Sunday in the Sun + 3 September 2017

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I think the sermon of the week should be on hypocrisy, as the concept seems to be one of the guiding moral precepts of our time. And while I’d like to write a bit about religious hypocrisy in our day and age, that may be a little too oblique – like taking a cheap shot at the charlatans defining our moral debates on Faux News.

And so, let’s start by ignoring some of the more telling hypocrisies that have crept back out into the light of day recently. So, try this, from a Facebook post by Craig Hardegree:

Around this time last year, President Obama visited flooded areas of Louisiana. At the time of his visit, 13 deaths had already occurred; 7 trillion gallons of rain had already dropped; 24 inches of rainfall had already been measured; $15 billion in damages had already been estimated.

Evangelicals lambasted President Obama for not visiting sooner.

Yesterday, Trump visited a dry airport near the flooded areas of Texas. At the time of his visit, 16 deaths had already occurred; 11 trillion gallons of rain had already dropped; 49 inches of rainfall had already been measured; $50 billion in damages had already been estimated.

Trump didn’t hug a neck, kiss a cheek, wipe a tear. He didn’t encounter water falling from the sky or puddling upon the earth. He didn’t mention the loss of a police officer or the drowning of a family of six.

And evangelicals offered no criticism of Trump.

Because they are hypocrites.

Because they treated President Obama in the manner we would have expected racists to treat him.

In 2012, in anticipation of President Obama’s quick response to Hurricane Sandy, Trump tweeted:

“Not only giving out money, but Obama will be seen today standing in water and rain like he is a real President — don’t fall for it.” ~ October 30, 2012

“Obama is now standing in a puddle acting like a President–give me a break.” ~ October 31, 2012

Damned if he got to New Jersey too fast and actually got his feet wet; damned if he waited until water receded in Louisiana, as the governor asked him to do.

Same thing happened with regard to Libya after the “seeds of democracy” planted by Bush blossomed into harvest on President Obama’s watch.

Evangelicals excoriated President Obama for not immediately jumping in to protect the people of Libya from slaughter by Gaddafi. After getting other countries to go first with their troops and money, President Obama led from behind with air strikes. Then evangelicals eviscerated President Obama for getting involved in Libya.

Damned if he didn’t; damned if he did.

When Syria blossomed, President Obama asked congress to pass a resolution telling him what action they wanted him to take.

They refused.

Because once their position was recorded by vote, they couldn’t change their position to the opposite of President Obama’s position.

They wanted to be able to damn him if he went east; damn him if he went west.

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon leaked oil into the gulf in 2010, conservatives castigated President Obama for not doing enough, naming the spill, “Obama’s Katrina.”

When President Obama had a meeting with the head of BP and impressed upon him the wisdom of paying a $20 billion dollar fine, House Republican Joe Barton openly apologized to the CEO for the “shakedown” of BP by President Obama and Rand Paul said President Obama’s criticism of the foreign company was “un-American.”

Damned if he didn’t do enough; damned if he did too much.

And now evangelicals have the unmitigated gall and ungodly audacity to claim current criticism of Trump is “unprecedented” and the worst any previous president has had to endure.

They’ve gone from acting ugly to claiming victimhood.

From holy haters to hypocritical whiners.

When President Obama was asked about Syria’s chemical weapons, he said that was a red line in the sand – if Bashar used chemical weapons on his people, there will be “consequences.”

And there were.

After the incident was confirmed, President Obama forced Bashar to allow international teams to come in and ship out all of Syria’s chemical weapons.

President Obama followed through.

On August 8, Trump said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The very next day, Kim Jong-un threatened the United States again, threatening to launch four missiles into Guam.

Trump did not meet the threat with “fire and fury.”

Yesterday, Jong-un launched a missile over Japan; Trump said the action was “threatening.”

Trump did not meet the threat with fire and fury.

In case Trump had failed to understand Jong-un was blatantly threatening the United States, last night Jong-un said the launch over Japan was a “meaningful prelude” to a strike to contain the American territory of Guam.

Trump did not meet the threat with fire and fury.

President Obama followed through on his “consequences” for Bashar crossing the red line.

Racist evangelicals, to this day, falsely say he didn’t.

Trump has not followed through on his “fire and fury” for Kim Jong-un making one more threat, even though Jong-un has humiliated Trump by slapping him in the face with three threats since.

And hypocritical evangelicals don’t care.

Because their criticisms were never about substance.

They were always about race.

And then there are reports from Houston that prosperity evangelicals refused to open the doors to their crystal palaces to people fleeing Harvey’s torrential rains (i.e., God’s Wrath). One assumes they didn’t want to get the carpeting wet, while other reports about the owner of a mattress store opened doors so refugees, his neighbors, by the way, would have a place to sleep. These are the same evangelicals, by the by, who wholeheartedly endorse the current occupant of the White House. The same hypocrites, I think you could say.

But the hypocrisy of our age knows no bounds, or so it seems. Take for instance two US Senators, from Texas, of course, now making the case for disaster relief funds for hard hit southeast Texas. In 2012, after Superstorm Sandy thrashed New Jersey and New York, these same two Senators cried foul…cried too much pork was in the barrel. Then, oh my, we learn what our dear GOP congress-critters have in store for us now:

Upon their return from the August recess, House Republicans are set to debate a government funding bill, a piece of legislation that seeks to cut nearly $1 billion in disaster relief funds to secure a down payment for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

However, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey — which has left thousands stranded after flood waters inundated parts of Houston and its surrounding areas — complicates that funding path.

Cutting funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund amid a crippling natural disaster would be politically perilous in any year. But doing so for Trump’s border wall would be even more damaging, given low public support for the wall and Trump’s promise that Mexico would be paying for the project.

This follows several patterns we’ve seen in GOP policy making circles over and over for the past few years, to wit and by way of example, putting someone who wants to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of that agency. And he then begins to delete all reference to climate change from agency material just before hurricane season. When there’s an emerging consensus that climate change is the measurable cause of recently observed rises in sea level. When there’s an emerging consensus that climate change is driving recent major flooding events not just in Texas but in Bangladesh, and elsewhere. When EPA Superfund sites are being swamped by Harvey’s floodwaters and washing untold amounts of carcinogenic compounds into the murky city streets of cities and towns all along the Gulf Coast.

This is, as I’ve alluded to before, our Crazy Eddy moment, with Crazy Eddy emerging as a central thesis in Niven & Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye. (Again, if you haven’t read this one yet, you’ve made a big boo-boo…)

Watching this GOP engineered agenda – their so-called downsizing of government to pay for tax cuts to the uber-wealthy – is like watching a slow-motion train wreck play out over decades, in effect turning a fairly well and justly functioning federal bureaucracy into a maliciously ineffective, not to mention Kafkaesque burlesque show. Our courts serve the wealthy, our legislatures too, and, well, we can all see what happens when a wealthy blowhard takes the reins of power and decides to run the ship of state up on the rocks. Can you imagine how much fun the Chinese and North Koreans are having calling this idiot’s bluff week after week, time after time?

It’s really fun, ain’t it? Like looking on passively as everything our forefathers built gets shoveled under by a covey of inbred morons and their playmates. Maybe Trump will be The End of History, after all. Maybe what comes next is post-literate society, the return of full-blown medieval demagoguery…?

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But, of course, this is just one of many points of view. Take, for instance, the view from the other side of the aisle, the view from Fox News.

Disasters bring out the best and worst in people.

There are big-hearted celebrities like Sandra BullockJ.J. Watt, Kevin Hart and others working hard to aid the flood victims. (Please donate here!)

There are reporters like CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera who rescue those in need, remembering that they are first and foremost human beings, not just journalists.

But for many in the media, the storm is just one more chance to rain on President Donald Trump’s parade. One more chance to remind ordinary Americans that they hate Texas, Texans and anyone connected to Trump. Politico and Charlie Hebdo were the worst of the pack, but there were far too many outlets and cartoonists trying to use a disaster to further their own agenda.

Politico tweeted out a cartoon from Pulitzer winner Matt Wuerker on Wednesday and it was met by a storm of controversy. The image depicts a Confederate flag-wearing man being rescued from a house emblazoned with a giant Texas flag with the word “Secede” written on it. A Gadsden flag (stating “DON’T TREAD ON ME,” used in the American Revolution and by some modern tea party groups) is being covered in the floodwaters nearby. The man shouts: “Angels! Sent by God!” The rescuer responds: “Er, actually Coast Guard … sent by the government.”

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake summed it up nicely. “It’s almost a caricature of what you’d expect a liberal cartoonist to draw in response to conservative Texans relying upon the government in their time of crisis. The Confederate flag T-shirt. The Gadsden Flag. The reference to being saved by God (which seems extremely dismissive of Christianity). The Texas secession banner. It’s all kind of … predictable?”

Yes, predictable. Because we expected it and it happened. Left-wing Politico discovered that many people don’t actually hate the storm victims and promptly deleted the tweet. Only one problem: the cartoon is still available on the Politico website – while people have died in Texas from that very same flood.

Wuerker released the obligatory phony statement to try and fend off his numerous critics. He claimed: “It of course was not aimed at Texans in general, any more than a cartoon about extremists marching in Charlottesville could be construed as a poke at all Virginians.” Except, of course, the people dying or losing everything from the flood are Texans in general.

Wuerker’s whole Twitter account is filled with attacks on conservatives, including a retweet of a similar cartoon and one showing a photo of high-heeled swim fins for Melania Trump. That second one reflects on yet another Politico use of the flood for political gain. (See below.)

Politico wasn’t the only clueless, hateful outlet to push a cartoon making fun of flood victims. Charlie Hebdo, the controversial French publication, did its part. Its cover depicted a bunch of drowning Nazis saluting, with only their limbs and the tops of Nazi flags showing. The headline? “God Exists! He Drowned All Neo Nazis of Texas!”

This might be a good time to remind Charlie Hebdo staffers that the only reason they aren’t goose-stepping today is thanks to a ton of Americans who risked everything – including some who gave their lives – to liberate France from the Nazis in World War II. Many of these heroes came from Texas including one of the most-decorated American soldiers of World War II, Audie Murphy.

2. Let’s Play Politics With People’s Lives Part II: When CNN correspondent Rosa Flores shoved a microphone in the face of one flood victim, she got more than she bargained for. “But y’all sit here, y’all trying to interview people during their worst times – like that’s not the smartest thing to do,” said the angry woman. She went on to toss a few four-letter words at CNN before it cut the segment. Just as Ed Lavandera showed the sensitive side of journalism, this showed the insensitive.

There was a lot of that.

MSNBC’s amazingly biased Katy Tur (D-J school) complained that it was too early for President Trump to go to Texas. She went on that “there’s real concern that his going there is going to have to divert, at least a little bit, some resources away from the rescue effort and toward him.” CBS’s openly left-wing morning co-host Gayle King wondered if it was “the best time for him to come?”

Then when the president got to Texas, both “Morning Joe” and CNN complained he didn’t have enough empathy. “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski followed her usual froth-at-the-mouth line that there was “something wrong with” the president. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny whined that there was “very little in terms of empathy from this president.”

Then there was Slate, with a headline just complaining about … stories of heroism. “Why It’s Misleading to Say That Houston Showcases ‘America at Its Best.’” The subhead to the story added: “Natural disasters shouldn’t be used for the purpose of national mythmaking.”

Pretty sure those thousands of heroes and volunteers aren’t myths. But Slate’s integrity sure is.

3. Hurricanes Must Mean Global Warming: Weather coverage is reliable. A lack of major storms must mean climate change. The first major storm to make landfall in more than a decade? Climate change again. It’s the perfect answer to every question.

The horrendous flooding in Texas meant journalists moved from the first strategy to the second. And they did so with ease. So many that it was impossible to tell the “journalism” from the opinion. One claimed, “there’s a connection between rising global greenhouse gas levels and the extreme weather now being inflicted.” (Journalism, allegedly). “Now we have a moral duty to talk about climate change.” (Opinion).

Apparently, we don’t have a moral duty to discuss how the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was far and away the most deadly in American history – with between 6,000 and 12,000 dead. But that wouldn’t be climate change, so journalists won’t discuss it.

CBS’s Manuel Bojorquez also pointed the finger also at Houston development while interviewing one climate change alarmist. “He says when Harvey came ashore, the storm laid bare another problem decades in the making: The massive paving over of the area’s natural wetlands and prairies,” explained Bojorquez.

Of course, if one wanted to push an agenda, it’s worth noting that Houston has been led by Democratic mayors for 35 years. A point Bojorquez didn’t bring up.

4. Chinese Water Torture Journalism: Journalists would love it if Russia or some similar big story took down the Trump administration. Failing that, they have chosen the time-honored method of the Chinese Water Torture. The goal is to damage President Trump with a series of mindless, minor stories.

We had two wonderful examples this week. First, the outrage over the First Lady Melania Trump’s shoes. Yes, I’m embarrassed to type that. Even more embarrassing were the comments coming from journalists who used the shoes as “a symbol for what many see as the disconnect between the Trump administration and reality.”

The number of heels who whined about heels could have filled a shoe store – The Daily Beast, Politico, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Vanity Fair. Refinery29 writer Maria Del Russo called Melania “flood watch Barbie.”

And Vogue’s Lynn Yeager was much mocked for her criticism of the first lady. “But what kind of message does a fly-in visit from a First Lady in sky-high stilettos send to those suffering the enormous hardship, the devastation of this natural disaster?” she wrote. Conservatives on social media skewered Yeager’s own lack of sartorial excellence. Firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos’s critique was so harsh I won’t even quote it. But it was well-earned.

Then there were the Finns. During a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Trump made the unforgivable mistake of mixing up two journalists sitting next two each other. The two women were both blonde and almost identical height, but the mix-up became international news.

The Washington Post carried an Associated Press story that led with: “It appeared to be a case of all blondes look alike for President Donald Trump,” and USA Today went with, “Well, mistakes happen.”

These all harken back to the standard liberal ways to attack conservatives. All conservatives must be: stupid, crazy, racist or evil … or some combination all four. The heels story was an attempt to make the Trumps look heartless and therefore evil, and the goal of the Finns pieces was to make Trump look stupid.

It’s been a media strategy that dates at least to President Reagan. We’ve just never seen it deployed on this extensive a scale before.

5. Goodbye Columbus, Hello Aztec Sacrifice: Nothing says tolerance like ripping someone’s heart out in a ritual sacrifice. Welcome to the City of Angels. So intent are liberals there to express their disdain for European culture, they now want to celebrate a barbaric native culture.

And The Los Angeles Daily News helped them do it. The City Council just approved replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day (just rolls right off the tongue). During that debate, the Daily News wrote a story citing one man and “pointing to his own ‘indigenous identity’ connected to the Aztecs.”

The story went on about his Aztec ties for four full paragraphs, never mentioning some of the pesky details about the Aztecs like human sacrifice on a massive scale. Just last month, NPR posted a story on its website headlined: “Aztec ‘Tower Of Skulls’ Reveals Women, Children Were Sacrificed.” Pretty sure Journalism 101 would cover that in the “who” or “what” questions.

Hurray For Hollywood: “F*** Donald Trump” seems all the rage on the Left Coast. It was played off camera during MTV’s Video Music Awards and nearly forgotten rapper Eminem chanted his version of it, “F*** Trump,” leading a concert audience in England to do the same. Meanwhile, hateful former celebrity Kathy Griffin unapologized for her crazy beheading Trump photo. The theoretical comedian even launched a “Laugh Your Head Off” tour, probably replacing her, “I Have No Talent” dates.

The left isn’t done bashing Texas and the South. The new B movie “Bushwick” depicts a world where “Texas has seceded from the United States” and, for some reason, secessionist troops travel all the way to Bushwick in Brooklyn to invade. (Why not pick Philly and at least get some cheesesteaks?) I don’t blame the idiot “creative” minds behind the movie. I blame the media people who already love it, in the midst of a disaster in Texas.

The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane began his clueless review of this movie with: “Some films have all the luck.” Because depicting Texans as awful villains while they are being heroic rescuing men, women and children and even pets is so trenchant.

In another example of bashing of conservatives, CNN is using Labor Day to release The Reagan Show,” a new anti-Reagan movie. The ads show Reagan saying: “Together we will make America great again.” Given how anti-Trump CNN is, this could reach Acosta-level stupidity.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

But I think the best propaganda usually does.

Still, there are the key words and phrases that pop up in this piece, words that really paint the truest picture of intent. If you go back to the earliest days of the Third Reich you read potent descriptives of Jews as vermin. All sorts of adjectives paint Jews as rat-like in this body of work, and in the Fox News  piece we get echoes of the same treatment…i.e., liberals as rabid beasts, “foaming at the mouth.” It’s part of a process, the process of dehumanization. You inculcate your reader/viewer with the point of view that your political opponent is somehow different from yourself, and in a very fundamental way. They are less than human…they are sub-human. You convince your readership that it is okay to hate these subhumans, and from there it isn’t a big stretch to cattle cars and concentration camps.

Time will tell. Ready to take that route again?

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Some other articles worth reading this week…

  1. ‘Your eyes start itching’: pollution soars in Houston after chemical industry leaks

  2. Triple Threat: New Pneumonia Is Drug-Resistant, Deadly And Contagious

  3. Getting Googled by your doctor?
  4. There’s a reason Trump has so many movie cameos...
  5. What we know about Russian efforts to hack the 2016 election is just the tip of the iceberg.

wall cloud 817

This little cloud appeared overhead midweek and was followed minutes later with furious lightning and then a thirty-minute downpour that flooded streets and knocked out traffic signals. Fun stuff, kinda of a mini-Harvey, and a reminder of how powerless we are before these kinds of events.

GBvLA2

Then, of course, there was a pleasant cool breeze at my second Packers game of the pre-season. Hard to imagine it being 105 degrees in Los Angeles this week when it barely got into the 60s here, and I’d guess the Rams enjoyed the respite despite being walloped by the home team.

Ah, yes, nothing better than an early autumn.

GBvLA1

And, so, back to it. Hope you have a good week.

2 thoughts on “Sunday in the Sun + 3 September 2017

  1. Did you know that CNN now has a tab labeled “Trumpmerica” in its political section? All Trump news, all now. Just what his ego needs. Oh, and Senator Menendez seems to be in a heap of trouble. If he loses his corruption trial, Christie gets to appoint his replacement…..

    Like

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