July 15, 2023

I didn't know who Jack White was. Then I read what he posted on Instagram. Now I like him... a lot.

 

By Hal Brown

View on one page here.

Before today I'd never heard of Jack White (Wikipedia profile). I discovered he is the frontman for the rock group White Stripes. I read an article about him in HUFFPOST this morning. It was posted on July 10th but I just noticed it. 

Jack White Puts 'Disgusting' Trump-Supporting Celebs On Blast

The rocker called out Mel Gibson, Mark Wahlberg and Guy Fieri after they were photographed with the former president over the weekend.

I know who Jack Black is, though I admit that I didn't know that along with being an actor and comedian he's also a rock musician. Not surprisingly he has been an outspoked critic of Donald Trump. But Jack White was a headscratcher for me.

Shame on me for being so out of touch with the rock world that I didn't know who he was considering he's not only been ranked as one of the 100 best quitarists of all time, but In 2012, the New York Times called him "the coolest, weirdest and savviest rockstar of our time".[3] 

The HUFFPOST article had a link to this Instagram post:


The White Stripes song "Seven Nation Army" was referred to in the HUFFPOST article so of course I chose it to be the song I listened to and decided to include in this blog:
Click above to hear song
The lyrics are here.

This isn't the first time Jack White used Instagram to rail against someone. Here's what he posted about Elon Musk (for ease of reading I added paragraph breaks):


“So you gave trump his twitter platform back. Absolutely disgusting, Elon. That is officially an asshole move. Why dont you be truthful? Tell it like it is; people like you and Joe Rogan (who gives platforms to liars like alex jones etc.); you come into a ton of money, see the tax bill, despise paying your fair share, and then think moving to Texas and supporting whatever republican you can is going to help you keep more of your money. (How else could trump possibly interest you?) 


You intend to give platforms to known liars and wash your hands like pontius pilate and claim no responsibility? trump was removed from twitter because he incited violence multiple times, people died and were injured as a result of his lies and his ego, (let alone what his coup did to attempt to destroy democracy and our Capitol). 


And how about the division and the families broken apart from his rhetoric and what it did to this country? That’s not “free speech” or “what the poll decided” or whatever nonsense you’re claiming it to be; this is straight up you trying to help a fascist have a platform so you can eventually get your tax breaks. I mean, how many more billions do you need that you have to risk democracy itself to obtain it? 


You did a lot of amazing things with Tesla, Elon, and you deserve a lot of compliments in that department (i personally supported the hell out of that venture), but you've gone too far and are now using your power to promote horrible, violence inducing liars, who are taking the country and the world backwards and endangering the democracy that made you rich and successful in the first place. 


I am a believer in free speech, but for example i’m not about to let the KKK hold a rally at our record label's performance stage. That’s one of the platforms we control and have a say in, it’s not town square operated by the government. And if i owned a gas station, i wouldn’t be selling the KKK gasoline to burn crosses either and then wash my hands as if i didn’t help facilitate hatred. You took on a big responsibility with your purchase, and “free speech” isn’t some umbrella that protects you from that.


Jack White isn't Taylor Swift, the pop mega-mega star who is anything but mega-MAGA. She stayed out of politics for years but became political a few years ago. She also posts on Instagram - read 2020 Newsweeek article about her politics. Still, Jack White has a substantial following in the rock world, and reaches people who don't follow singers like Swift and those from other muscial genres. 

Every celebrity who has a chance to influence people's opinions and opening their eyes to the dangers of Trump and other extremist right wing polticians may help, if not always to change minds,  to prompt some people who wouldn't otherwise vote to cast their votes for Democrats.

July 14, 2023

Double Take on seeing that the House Ethics Committee reaching out to witnesses in revived Matt Gaetz probe. Did I read this right?

 

Middle: Rep. Michael Guest


By Hal Brown

This news came after Matt Gaetz's attempt to make FBI Director Christopher Wray look like a ciminal who is trying to protect a nefarious crime family: see 

Rep. Matt Gaetz Grills FBI Director About Hunter "Shakedown" Message: "Are You Protecting The Bidens?"

Links to article, not to Twitter

I did a double take when I saw that the House, the GOP House and home not only to Gaetz but the Freedom (to be Conspicacy Spinning Lunatics) Caucus which he's a member of, was reviving the ethics probe of Gaetz which began when the Democrats were in control.

From the CNN article:

Now chaired by Republican Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, the panel quietly restarted its investigation earlier this year without publicly laying out its targets anew. The decision to begin reaching out to witnesses, made by Guest and ranking Democratic member, Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, is the first formal step the committee has taken since the ethics investigation resumed. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN this week he doesn’t “know anything about” the investigation, noting that he’s barred by House rules from discussing it with committee members. The Republican-led investigation into Gaetz comes as the Florida congressman finds himself repeatedly at odds with his party’s leadership. 

“I never know anything on (the) Ethics Committee,” McCarthy told CNN. “I don’t know what investigations they have. I don’t know anything about it.” 

Asked to comment on whether he thinks the investigation should move forward, McCarthy declined to do so and referred questions to the committee.

I'd never heard of Rep. Michael Guest so, of course, I checked him out on Wikipedia (here).

He was born in the Woodbury, New Jersey which is in the southern part of the state and a suburb of Philadelphia. I don't know how he ended up living in Mississippi although his official website tells us that he graduated from high school there and went to college and law school in the state:

Congressman Guest is a Rankin County resident and a graduate of Brandon High School. He and his family are members of Brandon Baptist Church, where Congressman Guest serves as a Sunday school teacher for young men in high school. He received a degree in accounting from Mississippi State University and his law degree from The University of Mississippi. Congressman Guest is a member of the Rankin County Bar Association and the Mississippi Bar Association. He is married to the former Haley Kennedy of Brandon, and they have two sons, Kennedy and Patton. The Guests' newest family addition is their dog, Winston Churchill.

What may be the most relevant aspect of his chairing this committee as it investigates Gaetz may be in the second paragraph (highlighted) about his tenure in the House (below from Wikipedia):



In December 2020, Guest was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated[9] Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of an election held by another state.[10][11][12]

On May 19, 2021, Guest was one of 35 Republicans who joined all Democrats in voting to approve legislation to establish the January 6, 2021 commission meant to investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[13]

In June 2022, after a leaked decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to revoke the right to abortion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Guest wrote to the Department of Homeland Security to demand action in the wake of attacks by Jane's Revenge, which Guest called an "anarchist extremist group" that targets crisis pregnancy centers and other anti-abortionorganizations.[14]

In August 2022, Guest was named ranking member of the House Ethics Committee upon the death of former ranking member Jackie Walorski.[15]

Guest was among the 71 Republicans who voted against final passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 in the House.[16]

Considering that there are 222 GOP members of the House being one of 35 crossing the aisle in this controversial vote may prove to be an indication he is will to put poltics aside and risk retribrition from hard right members of the House GOP who consider Gaetz to be one of their own.

As far as justice prevailing, Trump is a giant orange rockfish and Gaetz is a baby shrimp. 

Even so, frying him with a finding that he violated House ethics would barely whet the appetite for holding people accountable, but it would be satisfying to see that something came of it. 



July 13, 2023

Tucker interviewed a disgusting man, Elon promoted this, it reinforces my deciding to be one of 100 million who joined Zuck's Threads



By Hal Brown

Link just to this page here.

I won't even go into who the man Tucker Calson interviewed on Twitter is and what he did. You can click here to read The Salon article about him and how desperate for attention it demonstrates Carlson is.

Amanda Marcotte's article includes this xkcd free to share cartoon:

Here's a version with a word I changed so it applies to me:

Twitter was a useful tool for communication which you could liken to the telephone before robocalls. Then a billionarie known for innovation in other fields bought it and he turned out to be a creep intent on making the popular social media platform into a megaphone for lies and hate.

Another billionaire who already owned equally popular but slightly diffrent  social media platforms launched a competitor to the creepy guy's.

Within a week 100 million people joined the new platform. I was one of them.

I admit I had one self-serving reason. This was a way to post links to my most recent blogs.
My Threads page

I had no illusions that this would lead to many, if any, new  readers. So far I have no followers. On Twitter (here), which I joined for reasons I don't remember in 2013, I have 162 followers a few of whom are well known.



My second reason for joining threads was to be one of the 100 million and take a jab at the creepy billionaire.

As the Salon article shows, the creepy billionaire's platform has become less popular since he took it over. 

Of course everyone knows the real life actors in this drama are. In the unlikely case that you don't, this is from Business Insider: Musk and Zuck promised us a cage fight, but what we've got are 2 reply guys trading petty jabs.

When Elon Musk took over Twitter I joined Mastodon (my page is here) where I've already made over 1,000 posts.



Unfortuately Twitter managed to hold on even though fewer people were using it.
https://www.similarweb.com/top-websites/
I just checked my Threads link and saw that The New York Tines, NPR, and CBS News had posted liks to recent articles there. 

One the main drawbacks to the Threads vs. Twitter competition is that the former can for now only be accessed through an app dowloaded to a smart phone while you can get to Twitter both on your cellphone and laptop. 

"Meta has not confirmed whether it’s working on a web app to make Threads available through a web browser. But every single major social media app – such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – is available through a web browser, so we imagine it’s only a matter of time until Thread expands to desktop." (Reference)

Twitter continues to stay high in the rankings because so many notable people from celebrities up to and including President Biden are using it to communicate. 

Taylor Swift has almost three times as many followers as President Biden:
Of course people are used to Twitter and lots of them don't care about that Musk has made it so toxic they'd spit it out like they'd just bitten into a worm in an apple. I'm still using it to promote my blog stories so I'm just talking the talk and not walking the walk. I've posted a link to this blog as a way, albeit to negligible effect, to express my opinion of Musk.


I have no way to predict whether anyone will engage my tweet and will read this as a result. I'll update this later in the day to report on this.







July 12, 2023

Whether they're dim bulbs or bright lights, does it really matter?

 

Creative Commons Marcello Casal Jr on Wiki

Read most recent blog stories here.

By Hal Brown

Heather "Digby" Parton wrote this about Sen. Tommy Tuberville:

"Whether he's dim or whether he's calculated, it really doesn't matter."

It is from her Salon article: 

Senate Republicans grow more radical in the minority

Mitch McConnell may soon have a Freedom Caucus of his own to contend with

In context:

After the media went into a frenzy on Tuesday, he did finally relent and admit that that white nationalism is racist but it's pretty clear that he doesn't believe that. Like his brethren in the House Freedom Caucus, Tommy Tuberville is a MAGA performance artist and he put on quite a show. Whether he's dim or whether he's calculated, it really doesn't matter.

In one respect she's correct, although in another she's not. It does matter. This doesn't apply just to Tommy Tuberville, but to all the ultra-MAGA group from those making the news to the clownish crowds at Trump rallies and others who make up both the Trump cult MAGAs the no longer Trump worshipping MAGA world.

Consider, just in the news, Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo and her newsest conspiracy theory (here) 


Ask whether it matters whether or not she believes this. If she does she's not only a dim bulb but a demented bulb who needs psychiatric intervention. After all, what Philip Bump is describing as unmoored means unmoorred from reality and this is a sign of severe mental illness.

Then there's Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) who suggested "penguins" were to blame when scientists testified that Covid-19 was created in nature (story here). She was questioning scientists testifying about the origins of Covid at a House Oversight Committee meeting:

"The scientific literature, you know, the publication of the pangolin genomic sequence showed that there was a receptor binding domain," Garry said. "And it was a very important piece of data because it showed that a lot of the theories about, you know, the virus having been engineered or put together in a laboratory were not true because here was a virus in nature that had a receptor binding domain with exactly the same structure."

Malliotakis confused the research on pangolins, which resembles an anteater, with penguins.

"I just find it all interesting based on what my other colleague here, the chairman of the committee, said in reply to the issue of the penguins," she said.

To give her the benefit of the doubt I'd say her bulb is rather dim when it comes to science, nature, and even common sense considering the fact that penguins live in Antartica. Perhaps it was just a slip of the tongue since lots of people don't know what pangolins are.

Then we come to the more notorious well-known purveyors of conspiracy hokuum from the once mighty Tucker Carlson to Marjorie Taylor Greene and  those who mouth the nonsense promoted by QAnon. 

Those with a brand to sell, whether politicians or pundits on the far-right, have a motive to spit the silly and stupid to the gullible. At the worst they pander hate and fear to their audience. Case in point, yet another timely example comes from Fox News host Jesse Watters who is heir apparent to Tucker Carlson:

'People told me' I have 'done more for women’s sports than Meg Rapinoe'

Excerpt:

Watters then declared, without citing any sources, that "some people have told me that I have actually done more for women's sports than Meg Rapinoe has done, that maybe she's a traitor in the war on women and I have fought valiantly in that war, obviously on the women's side. And that's not me saying that, and I actually disagree with that. I'm just saying it's something that's being said."

Watters also asserted of Rapinoe that "women have also told me because — she's a lesbian, I believe. Is that true? — that she may have a different feeling about the trans issue than straight women, that she feels an allyship. Am I using allyship correctly?" Watters wondered.

 


We just don't know whether he believes this or whether he is only hyping homophobia for his far-right audience. My hunch he is engaging in brand building. He knows this is the kind of hateful rhetoric that will increase his viewership. He knows he has big bigot boots to fill if he's ever to top Tucker. 



Getting to the title question as to whether these people are mentally dim bulbs or bright lights, I view this through the lens of a retired therapist trying to have some empathy (not easy to do) for the small army of influencers who spew their hateful propaganda to so many susceptible people. If they do do this with deliberation they should all be exiled to an inaccessible and inhospitable island where they can sustain themselves by devouring each other's flesh.

If they are clinically delusional they need and should receive psychiatric treatment.

If they are dim bulbs who were born with impaired mental capacity they ought to have remedial education. 

How's this for empathy?

Disquis comment section on bottom of page. 


July 11, 2023

Christie reminded me of Trump's small hand denials: What would Freud say?


.


Click above to read article


By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired psychotherapist

I was thinking about writing about the coming first GOP presidential wannabe debates and how I’d watch them if both Trump and Christi were on the stage together. This was after I watched the most recent appearance of Christi on “Morning Joe”  where he was his usual acerbic and articulate self.

For sheer entertainment value pitting Christi against Trump would be a poltical version of the Thrilla in Manila, only in Milwaukee.  In this instance instead of a battle to be the heavyweight champion of the world it would be to be one step away from being the leader of the Free World.

I have no  doubt that Christi would be Muhammad Ali and Trump would be Joe Frazier. I don't know if Christi could match Ali's rhyming boast that the fight would be "a killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila." He can't literally float like a butterfly but he can certainly sting like a bee. 

I see him more like a great white shark and Trump like a lumpering walrus.


"The great white shark is a large predator that feeds on a variety of animals, including walruses. These sharks are one of the largest and most feared predators in the ocean and can reach up to 20 feet in length. They have sharp teeth that can easily tear through flesh, making them a formidable opponent for any animal." 
Reference with photos.

It could be dubbed after the fact as the Massacre in Milwaukee.

The last sentence in this Time article was click bait for me:


There’s no place where these dynamics will play out better than the debate stage, especially if the ex-President is on it. For candidates like former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, or former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, this may be where the group piles-on Trump and provokes him. After all, Trump has never proven a terribly disciplined person when he feels disrespected, let alone challenged. Remember him bragging about the size of his… ummm… let’s say hands on stage at a debate in Detroit?

I clicked on the word bragging which led to this 2016 Time article. Here’s the excerpt which includes an unprecedented piece of braggadocio coming from a presidential candidate:


It was a debate that highlighted the GOP’s descent into the Twilight Zone, where facts don’t matter and displays of bravado substitute for policy. Within minutes of the start of the debate in Detroit, Trump was assuring supporters that his, um, hands were adequate—and it only escalated—or spun into the sewer—from there.

It was a spectacle unlike any other in modern debate history, with facts playing a minor role, records cast aside and personalities taking primacy over political purity.

“Look at those hands. Are they small?” Trump asked the crowd, holding his mitts up. “And he referred to my hands—if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem.” The audience roared.

I won't bother elaborating about Freudian psychoanalytic theory beyond noting that in "The Intretation of Dreams" that all elongated objects such as sticks, tree-trunks, umbrellas, long, sharp weapons such as knives, daggers and pikes had a symbolic meaning. Reference

You can reach your own conclusions about why Trump might bristle and become defensive at the implication that he had short fingers. 

My title is meant to be a rhetorical question.






July 10, 2023

There's an ethical lesson to be learned from the collapse of the Dutch government over immigration policy

 


By Hal Brown

Here's a basic summary of what inspried todays blog from CNN


Below are three points which address what I consder to be basic ethical concerns. They are from this New York Times (subscription) article from July 7th.

  1. “One of the values that are important with the proposals is that children grow up with their parents,” a statement by the Christian Union party said. “As a family party, that is what we stand for.” The party said it wanted to work with “heart and soul for a humane and effective migration policy.”
  2. The large numbers of arrivals have strained the Netherlands’ housing capacity, which was already suffering a shortage for the country’s more than 17 million people.
  3. “Everybody wants to find a good, effective solution that also does justice to the fact that this is about human lives,” the finance minister, Sigrid Kaag, a member of the D66 party, said before the talks began.
The belief that there is a moral imperative for being willing to sacrifice your own comfort, up to your own life in extraordinary circumstances, is a core tenet of all or most of the world's religions and a basis for the philosophy of ethics. 

As Wiki explains, "ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrongvirtue and vicejustice and crime."

Whether in the Netherlands or the United States the immigration of people fleeing persecution, sometimes risking their lives to do so, has been a major divisive poltical issue.

At the most simple level this boils down to actually giving up something tangible, for example in the Netherlands better housing capacity or something intangible like in the United States and other countries the sharing of your country with people of other ethnic and relgious backgrounds and life styles.

From immigration to human rights for everyone including groups not only demonized by Trump and more blatantly (if we ever thought this was possible by a right-winger) by DeSantis, but also like Marine Le Pen in France, it's all about ethics. More specifically it is about a lack of ethics.

When I was considering writing this I shared some of my ideas with a dear friend whose parents survived a NAZI concentration camp. She reminded me of this line from "The Diary of Anne Frank": 

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
She wrote this about a month before she and her family were arrested.

Anne Frank was in her early to mid-teens when in hiding and we can speculate that despite the abject fear she lived with knowing what she and her family's fate could be, she depserately tried to maintain her optimistic view that deep down all people were good at heart.

To contemplate that this is not demonstrated in real life and that while there are people who try to live their lives adhering as best as they can to an ethical code, there are those who, to put it bluntly, are just plain evil

By conincidence in relationship to my writing this blog about Dutch politics, this was written when she and he family were in hiding in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

During World War II the NAZI's occupied the Netherlands and about 75% of the Jews living their were sent to concentration camps where most of them were killed.

Between 25,000  and 34,000 Jews fled from Germany in the 1930's. For more see The Holocaust in The Netherlands from Wikipedia.

Dutch citizens had engaged in a valient and fierce resistance againt the NAZI's which you can read about here.

Also by chance, as I did some research about the Netherlands and the Holocaust I came across tis article:

The article begins with a reference to Anne Frank:

The story of teenage diarist Anne Frank is known across the world. But a new survey suggests a “disturbing” lack of awareness about the Holocaust in the Netherlands, where she and her family hid for years before being discovered and deported to a Nazi concentration camp.

and goes on as follows:

A Dutch Holocaust survivor and Jewish cultural leaders have expressed dismay at the survey, which was released Wednesday and suggests that more than half of the residents were not aware of the deportation and murder of Jews from the country during World War II.

The survey, conducted and released by the New York-based nonprofit Claims Conference ahead of International Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, found that 53% of the respondents couldn’t identify the Netherlands as a country where the events of the Holocaust happened — rising to 60% among millennial and Gen Z respondents, meaning those under 40.

Historians estimate more than 70% of the Netherlands’ prewar Jewish population was killed during the Holocaust, more than 100,000 in total. Frank hid in a secret room in Amsterdam with her family from 1942 to 1944 before she died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp weeks before its liberation.

I can do no better than to end this blog with a quote from Mark Lezer who was six when the NAZI's invaded the Netherlands and who lost family in the Holocaust. He said it is imperative that the story of the Holocaust should never be allowed to fade from memory.

“Because if you don’t know enough about the Holocaust and you do not know that so many people died because of the Nazi persecution, then you do not know enough to be realistic about the future.”

This should go not only for the Dutch, but for everyone whose country is facing a push by authoriatians who envision ruling over a country not too different than what Hitler wanted for Germany.










Milley, Miley, and Taylor too: Where pop culture and politics intersect: - Convincing people that MAGA is deadly for democracy

  By Hal Brown Update: I wrote this before this was posted as the lead story on Salon: Click to read The article concludes: I get that Swift...