Republicans abandon all pretense of public service

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President Trump appears with two powerful members of his administration, both Goldman Sachs alumni. Gary Cohn is on the left and Steve Mnuchin is in the middle.

If there’s one thing the Republican Party can be counted on to do, it’s lower the tax burden of wealthy Americans. They’re in the midst of an effort to do so right now, and one bill recently passed in the House of Representatives. But the bill is massively unpopular, with only 25 percent of Americans approving of it. Republicans have a remarkably candid response when pressed as to why they are pushing such unpopular and destructive legislation: it’s to please their donors.

Senator Chris Collins said of tax reform, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Senator Lindsey Graham worried the “financial contributions will stop” without tax reform. Several Republican donors threatened the party, “We’re closing the checkbook until you get some things done.”

The ruse that the Republican tax plan will help ordinary, median-income families is easier than ever to see through, as even many Republicans have stopped defending it. In a recent interview, Trump advisor Gary Cohn said, “The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” Cohn was in attendance at a recent Wall Street Journal event where CEOs were asked whether they planned to increase investment with their tax cut, and very few said they would.

Major CEOs admit they won’t reinvest their tax savings into workers or facilities. Republicans have begun to admit that the rich will receive a tax cut. Worse still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently admitted that many middle class families will actually see their tax burden increase. Deductions that help working people and graduate students are being cut to make room for an enormous tax windfall for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republican Party’s primary function as servants of the oligarchy is so solidified that their billionaire donors publicly threaten to cut them off if they don’t get their tax cut. And it isn’t just on taxes that the GOP has abandoned all pretense of serving the public good. A remarkable array of assaults on ordinary Americans and basic human decency have issued forth from the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress.

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At a press conference Tuesday, Trump defended alleged child molester Roy Moore, implying he doesn’t believe Moore’s nine female accusers.

At the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos has rescinded protections both for sexual assault victims and disabled students. Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai announced he will seek a total repeal of net neutrality rules, which will give corporate internet providers unprecedented latitude to control what Americans can access online. The Environmental Protection Agency has become an arm of Big Oil; at a recent UN climate conference, the United States actually promoted coal. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is actively rolling back civil rights reforms.

Trump himself is, as always, the most vulgar offender. After apparently negotiating the release of three Americans arrested in China, Trump, angry that the families weren’t properly grateful to him, tweeted, “I should have left them in jail!” He moved to lift a ban on ivory imports and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, a decision he later – after outcry from his own party – begrudgingly reversed. In a disaster relief package Trump gave the liberal state of California, which has been devastated by wildfires, nothing.

Currently, the main source of Republican friction is Roy Moore, the disgraced Alabama judge and current Senate candidate accused of preying on at least nine teenage girls while in his 30s. But the Trump Administration and far-right media like Breitbart remain committed to Moore. Kellyanne Conway went from, “No Senate seat is worth more than a child,” to, a few days later, “We want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.” Trump, who personally stands to benefit enormously from the GOP tax plan, agreed with Conway, saying, “You have to do what you have to do.” For the greater good of upper-class tax cuts, that means making your bed with child molesters.

Some members of the GOP have embraced their near-comic book levels of villainy. When internet users remarked on how diabolical Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife looked while holding a sheet of money, Mnuchin said it’s “a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie.” Breitbart chief executive and former Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon told an interviewer last year, “Darkness is good… Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

Those might be jokes from Mnuchin and Bannon, but they capture the very real essence of the modern GOP. The party openly supports legislation that worsens the suffering at the bottom and increases prosperity at the top. It feels no shame enacting policies that harm disabled people, trans people, assault victims, immigrants, and all of society’s most vulnerable. And its evil has been reinforced by a feedback loop between the party, its propaganda channels, and an ever-more rabid base.

Most Republicans probably don’t see their party as evil, but plenty of them like it precisely because of the evil it does – targeting minorities, elevating Christian fascists like Roy Moore, taking revenge on liberals, and serving the rich at the expense of vulnerable populations, peace, and the planet. Even before Trump took over the GOP, it was regarded by some as the most dangerous organization in history. If current trends are any indication, by the next election cycle Republicans will be touting that label as a badge of honor.

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A tale of two responses: Trump on attacks in Vegas, Texas and New York

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The president adopts a voice of calm after white terror attacks, and a voice of venomous outrage after Muslim ones.

Three high-profile atrocities have occurred on American soil in the span of five weeks. On October 1, a man opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window and shot more than 600 people, killing 58 of them. On October 31, a man drove a truck into a crowd in New York City and killed eight people. And on November 5, a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

At least since 9/11, the protocol for atrocity in America is militarism and nationalism if the perpetrator is a dark-skinned Muslim, thoughts and prayers for the victims if the perpetrator is white. In these recent events, President Trump’s tweets gave us a healthy sample of each. Continue reading

With Trump criticism, Limbaugh reveals the core of Republicanism

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Rush Limbaugh in a customary pose.

On his radio show last week, far-right commentator Rush Limbaugh used the word “dictatorial” to describe President Donald Trump’s demands that NFL team owners force players to stand for the National Anthem. Said Limbaugh, “There’s a part of this story that’s starting to make me nervous, and it’s this. I am very uncomfortable with the president of the United States being able to dictate the behavior and power of anybody. That’s not where this should be coming from.”

Limbaugh’s comments were covered giddily by much of left-wing media. Headlines and commentary suggested he had broken with Trump. But even if the remarks did represent a break from Trump – Limbaugh stressed repeatedly that they did not – there’s still no cause for celebration. Because Limbaugh’s real point isn’t that President Trump was out of line, but that if anybody is going to restrict First Amendment rights for the players, it should be the team owners.

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America needs a shrink

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A new book by mental health experts examines the deteriorated psyche of the American president.

Last week a group of psychiatrists released a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. It caused a controversy not only because of its claims about the president, but also because the psychiatrists appeared to break with their profession’s ethical tradition and diagnose a public figure from a distance. They aren’t alone. Some 60,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition stating, “Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.”

Plenty of Trump observers might think that obvious, but it’s a stunning development. Never before have so many mental health professionals warned us about a public figure. And members of Trump’s own party have come to similar conclusions. Senator Bob Corker recently called the White House an “adult day care center” and charged Trump with recklessly setting the nation “on the path to World War III.” The mental instability of the man in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal is well worth taking seriously.

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Carnage in Las Vegas makes the need for stricter gun control clearer than ever

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People scramble for cover as a gunman opens fire on a crowded concert from his hotel room window.

Mass shootings are so commonplace in America that news outlets can practically recycle old stories verbatim, changing only the names of the suspects, the locations, and the number of dead. When pundits are summoned to give their opinion, those responses, too, are predictably rote. Whether it’s said once or it’s said a thousand times, though, there is only one solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence: stricter regulation of the weapons in question. Continue reading

Trump hijacks NFL protests, misdirects America

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Players for the Baltimore Ravens take a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, and spite President Trump.

George Carlin once said, “I don’t get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I consider them to be symbols, and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.” But to many Americans they mean an awful lot, and President Donald Trump is using that to create even more divisiveness. In a tirade at a rally last weekend, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.’”

Since then, social media and the American people have been deeply engaged in a conversation about the flag, the National Anthem, and the proper way to respect both. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick admirably forced the pervasive issue of police brutality during America’s national pastime last year, but that’s been completely replaced by Celebrity-in-Chief Trump’s voluminous ego and desire to distract the American people. Continue reading

The socialist claim to liberty

fistBy Kyle Schmidlin and Eldon Katz

Everyone has friends or family members who define themselves as “socially liberal; but fiscally conservative.” The conservative libertarian views their ideology as a mature, pragmatic, and disciplined compromise, the best way to get as many people what they want and maximize everybody’s liberty and opportunity.

But this vision of liberty is perverted and one-sided in favor of the powerful. It grants people the freedom to exploit, but not freedom from exploitation, effectively treating the liberty of the powerful as absolute but anyone else’s liberty as flexible. As Bertrand Russell put it, “The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” Continue reading

America’s new battle with Nazism is only beginning

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Self-described “identitarian” Peter Cvjetanovic denies being a racist. His face went viral as he marched alongside torch-bearing neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right – call them what you will, this group of angry, white men had a busy weekend. Hundreds of them descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Unite the Right rally. Demonstrators began a torchlit march on Friday night and by Saturday had turned the city into a warzone, culminating in an act of right-wing terror that caused one death and injured 19 others. In response, President Trump couldn’t bring himself to denounce one side more than any other. Continue reading

The real reason Trump banned trans people from the military

Transgender airman: ‘I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military’

After his commander-in-chief’s tweeted declaration, Logan Ireland, a trans member of the military, said, “I’d like to see them try to kick me out of my military.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump dictated a new policy for the US military: transgender people will not be allowed to serve. Reaction was swift, emphatic and hotly divided. Many citizens, celebrities and service members were dismayed and expressed support for trans troops. But on the far right, especially at outlets like Breitbart, the ban was enthusiastically applauded. While the ban seemed arbitrary and capricious, the divisive reaction to it may have been precisely the point. Continue reading

A brief history of Republican presidents as mascots

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Donald Trump makes an entrance fit for a Lady Gaga concert at the 2016 GOP Convention.

In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, Springfield’s Republicans gather to discuss their next mayoral candidate. Mr. Burns insists on “a true leader, who will do exactly as he’s told.” A political strategist says the next mayor of Springfield is just behind the door. When it’s opened, there’s nothing there but a water cooler, prompting a round of applause. Moments later Sideshow Bob, a former TV personality, steps into frame, and the Republicans decide he’s even better.

Three of the last four Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – could have easily been devised in such a meeting. In real life, as on The Simpsons, the Republican Party has shown a preference for presidential candidates who lack substance but put on a good show. It seems they don’t want a president so much as they do a mascot. Continue reading