forgiveness. Others have compared his suffering to that of Christ on the cross.
But the ugliest justification is that the Virgin Mary was only fourteen when she was married to Joseph, and so there is Biblical foundation for older men to pursue young girls.
There is so much wrong with these arguments. Forgiveness is wonderful, but that does not extend to empowering those that do wrong. Women also suffer persecution, and to suggest that Moore is being persecuted is like unto a suggestion that Herod is persecuted.
But the one that hurts the most is the parallel drawn to the relationship between Mary and Joseph. That relationship was not considered unusual in the era – in fact, the principle concern of the parents of an adolescent girl was to ensure that she was established safely in marriage to a decent man. Moore was not married to his victims.
But neither was the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard this issue raised before at a non-denominational Christmas service. The preacher attacked the whole idea of the immaculate conception, stating that “God doesn’t molest little girls.” Trevor Noah took this to its ultimate conclusion on Monday night, observing that the parallel offered by Moore’s supporters seemed to suggest that Moore was seeking to conceive a Messiah, giving new meaning to the idea of a “Second Coming.”
This upsets me because I don’t see Mary as a passive vessel. When women are allowed to choose, beautiful consequences result. The angel Gabri-el proposed a solution to the problems that beset Mary’s tribe, and by extension the whole of humanity. Mary’s humble response was “Here am I.”
Events during Jesus’s ministry emphasize this message. Presented with the paradox of the life in paradise of a woman widowed successively to seven brothers, Jesus observed that in that age everyone will make their own decisions about marriage. When Margaret complained that Mary was not helping with housework, Jesus encouraged Margaret to take also “the better part.” Finally, when a woman appears to anoint him with oil before the crucifixion – as were the kings by the high priest – Jesus rebukes the charge of hypocrisy (“the oil could have been used for the poor”) with the simple statement “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”
That Mary made the decision to bear Jesus when she was only fourteen may seem strange by our standards, but it was her choice. Moore didn’t share that choice with his victims. Mary’s choice carried with it the possibility of prosecution under the law of her day. Safe from criminal prosecution, Moore would do well to learn from her courage and humility, ask personally for forgiveness, and bear the consequences in the court of public opinion.