Monday, October 30, 2017

Week of 10/30/2017

Maximum Overdrive: Washington D.C.
Literary legend Stephen King is known for writing some of the best stories in the modern age.  Stories like “It” and “The Shining” and “The Stand” and “Christine” have all found their way either to the silver screen or to television.
But there is one that Mister King probably wishes he didn’t put pen to paper, and that one is “Maximum Overdrive”.  This is a 1986 movie that was written and directed by Stephen King that starred Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, and Laura Herrington, and it included an appearance by the future-and-former Mrs. Donald Trump, Marla Maples.  (Don’t worry, you’ll understand the reference quickly.)
If you never saw this movie before, here’s a quick summary: a weird comet races past Earth, and, soon afterward, all of the vehicles and a few other inanimate objects started running by themselves and killing humans on sight.  Keep in mind that this is decades before “smart cars” were a reality, so to have any kind of vehicle start by itself and drive by itself at that time was reserved for science fiction or a “Transformers” cartoon.
So the characters in the story are surrounded in a roadside diner by autonomous vehicles that hold them hostage.  If they venture outside of the diner, the vehicles chase them down and kill them.  There’s some debate about what the vehicles want and why they want to kill the humans, but not everyone can handle the insanity with a calm disposition.  Finally, a waitress named Wanda June loses her last frayed nerve and races out of the diner screaming “You can’t do this!  We made you!”  She is then shot dead by a machine gun atop a military vehicle.
No, there is no use trying to apply logic with this movie.  You can understand why this was not one of Mr. King’s proudest creations and why he vowed to never direct a movie again.
Anyway, what brought me to think about this stinker of a cult classic was the recent stances made by two members of the GOP in their criticism of President Donald Trump.  Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have each announced their planned retirement from Congress, which freed their consciences just enough to speak out against the Narcissist-in-Chief.  Flake, in particular, gave a rousing speech where he urged his fellow members of the GOP to stand up to the Twitter-tantrums and the hypocritical bullying that Trump has been recklessly engaged in.
Sadly, though, his words fell on deaf ears.  His fellow GOP grifters and shysters were enjoying lunch with the orange-skin wacky man while they listen to him boast about his tax plan and how they will make it happen for him.
The problem, of course, is that both Senators Corker and Flake, as well as Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush, not to mention a few others, are pretty much acting like the waitress in “Maximum Overdrive” that lost all sanity when it came to the current insanity of the world.  They are the ones that are now running out screaming “You can’t do this!  We made you!”
And the sad fact of the matter is that, if they themselves didn’t create the political monstrosity that is Donald Trump and his red-hat-wearing Trumpets, then they certainly prospered from it.
The wave of pro-corporate populism can be traced back to the infamous Powell Memorandum of 1971. Prior to being nominated to the Supreme Court, Lewis Powell III sent a memo to the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he described the American Free Enterprise system as being “under attack”, and outlined what needed to be done. Those measures were eventually put into place, which included the removal of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in the 1980’s.  This allowed conservative viewpoints to be introduced in the media without the required “equal time” counterpoint.
The removal of the “Fairness Doctrine”, while done under the pretext of free speech, gave rise to conservative media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, as well as the eventual creation of the Fox News cable news channel in 1996.  (Editor’s note: the online column Brutally Honest pre-dates Fox News by six months.)  Conservatives helped fuel the fire in the newly-converted during the 1990’s in their crusade against all things Clinton by being elected to office and going after President Clinton and his wife.  And then in the 2000’s, they rode the wave even further with their post-9/11 fearmongering and warmongering.  They were the ones that declared it was “wrong” and even possibly “illegal” for people to question “their” president.  They hammered in the notion that people must “obey” government, no matter what.  And then, during the two terms of President Barack Obama, they actively and hypocritically rebelled against the very President that they pompously declared was not “legitimate”.  They told their supporters to fight Obama and his programs by any means that they can.  They told the masses to “fight the establishment”, because, at the time, that was what Obama represented.  Obama represented the very “evil” that future-Justice Powell warned about four decades earlier.
In other words, folks, the conservatives and neo-conservatives and the rest of the GOP made Trump happen.  They created the groundswell of nationalistic populism that Donald Trump would eventually co-opt and transform into his army of red-hats that would propel him to be the GOP nominee and eventually President of the United States.
And all during the rise, men like Corker and Flake and Bush Junior said nothing of it, because they still believed that they could control this monster that they created.  Hell, John McCain actually contributed to it by naming flaky Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 and then said nothing as the monster began to surface. 
So now that we have a narcissistic bully in the White House, and armed nationalists marching like the fascists in 1920’s Italy, and nationalist terrorists driving cars into peaceful protests in at least two separate incidents, and Gold Star families and their supporters getting death threats, and armed nutcases attacking pizza parlors looking for fictional child victims in a basement that does not exist, and victims of shootings being told to their faces that they are paid actors that made up their tragedy, now that the ugliness of the GOP is coming out like the Mack truck with the huge Green Goblin grill ornament looking for victims to kill in “Maximum Overdrive”, now Corker and Flake and McCain and Bush Junior are crying foul.
No, I’m sorry you lot of Wanda June party players, but it’s too late to sound the alarm.  Your cohorts have already sold themselves like cheap prostitutes to the monster and have already accepted this as the “new normal”.  Your monster is circling the diner, and rather than making a stand, they’re pumping the gas.  And that’s all that they’ll do.
Let’s get brutally honest here… Corker and Flake and McCain and Bush Junior have no business crying foul now that the damage is already done.  People like myself have been warning this sort of stuff was happening for well over a decade now, but you sorry lot refuse to listen.  You gang of bitches and bastards knew precisely what you were getting into, and you said nothing about it.  You dismissed the worries and the complaints as you continued to prosper from the political carnage, and now that the monster has embarrassed you, you pretend to be innocent and pure, and that should not be allowed to stand.
Senator Flake’s declaration of resistance may have been a little more genuine if not for the fact that he made it quite clear that it comes after his book was released to explain his supposed “outrage”.  Oh, you didn’t know he had a book out?  Apparently a lot of people didn’t.  But now that he’s made his speech, that book is now soaring off the shelves.  How convenient.  How utterly “coincidental”.
Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, we are all in the madness of the real-world remake of “Maximum Overdrive”, only our monsters aren’t inanimate vehicles, but red-hat wearing followers of a political death-cult willing to destroy the world in order to “save” it.  And if you helped to make it happen, if you prospered from the insanity, then you have no moral claim to being outraged over how it has come to be.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Week of 10/23/2017

A House Of Cards Built On Sand
Having failed to carry out the demands of our narcissistic President of the United States when it came to repealing-and-replacing the Affordable Care Act, the bumbling clowns in the GOP-dominated Congress have decided to put their attention on something supposedly “easier”, like reforming our tax system. 
Right; as “easy” as doing long division in binary code without the help of a computer. 
Trump supposedly gave them a blueprint that would make things “so easier”, and “so much better” for the economy that they should have no question about whether or not they should enact it.  Here are some general ideas, you pass it this way, and we’ll have a robust economy like we’ve never had before, we’ll pay off the debt in no time flat, and we’ll have plenty of money to fix everything Trump wants fixed, including his infamous wall.  Well, just until he can force Mexico to pay for it.  Hell, they’ll even have plenty of money for Trump to wage war against Syria, Iran, North Korea, CNN, NBC, the New York Times, and Mother Nature for all of those hurricanes.
In Trump’s delusional echo chamber, of course, this should be a done deal.  No debate; no discussion; just pass the damn thing so Trump can sign it and move on to the next impossible task.
Unfortunately for the orange-skinned wacky man, nothing is as simple when it comes to the Congress.
First of all, Trump is not the first person in America to campaign on the promise of tax reform, nor would he be the last.  Our tax system is complex and complicated for a reason.  A primary reason is so that we, the fleeced Americans, would have to pay millions every year to tax preparers and accountants and financial software programs.  It’s also complex and complicated so that there can be a whole myriad of tax breaks and exceptions and exemptions that can be doled out like free tokens to political friends and allies.  Just look at all of the “incentives” being offered to Amazon for the various cities that would like to be their “second headquarters”.  We’re talking political prostitution on a level that would rival college sports recruiters in the corrupt old days.  These things would not be possible if the tax systems at all levels were “simple” like Trump thinks it would be.
The fact is, there is a game that is played when it comes to tax reform that Congress has not only perfected, but they actually used it recently when it came to their failed attempt to “repeal-and-replace” the Affordable Care Act.  They offer a block period where they can consider every and all programs in one huge marathon voting period.  Every proposed idea is put up for a vote, and it is guaranteed that every idea will get some support somewhere, but none of them will ever get enough of a vote to pass.  They could be as close as one vote shy of passage, but it will still just be one vote short.  They all fail.  Every single idea fails.  Every single reform vote fails.  Then they can throw their hands up and say “well, we tried”.  Every.  Single.  Time.
So what makes the narcissist Trump think that his ideas would somehow pass when every other attempt hasn’t?  Because he’s the goddamned President Donald “Grab-Em” Trump?  Because the cult that he acquired demands it?  Because he might throw another Twitter-tantrum if he doesn’t get his way again?
But there’s something else that I’ve talk about previously that completely undermines the GOP and Trump selling points of tax reform.
Longtime Brutally Honest readers and supporters know that I used to be an actual card-carrying member of the GOP.  I drank the purple GOP Kool-Aid when it came to ideas like tax reform.  I bought into the idea that Trump and his GOP cohorts and their soothsayers and propagandists have been peddling like the snake oil salespeople that they are that cutting taxes to the businesses and the tippy-top super-elite rich would help everyone.
It's called “Trickle-Down Economics”.  The idea being that if you give big companies and the super-wealthy tax breaks and tax cuts, they will then turn around and put that money into jobs and raises for everyone else.  This is the idea that was peddled like tickets to “get rich quick” seminars for countless decades, including and especially during the Great Recession.  Give “the rich” money and they’ll turn around and they would re-invest it.
Except there is a huge problem with this theory, and it rests with the word “would”. 
The more accurate word is “could”.
Yes, businesses and “the rich” *could* take the additional revenue from the tax cuts and re-invest it in new jobs and raises for the current jobs.  Then again, they also could take that money and purchase lottery tickets with it.  Or they could take that money and spend it on elite rock concerts and vacation venues.  Or they could give it to charities and claim it as a write-off.
But given the business world is dominated by the pervasive, persistent, and predatory philosophy of plunder, history has demonstrated that what businesses and “the rich” actually do is they take the money gained from tax breaks and tax cuts and they keep it for themselves.
Let’s get back to the Great Recession.  Remember the script about “fixing” that problem?  Bail out the banks, don’t let the execs go to prison, and they’ll free up the money for the recovery.  Give the tax breaks to corporations and they’ll use the money to hire the people that were laid off.  Did they actually do it?  Nope.  They took the money, claimed obscenely record profits, and then their representatives actually said that the economy was just “too unstable” to hire new people or give their employees raises.  They “may” hire people at some point in the future, but just not right now, and don’t pressure them on when that time would be.
In other words, they lied.  Or at the very least they turned their biggest supporters – the politicians and the media personalities promoting the script – into liars.  But, you know what they say: fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool America over and over again, welcome to politics, and aren’t we the biggest collection of suckers and prostitutes in the universe!
This is the keystone of Trump’s plan to help America, folks!  Help out Trump’s friends, and somehow it would help out the rest of the nation.  Only recent history has shown that it doesn’t work like that.  Give Trump’s friends the money from tax breaks and tax cuts, and they’ll keep it as profits, because that is the only thing that the business world is concerned with.  They don’t care about jobs; only profits.  They don’t care about raises; only profits.  They don’t care about people; only profits.
And the thing is... it doesn’t really help resolve the budget problem, because cutting taxes means cutting revenue, and the only way this can balance out would be if businesses follow through on that promise to create jobs and give raises.  However, as history has demonstrated, this is not going to happen.  Again, we saw this with the Great Recession, where corporations took the tax breaks, posted record profits, and still screwed over the hard-working Americans by not hiring and keeping wages painfully low.  So not only are the hard-working Americans who got conned into supporting Trump getting screwed over, but the career politicians in the GOP are screwed as well, because this affects their available revenue.  And that should be important because these are the people that claim to be “fiscally responsible”!
What makes this con game even more disgusting is that it is not the only one being played on us suckers.  It’s just one of many.  The whole healthcare “reform” program, both current and Trump’s version, are nothing more than ways to give the insurance companies and Big Pharma and Big Healthcare bigger profits at the expense of the struggling American people.  Trump’s much-promised wall wouldn’t really stop people in Mexico from coming over, but, if it is completed as he wants it to be, then it would be the largest man-made monument in America; one that, much like China’s, would be seen from space.  And everyone would know that it would be Trump’s.  (You folks didn’t think about that, did you?  We *are* dealing with a narcissist, you know.)  And we all think that regulations are “bad”, which is why Trump is able to put unqualified people in who happily dismantle those regulations... until someone dies or is maimed or is driven to bankruptcy and then we wonder how that could happen.
Let’s get brutally honest here... what we are dealing with is huge house of cards being built on a foundation of sand.  It’s something that cannot be sustained for very long.  And it’s not a matter of “if” it will fall, but “when”, and if the perpetrators are lucky, it will wait until they are out of office.
The really sad part is that none of this is new.  Well, Trump’s wall is, but that’s the only part that is unique to him.  The rest of it, the changes in the tax plan, the cutting of regulations, even the whole thing about fixing healthcare, all of this is vintage GOP.  This is the snake oil that was sold back when I was a member of the GOP all those decades ago, before the realization came in that this was not how the real world works.
That’s not to say that these are issues that don’t need to be resolved.  They certainly do.  But we need solutions that really work.  Offering the same solution that has proven through history to not work is not only a scam, but it is also the definition of insanity.  You can dress it up all you want to and have a celebrity TV personality pitching it, but it is still a scam.  And, quite frankly, we can ill-afford to be led down the same road again after the last time.