Why liberals protest and Republicans stay home

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Even for a billionaire like George Soros, it must have cost a pretty penny to pay all those protesters and buy them all hats.

Concerned citizens have been antagonizing Republican lawmakers in state town halls for the past several weeks. Their concerns range from worry about how they’ll survive when Republicans take away their healthcare to wondering how our fragile civilization will survive with a lumbering, fascist orangutan in the White House. Republicans have done such a terrible job addressing their constituents’ concerns, many are simply skipping the events altogether.

So-called President Trump hasn’t tweeted much lately, but he did say, “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!” Trump is right that the confrontations are, to some extent, planned. That hardly makes them illegitimate. If Trump didn’t want to contend with an organized citizenry, he should not have sought public office in a democracy – even one as flawed as ours.

Republicans insist that protesters are paid agitators, even the millions of Americans who protested Trump’s inauguration. Protesting isn’t easy, so to believe that is to believe they’re being paid well. In reality, many protesters take time off from work to march, and many don’t have jobs with generous leave policies. Walking, shouting, braving harsh weather, making signs, risking a confrontation with the police – all of it is a sacrifice compelled by concern for the country and the world. Continue reading

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Trump may be more dangerous than anyone can fathom

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Trump is America’s first serious flirtation with a racist, nationalistic strongman.

One of the most curious aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is the way his supporters defend him. From televised surrogates to people on the street, there is a tendency to dismiss the most outlandish things Trump says as mere showmanship and to insist of his most bigoted and authoritarian proposals that he doesn’t really mean them. This is the opposite of most politicians. Usually it’s cause for concern that a candidate won’t meet his promises; in Trump’s case it’s supposed to be reassuring.

It isn’t. Nothing about the candidacy, policy proposals, personality, or tenor of the campaign of Donald J. Trump is reassuring. He is the only candidate in history to get the benefit of the doubt – that who he will be in office is better than who he is on the campaign trail. Far from expecting a toned-down Trump in the Oval Office, there is every reason to believe he will be much worse once elected. Continue reading

Impervious no more: How the media makes and unmakes Trump

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Trump formally announces his candidacy for president.

Donald Trump has been receiving some very bad headlines. Last week his poll numbers took their first serious hit after he fought with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a Muslim Army captain who heroically sacrificed himself in Iraq. He topped himself on August 9 by committing an act of stochastic terrorism, using his pulpit to plant an idea in supporters’ minds that assassinating Hillary Clinton might be a good idea.

What lasting effect any of this will have on him remains to be seen. His supporters are cult-like and he has proven almost impervious to bad publicity. Yet for a man who relentlessly seeks the spotlight and who recently said, “All press is good press,” Trump has long had a tumultuous relationship with the media. Continue reading

Against Trump’s fascism, art is the best weapon

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The artist was left with one hell of a black eye after an encounter with Trump supporters.

One of the great pieces of art that’s come out of this presidential campaign is a nude depiction of Donald Trump by artist Illma Gore. In the painting, Trump is cast as unflatteringly as possible. All he’s wearing is a gold bracelet while his fat gut sags almost low enough to cover a button-sized micropenis. Apparently Trump’s supporters are as thin-skinned as the man himself, because on April 29 a group of them assaulted Gore over her art. Continue reading

Donald Trump’s megalomaniacal war on the First Amendment

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If you protest at his rallies, this presidential frontrunner would really like to punch you in the face.

Much of the appeal in Donald Trump’s surreal presidential campaign comes from his willingness to speak his mind unfiltered. Supporters regard his flippant insults of political rivals, celebrities, and entire groups of people as courageous pushback against political correctness run amok. Given this it is perhaps ironic that one of the hallmarks of Trump’s platform is a megalomaniacal crusade against the First Amendment and the freedom of expression it guarantees.

In its entirety the First Amendment, perhaps the greatest pillar of our free society, reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  Trump tramples on each and every word. Continue reading

Corporate Christianity has a very bad week

Creflo Dollar, a televangelist at World Changers Church International, called on followers to help him purchase a $65 million luxury jet.

Creflo Dollar, a televangelist at World Changers Church International, called on followers to help him purchase a $65 million luxury jet.

For opponents of corporate Christianity and fans of schadenfreude, the last week has been a good one. Two high-profile stories put the entire for-profit Christianity enterprise up for public scrutiny. HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired a segment chronicling the shameless charade of televangelism – still a lucrative American enterprise – and Sam Rader, a popular Christian YouTube celebrity, was outed as a paid client of AshleyMadison.com, a site that seeks to help married people carry out an affair. Continue reading

Jerry Seinfeld confuses eye-rolling with head-shaking

Jerry Seinfeld has caught flack in the media for becoming a bit of a curmudgeon.

Jerry Seinfeld has caught flack in the media for becoming a bit of a curmudgeon.

Jerry Seinfeld is not too happy with young people. In a few recent appearances, including Late Night with Seth Meyers, the comedian bemoaned the tendency of millennials to disapprove of “politically incorrect” comedy. Using an audience’s muted reaction to a joke as his example, Seinfeld is worried hypersensitivity is damaging comedy as a profession and art form. Continue reading

Activists: use Indiana’s religious freedom law to let satirical religions flourish

The unbearable trauma felt by some Christian bakeries at having to top their cakes with adorable figurines like this one is why Indiana had to pass a law protecting their right to discriminate.

The unbearable trauma felt by some Christian bakeries at having to top their cakes with adorable figurines like this one is why Indiana had to pass a law protecting their right to discriminate.

In the mad race state legislatures are running to out-crazy one another, Indiana recently pulled into the lead with its Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill is articulated in such a way that it clearly offers provisos to private businesses allowing them to discriminate against clientele on the basis of religious belief. Widespread condemnations of the law ensued almost immediately, including boycotts from businesses, the band Wilco and the state of Connecticut.

Really, the law just demonstrates the hysterical victimization complex of the Christian right. It’s a rather remarkable situation where this entitled crowd is scoring legislative victories because their right to discriminate is being oppressed. Continue reading

Supreme Court chooses corporate freedom over personal freedom

On June 30, the Supreme Court handed down one of its most publicized decisions in years. In the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, the court insisted the “closely held” retail giant was under no obligation to provide its employees with certain kinds of contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a decision that’s being heralded on the right as an exemplar of constitutional adherence and derided on the left for being yet another barbarically regressive restriction on women’s access to healthcare.

It is much more the latter than it is the former.

Hobby Lobby is owned privately by the Green family, a phenomenally wealthy group of individuals who also claim to be devout Christians. They successfully argued that the portion of Obamacare mandating that an insurance plan cover contraceptives like birth control forced them to counter their religious beliefs.

The Green family may or may not actually be opposed to contraception on religious grounds, but their objection to the contraception mandate is purely an economic one. If they truly felt that contraception was an unconscionable evil, Hobby Lobby would not have $73 million invested in companies that produce it. The religious argument is an obvious smokescreen, meant to conjure up support from Christian conservatives and generate a thin constitutional argument.

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Protester Julia Mitchell holds up a sign as the Hobby Lobby case gets underway at the Supreme Court in March. The overt sexism of a case in which five men determined the fate of birth control for a whole nation’s females has been one of the most controversial aspects of the case. Image via ThinkProgress.

Another of the Supreme Court’s most famous recent decisions was in Citizens United v. FEC, where the court extended first amendment privileges to corporations. In doing so, the Supreme Court, and many of those who support Hobby Lobby’s cause, demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what a corporation is.

Regardless of whether it’s owned by shareholders or by a family – which is, presumably, what the court meant by “closely held,” although the term is probably intentionally vague so as to be applicable whenever a corporation wants to apply it – corporations are not “people” in need of Constitutional protection. They are, essentially, autocratic, private governments. They want the right to treat their employees anyway they see fit and govern their own affairs according to their own constitutions, and the Supreme Court, as well as countless right-wing commentators and legislators, want very dearly to give them that right.

Telling a corporation what to do is one of the greatest cardinal sins in the eyes of the right wing. Most Americans are in no position to negotiate at all, desperate to accept whatever they can for fear of being discarded by the system entirely as government aid is aggressively stripped away.

That arrangement is perfectly acceptable to Republican lawmakers, who have waged an out-and-out war on working Americans for a century. They talk of de-regulation, lowering taxes at the expense of government aid and slashing the minimum wage. Corporate profits and Wall Street earnings are as high as ever, and in many cases, much higher; but they still want more. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby is just one more case in which “liberty” and “freedom” have been hurriedly granted to the corporate giant requesting it and denied the poor people who really need it.

notachurchMother Jones ran the headline, “In Hobby Lobby Case, the Supreme Court Chooses Religion Over Science.” It’s easy to see what they mean – “birth control” is often associated with rampant, wanton sex, which the Christian right just can’t allow people to get away with. But birth control is actually a vital health need and an extremely useful method for proper family planning. The medical and social demands of birth control are more vital now than ever before, as the nation stagnates in widespread poverty and overflows with unwanted children who parents lack the means to care for and who lawmakers don’t want to help. But the science vs. religion interpretation of the case almost gives the court too much credit – the justices understand fully well that this case is really about the rights of employers to deny their employees benefits.

Another commentator argues that Hobby Lobby’s victory here should obligate them to provide excellent family benefits. If the women working for Hobby Lobby cannot afford birth control and end up with an unwanted pregnancy, will Hobby Lobby grant them leave? America lags woefully behind the rest of the developed world – and much of the underdeveloped world – in this department: parental leave, if granted at all, is often way too short, and working parents struggle with finding the time and the money to take care of their children. But those who are hopeful that Hobby Lobby will make up for the birth control deficit with outstanding family benefits ought not to hold their breath.

The for-profit dream is the formation of an America where corporations enjoy limitless profit, unburdened by the nagging costs of worker benefits, environmentally responsible production and livable wages. These good things have been fought ruthlessly by corporations under the pretense that corporate profit is good for everyone, and the more of it the better. But if corporations lobby extensively against environmental protections, operate massive propaganda campaigns dedicated to convincing Americans that government aid is bad, do everything they can to get out of paying taxes, and are willing to take a fight all the way to the Supreme Court over their intense desire not to spend money on basic healthcare for their workers, how much good is corporate profit really doing for society?

Hobby Lobby’s decision to fight against the contraception coverage mandate of Obamacare just goes to show how very concerned they are that their money not be used for anything that isn’t their own grotesque enrichment. That’s what that “individual spirit” Republicans are always talking about really refers to – people have to knock off this nasty habit they have of pestering employers for things like good wages, benefits, work/life ratio and a decent standard of living and earn those things for themselves.

Clearly, work is no longer the way to a good life. Marx was right to regard the employee-employer relationship as a profoundly antagonistic one. Many Americans “fortunate” enough to have jobs suffer from low wages, grueling hours, cruel bosses and ever-worsening benefits. Yet all we hear, even from commentators on the left, is how important it is to get Americans back to work, and how the way to do that is to make America better for business. With soaring profits and the Congress and Supreme Court on their side, it’s hard to imagine how much better things could really get for big business. The American people are the ones who are desperately in need of a victory right now, and the Hobby Lobby decision is a firm, forceful, sexist slap in the face of every single one of them.