Living Large In Carson City: America Is A Shining City Upon A Hill – Not Edition


“It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conducted immense amounts of research, and came to the understanding that all human beings belong to the same species, and “race” is nothing but a myth. In the research that they have gathered, they found that biological “races” do not exist among our species.” Jaclyne Zetter 

It would completely lame and dishonest of me to not mention the story of the weekend which has both sides of the American political spectrum buzzing into the beginning of a new week. Yes, Trump’s unbelievable attack on four sitting first-term congresswomen, and his belief that they should shut up and go back to the countries where they came from is the talk of the nation. His disgusting and abusive Tweeter rant is the epitome of rampant racism that this administration seems dedicated to injecting into the nation’s conversation.

The “four” congresswomen, affectionately named “the Squad, are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashia Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Of course, as all of America knows at this point, only Omar is not a native born American. She became a naturalized citizen after she and her father fled war-torn Somalia. Ocasio Cortez was born in the New York City’s the Bronx, Tlaib, a native from Detroit, and Pressley was born in Cincinnati. So of the four, three are red-blooded Americans and the fourth an achiever of the American Dream. Yet, dopey Donald chose to overlook the facts and spread, once again, fake news that suits his skewed legislative agenda of stroking his base and not letting facts get in the way of his goals.

There is little upside in rehashing Trump’s flirting with the white supremacists of his base. Ample footage and Tweets can be pulled up to support the accusation that our president is a racist fool as are the majority of his followers. As Nancy Pelosi said in her reaction to Trump’s attack on the Squad this weekend, Trump’s goal is not to make America Great Again but to make America White Again. A statement that the president responded was a racist statement itself although as The Hill pointed out,

It was unclear if Trump, currently taking criticism for telling multiple congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from, understood the context in which Pelosi had made the comment.

Trump’s goal is obviously two-fold. Americans have seen time and again when circumstances go wrong for the president his modus operandi is to create controversy to draw attention away from his failed endeavors. At the end of last week, Trump suffered two major setbacks which he certainly wasn’t happy about. His failure to get the citizenship question added to the 2020 census and the god awful optics of Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham touring stinking, over-crowded immigrant holding facilities at the Texas border had to be a ego slap down that even his most rabid supporters couldn’t ignore. One has to wonder who sets up these preordained “fails” on the part of the Republicans. It defies logic and common sense.

So, Trump Tweets some nasty remarks about four congresswomen to help convince the base that the Orange One is still in their corner taking the fight to the enemy, even though they are all American citizens who are well respected by their constituents. For Trump though, this line of attack has become part and parcel of how he deals with both his base and the opposition. The bad news is that it worked in the past and will more than likely work in the future. Frightened people have to be fed frightening scenarios by their manipulative leaders, and conversely, those leaders have to supply an “out” that mollifies the sensibilities of their followers.  

Oddly enough, Trump’s original slurs have morphed into something more than just falsely slamming four congresswomen. Lindsey Graham, one time patriot and friend of John McCain, who has turned into Trump’s little bitch of late, advanced the narrative to another level,

“We all know that [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country, they’re calling the guards along our border—the Border Patrol agents—concentration camp guards,” Graham exclaimed. “They accuse people who support Israel as doing it for the benjamins, they are anti-Semitic, they are anti-America. Don’t get them—aim higher.” The Daily Beast

Graham in one statement elevated the Squad from progressive Social Democrats status to outright communist sympathizers. The Israel hatred possibly refers to Congresswoman Tlaib’s heritage. She is the daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents who left Palestine to settle in America to offer their children their version of the American Dream. “For the Benjamins” obviously refers to Congresswoman Omar’s Tweet earlier this year that called out the corrupt organization, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for the thuggish behavior they display year around, but especially during their annual convention which is little more than a fleecing of attendees to donate to AIPAC coffers. See The Nation article for more on AIPAC and the way they operate. As far as calling border guards – concentration camp guards –  the facts speak for themselves. Graham should watch the video of himself, Pence, and others as they squeamishly tour the above mentioned immigrant camp.

Today is Tuesday and the vitriol oozing from the White House has not abated. He has singled out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar claiming without evidence that she and her Squad members hate America, and she in particular, according to a Vox article (see below), claimed “how wonderful al-Qaeda is” Vox.  Yesterday, Trump set the tenor of the debate while answering questions from the reporter pool after giving a speech on the White Grounds.

While Trump was taking questions from reporters during an event that was ostensibly supposed to be a “Made in America Product Showcase,” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked him if it concerns him that “many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?”

Trump said that he is not, in fact, worried about it.

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he said. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave. Now, it doesn’t say, ‘Leave forever.’ It says, ‘Leave if you want.’” Vox

One has to wonder who exactly are the “many people” who agree with him? Are they the supporters of the racist demonstrations that permeated the Charlottesville, Virginia’s “Unite the Right” debacle that occurred in 2017? Is it the GOP’s congressmen and women who refuse to take a stand against his racist comments and by their silence condone his beliefs?  Or is it simply his base of deplorables who want Trump to make America white again? Sadly, it is a combination of them all.

Even more disturbing to contemplate is the theory put forth by many Washington insiders that this is Trump rolling out his 2020 campaign strategy. His divide and frighten approach worked all too well in 2016, so why wouldn’t he want to go for an encore in 2020? One thing is for certain; Democrats need to heal their divisions and present a united front against Trump, or America will face another four years of debacle after debacle played out on the world stage.

This isn’t to say the Squad need buckle under to Nancy Pelosi. No, Pelosi needs to step up her game as well and listen to what progressives are saying to her and the party. This is the time the Democrats have the opportunity to stand up and wade out of the swamp to create a new political dynamic that is more inclusive and understanding of the ills that face the country. If they don’t, even if Joe Biden is nominated and wins, a Biden presidency will be more of the same dog and pony show. Not as bad as Trump, mind you, but still a government split by factions that want only what they can grab for their side; the average American be damned.







Living Large In Carson City: There Is Nothing To See Here Folks – Keep Moving Edition


 “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwindHosea

I know this is going to seem callous and crass, but oh for the days when all America had to worry about was the Iraq and Afghani wars, Michelle’s vegetable garden on the White House lawn, or even a silly Korean rapper called Psy and his blockbuster hit ‘Gangnam Style’. Those were the days of clear cut messaging (Psy is the exception) that appeared in the news cycles and moved on after a day or two. It was a time (anytime before November of 2016) when news stories were more or less one dimensional and could be covered with alacrity that allowed one’s mind to focus and then shut off if so desired.

No longer. Trump redefined the news in such a way that scandals breeds mini scandals that breed major scandals that breed tangential scandals. It’s taxing and wearing the American electorate down. Now, Trump doesn’t even bother creating his own scandals but gloms onto scandals created by others and makes them his own. The scandal du jour concerns Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and a tweet she shared in response to a segement of the American Israeli community’s influence on Congressional members,

First of all, a caveat, I am married to a non-practicing Jew who is the singular most beautiful thing to occur in my life. I will always be grateful to her lineage. It’s a bloodline thing. However, the Jewish people have been snake bit from the beginning of their existence. If the Old Testament is to be believed, they suffered under their Abrahamic god’s capricious, often cruel, whims but preserved to emerge as a cohesive positive force in the world. Then there is their treatment by the Germans in WWII such that the Holocaust has become the definition of reprehensible and evil. Still, again, they preserved

The problem I have with Israeli government, not the Jewish people, is the fact that on the international stage the nation is essentially seen as a terrorist state. Since they refused to return land occupied during the 1967 war against the Palestinians, their refusal to withdraw to the original Israeli borderlines has made them a criminal nation. Compounding the issue is the hard right shift politically over the years within Israel’s ruling parties that has led to expansion of the illegal settlements and genocidal acts against the Palestinians that can not be ignored.

True, the Palestinians committed atrocities during those hectic years after the war.  True, they are the sworn enemies of Israel, but with legitimate claims on the land that Israel now occupies. With forced evacuations, unwarranted raids and attacks on their people, the Palestinians are a shadow of the threat they once represented to their aggressive neighbor. The Israeli government is quick to point out that the Palestinian’s Muslim religion puts them at diametrical odds with the well-being of what Israel stands for in the end. Yet, the ruling Israeli government is ruled by hardliners, no less rabid than American evangelicals, who want nothing less than the eradication of the Palestinian people and state.

I read somewhere that anti-Israel does not equate to antisemitism. You can hate or decry the policies of the government, but not hate the vast majority of everyday Jews; many of whom are also at odds with the government’s choices in dealing with the far less powerful Palestinians. Yet, this is what is at the base of the Omar controversy that Trump has done everything he can to exacerbate.

Omar’s tweet has been blown out of proportion and smacks of bigotry, hypocrisy, and elitism on the part of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Omar apologized but has been the brunt of ridicule and derision for having the temerity to speak truth to the powers behind the throne. Here she attempted to clarify her stance,

So, for me, I want to talk about — I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask: Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy? Right? Truthout 

Trump jumped into the fray earlier on calling for Omar to resign from the Foreign Affairs Committee and Congress for what he thinks was her disrespect for Israel. The entire affair has devolved into a bullshit, political claptrap of monumental proportions. The fact is American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the strongest pro-Israel lobbying firm in Washington, targeting all Congressmen, not just Republicans and/or Democrats. And yes, as Ady Barkan wrote in an article for The Nation, What Ilhan Omar Said About AIPAC Was Right, it is about the Benjamins,

By Monday morning, AIPAC had mobilized its allies to condemn Omar’s comment for playing into centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes that wealthy Jews control the world. Even the Democratic leadership put out a statement condemning her. All because she dared to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem, activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum is dollar, dollar bills. The Nation

Officially, AIPAC is prohibited by law from raising money for candidates because they represent a foreign government. However, the group has evolved with a modus operandi that subverts the rule of law while not actually breaking the law. Writing for The Nation in an article titled This Is How AIPAC Really Works, M. J. Rosenberg stated,

In short, AIPAC’s political operation is used precisely as Representative Omar suggested.

Again, I know this because I witnessed it over and over again. I sat in AIPAC staff meetings at which the political director discussed whom “we” would be supporting in this campaign and whom “we” were going to “destroy” in that one. I also sat in on meetings at AIPAC’s huge annual policy conference, attended by as many as 20,000 AIPAC members and virtually the entire Congress, at which fundraising pitches were made.

AIPAC, of course, denies that anyone raises money at its policy conference. And it’s true. No one does… in the official AIPAC rooms. However, there are also the side rooms, nominally independent of the main event but just down the hall, where candidates and invited donors (only the really wealthy donors get the invites) meet and decide which candidate will get what. This arrangement is almost a metaphor for the whole AIPAC fundraising operation. The side rooms are nominally not AIPAC, so AIPAC can deny that any fundraising takes place at their conference. But in fact, they are the most exclusive venues in the country for candidates to raise money in the name of advancing the AIPAC cause.  The Nation

AIPAC uses a variety of “coercive” tools to bend recalcitrant members of Congress to get behind the AIPAC agenda. Nearly everyone in Congress is contacted by members of AIPAC and asked if they will support the AIPAC agenda. Those who say no or waffle can expect a mobilized attempt to change their minds including ensuring, for instance, the Congressperson is confronted back home in public discussions by someone sympathetic to the AIPAC agenda. It’s an insidious organization that puts Israel first and American issues on the back burner until they get their way.

So, the Omar brouhaha is just that a brouhaha seeded with bigotry, politics, fear, and questionable allegiances. While most people won’t recognize it, this is politics at its dirtiest and the epitome of the swamp that is Washington governance. The question really comes down to “What do we get for our lopsided support of Israel?” Politicians get the backing they need at the expense of their integrity. Evangelicals get the warm and woolly feeling deep in their guts that by supporting Israel they are helping usher in the last days before Christ returns. The president gets a distraction that pulls our attention away from his inept, corrupt, and illegitimate presidency.

Only the truth goes wanting.