Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Republican Party in Plain Sight

[Apologies for the length of this post, but I did not invent these people, and, with the midterm election just around the corner, it is important that these Republicans get as much exposure among rational people as possible. Then, you’ll know what to do.]

Over the past few months I have been collecting stories about some of the candidates the Republican Party has nominated for various positions in local, state and federal elections. I am going to share some of those stories with you now. Taking a quote from the humorist Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

Let’s start with South Carolina. An article published August 31, 2018 in The Hill.com [https://bit.ly/2wARLRs] reports,

One candidate in the Hilton Head, S.C., mayoral race is a self-described “Holocaust revisionist” who has denied facts of the mass genocide of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Another praised the leadership style of Adolf Hitler.

Michael Santomauro, a libertarian-leaning Republican, has made his career out of publishing and distributing Holocaust denial literature, The Post and Courier reported Thursday. The Island Packet noted earlier this month that he runs a website called RePortersNoteBook.com – offering rewards to people who can disprove the validity of Holocaust events like the number of those killed or the existence of Nazi gas chambers at extermination camps.

Santomauro told the Post and Courier that political correctness “has gotten out of hand” and that he voted for President Trump in the 2016 presidential election. “He has never run for public office before but said he felt that “with Trump being in the air, that maybe this is my moment.”

Trump “in the air.” I knew something smelled like rotten fish lately.

Santomauro is facing six competitors for mayor on the coastal island and has been denounced by some observers. But,

One of [Santomauro’s] competitors … Rochelle Williams said she admired Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s leadership. “He did what he had to do,” Williams said while being interviewed for her job at a free summer lunch program for children in need. “He got that many people to follow him. He must have been doing something right.” Williams said she liked Hitler’s ability to control his constituents. “I like the power part, I guess, the control part,” she said.

I told you I was not making this up. Not in my wildest imagination could I conceive of a person being that confused and still seeking public office. How do people like this get through a day? The paper reported that Williams’ political party is unknown, but it’s safe to believe she’s not a Democrat, soooo….

But that’s not all. Oh no, not even close to all. The same article reports that,

Arthur Jones, the former head of the American Nazi Party, was the only Republican candidate in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district outside of Chicago. [emphasis added]

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how you get to be the Republican nominee for anything? Just walk in and give the right salute?

But, wait, there is more.

In California, one John Fitzgerald finished second in a top-two primary with nearly 25 percent of the vote (more than 20,000 votes) and will challenge incumbent Democrat Mark DeSaulnier in November. https://bit.ly/2PsjdbU  After Fitzgerald was nominated, the California Republican Party stated they “do not support the Holocaust-denier” despite his running as a Republican. [emphasis added]

According to Newsweek,

the California Republican Party’s Board of Directors took swift and decisive action to eliminate any support for John Fitzgerald due to anti-Semitic comments he made recently—those views have no home in the Republican Party,” a statement said in May.

In response, Fitzgerald posted on his website: “I am not an anti-Semite by any means. I am strictly an honest and ethical person who has the temerity to state fact.” [emphasis added]

And there is more; according to Forward.com,

The California GOP also condemned white supremacist Senate candidate Patrick Little and banned him from their state convention. In Illinois, former American Nazi Party leader Arthur Jones won the Republican nomination for a House of Representatives race after no other candidates ran in a heavily-Democratic district. The state party later said it would back another candidate as a write-in. And in Wisconsin, businessman Paul Nehlen, who was banned from Twitter for anti-Semitism and racism, is the most prominent Republican candidate to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan.

While local Republican Party organizations appear to be trying to avoid overtly supporting racist, Nazi-sympathizing anti-Semite holocaust deniers, they have failed to explain why these types of people are attracted to the Republican Party in the first place.

One explanation is that these people see the Republican Party as already populated by sympathizers to their rewriting of history. For a prominent example, Rep. Steve King of Iowa retweeted a British neo-Nazi in June. The original author of the tweet is reportedly “one of Britain’s most high-profile white supremacists. He has expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and has called himself a “Nazi sympathizer.” https://bit.ly/2PpH5N8  Curiously, or maybe not,

King’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment … as to whether he condones the views of neo-Nazis, whether he’s concerned his views align with those of neo-Nazis or whether a U.S. congressman should be amplifying a neo-Nazi on Twitter. King’s office also did not respond when asked if the congressman considers himself a white nationalist. The tweet, posted early Tuesday morning, hasn’t been deleted [six days after posting].

….

HuffPost first asked King whether he considers himself a white nationalist back in December, after he tweeted “Diversity is not our strength,” a phrase used for years by prominent racists and anti-Semites like David Duke. He didn’t respond then either. [emphasis added]

According to the cited article, “King has said America should not apologize for slavery, has suggested that the country’s first black president was born in Kenya and has argued that most undocumented immigrants are “drug mules.””

He has also repeatedly expressed admiration for Geert Wilders, the far-right and virulently Islamophobic Dutch politician who has called for banning all mosques and Islamic symbols from the Netherlands. And in March 2017, King tweeted, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.

So, maybe it’s as simple as Nazi sympathizers and racists see people like King in Congress and conclude “I can be there as a Republican too.” And, while some local Republican Party groups have refused to actively support such candidates, the national Republican Party has remained almost entirely silent while its leader, Donald Trump, continues to pursue policies that tend to normalize the extreme views of people like King, Little, Nehlen, Fitzgerald, Jones and Santomauro.

The end result may be that for many Republicans of the more traditional, non-Trumpist kind, the continued acceptance of such people reinforces the tendency to accept even more of them. See What If the Trump Era Represents the New Normal? by Cass Sunstein in https://bloom.bg/2wAGv7z

Evidence for that idea also comes from the two-time refusal of the Republican-dominated Tennessee legislature to move resolutions condemning neo-Nazi activities. https://bit.ly/2PsNdEA The Republicans would not even second a motion so that debate could occur. The story authors wrote:

Condemning Nazis seems like it should be easy to do. But Republicans at the state level seem to be marching in lockstep with Trump, the national leader of the party. When he refuses to directly repudiate or condemn Nazis, despite their support of ethnic cleansing and mass murder, that message trickles down to the state level. The Republican embrace results in legislative impotence, where even a lopsided body cannot find a way to act against obvious hate.

When Tennessee Republicans give neo-Nazis a pass, they have learned it by watching Trump.

More evidence for the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party across the country comes from Kansas, often referred to as the American heartland. The Kansas City Star Editorial Board observed that “it was no fluke that Steve “Hitler was right” West trounced his three rivals in his GOP Missouri House primary, receiving more than twice as many votes as his closest competitor.” https://bit.ly/2CcOf5S Noting that voters might somehow have missed West’s “race-baiting, anti-Semitic radio show” or his “extremist website or his alter egos, which include “Jack Justice” and “Hollywood Hymee,” as well as his “chronic failure to pay child support,” the paper noted that they couldn’t have missed his platform that was “unapologetically anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT.”

a year after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, GOP primary voters in his Kansas City and Gladstone district had to have known who and what they were choosing. To believe otherwise is to believe that they randomly went overwhelmingly for the only one in the race who was campaigning on hate.

Then, there is the endorsement by the Miami Herald of a Republican candidate for the House seat being vacated by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which candidate, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, says,

she was taken aboard a spaceship as a young girl by blond extraterrestrials who resembled the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. She says they told her that the “center of the world’s energy is Africa” and that thousands of non-human skulls were once discovered in a cave on the Mediterranean island of Malta. She has said she witnessed paranormal activity since then and saw a UFO at age 17. She also said she has been in touch with the aliens telepathically long after the abduction.

https://bit.ly/2oGmXLm Rodriguez Aguilera maintains that her story of kidnapping when she was 7 years old “does not define her.” I beg to differ but what do I know. I was never, to my knowledge, kidnapped by aliens. And, if I were running for public office, would I admit it?

The Herald explained its decision to endorse by noting that two of the candidates had not participated in the paper’s endorsement process and that the others were “unprepared or unqualified.” This, of course, raises the important question of what one must do to be “unqualified” for Congress in Florida? Only the Miami Herald knows.

Some clarity may be gained from another story that a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives admitted that she faked her education. https://bit.ly/2NOPj0O She insisted that in faking her diploma

It was not my intent to deceive or mislead anyone. I made a mistake in saying that I completed my degree. What I did was wrong and set a bad example for someone seeking public service. I am staying in the race and intend to win and lead by example from now on[emphasis added]

The next day, however, reason, or something, prevailed and she dropped out of the race. https://nyti.ms/2KSedKW

If she did not intend to “deceive or mislead,” one can only wonder what she did “intend” to do. By and large, everyone knows whether they graduated from college or not. The degree she claimed to have earned was not even offered by the school whose diploma she purported to display. The Republican concept of “intent” remains a complete mystery. Intent is, of course, also at the center of the obstruction of justice case against Donald Trump. The legal question is whether he had “corrupt intent.” According to the Republican understanding of language, it seems one can lie like a banshee but not “intend” to lie.

Final Reminder: I am not making this stuff up.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania a county GOP secretary, Carla Maloney, called black NFL players “baboons” in Facebook posts in 2017, in protest of black NFL players kneeling or staying the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. https://bit.ly/2PoiKaH

Tired of these over paid ignorant blacks telling me what I should believe in. I will tell you what I believe in and that is our Flag the National Anthem and America period end of story.” …. “You don’t like it here go to Africa see how you like it there. We are all Americans not African American not Hispanic American. WE ARE ALL AMERICAN.

Missing the irony completely,

Maloney complained about “reverse racism” in America and said she was “sick of the name calling, rioting, shooting, and looting.” She predicted a civil war “soon than later.”

Further in the thread, Maloney turned her anger toward the Steelers and her racist language grew even harsher.

“Steelers are now just as bad as the rest of the over paid baboons. You respect your flag, country and our national anthem. How many men and women have lost limbs or died to protect this country and you baboons want respect,” she wrote. “If you want respect you need to earn it and so far you haven’t. Stop watching, or going to a game and paying for over priced food, water and tickets. Let’s see how the baboons get paid when white people stop paying their salaries.”

In a another curious phrasing, the head of the Republican Committee of Beaver County reportedly said, “Those comments do not reflect the opinions of the Republican Party as a whole.” [emphasis added] This phrasing certainly implies that the comments do reflect a portion of the opinions of the local Republican Party.

He also reportedly said Maloney “is certainly apologetic that she put that persona out there about herself.” That “apology,” not delivered by Maloney herself, appears to be merely a regret that she published a racist attitude, not that she regrets holding such views. In her resignation letter, she did say her comments were “distasteful, inappropriate and insensitive.” https://cbsn.ws/2Cg0pL4 One wonders why she did not recognize that before she posted. It wasn’t a close question. In any case, she’s out of office for now.

Moving from the theater of the absurd to the truly out-of-this-world, we have the case of a

Texas minister, Gloria Copeland, who sat on the Trump campaign’s evangelical executive advisory board, [and] denied the country is in the midst of a severe flu outbreak in a Facebook video that went viral because, “Jesus himself is our flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of the flu.

We have a duck season, a deer season, but we don’t have a flu season and don’t receive it when someone threatens you with ‘everybody is getting the flu,'” Copeland added. “We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on. And by his stripes we are healed.”

https://politi.co/2Q5bGRe You may be reassured to know that

Public health experts immediately panned the remarks while some other members of the evangelical board distanced themselves from the comments. “We don’t agree with that statement,” said Johnnie Moore, the unofficial spokesman for the panel during the campaign who frequently meets with White House officials on policy and engagement with the evangelical community. “I don’t know a single person in the White House who would agree with that.”

I think I know one. But I’m not telling.

According to Politico, the White House declined to comment and referred the questions to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which then failed to respond.

Every time I see something like this, I am reminded of the Republican article of faith that the states and localities are the true heart of the republic and that power should rest largely there rather than in the big, bad federal government.

The evangelical approach to preventing flu is perhaps not altogether surprising, given that a U.S. Senator who happens to be a doctor (Rand Paul) is on record saying that vaccines can lead to “mental disorders” and therefore there is an “issue of freedom” involved. https://nbcnews.to/2M0qUnq Aligning himself with that paragon of Republican virtue and deep thinking, Chris Christie, Sen. Paul’s position is that parents should be able to decide in an undefined set of circumstances whether their children are vaccinated. Public health authorities do not agree with these approaches, of course, because dangerous infectious diseases are easily spread if children are not vaccinated with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone. But, hey, what’s more local than letting parents decide not to protect their child and thereby expose everyone else’s child to preventable, dangerous illnesses?

 

CVS Customer Service Fail

Back in 2014, I was very impressed with the CVS drugstore chain’s decision to stop selling tobacco. It was the first national retail pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products in all its stores with a claimed loss of $2 billion in sales. That’s a lot of money. And a lot of tobacco. Good for CVS. The company later reported that the decision was associated with a measurable reduction in cigarette sales in areas where CVS had at least a 15 percent share in the retail pharmacy market. https://bit.ly/2MCbzP7

As a regular user of CVS’s pharmacy services, I also buy a lot of other merchandise from their stores. One of the items I bought in June of this year was a package of cotton “rounds.” It looks like this, Beauty 360 being the CVS house brand:

Here is an email I sent CVS about the ensuing problem with the packaging:

The rounds come in a plastic tube designed to be opened at one end to remove the rounds as needed. I placed this package on a rack in my bathroom such that the package rested against the wall. … The package literally dissolved in the humidity of the bathroom and stuck to the wall. I have tried soaking it to scrape it off to no avail. It just damaged the paint.

I can only assume this has happened to others, but in any case, since it is CVS’s brand product, I look forward to your advice as to how to remove the plastic from the wall without damaging the wall. As renters, asking the building to do this could prove very expensive.

There ensued a short series of emails in which CVS asked me to return the product, which they would replace. I did. On July 6. They didn’t. By emails, CVS indicated they were testing the product to verify what I had reported. Weeks passed. More emails were exchanged in which I told CVS that I was not prepared to wait indefinitely for a response as to how the plastic could safely be removed from the wall. Silence.

I always wonder what goes on behind the scenes in large companies like CVS. Its stores are ubiquitous in the Washington area, where I previously lived, and in New York City. The company was reasonably quick to respond to my initial complaint but then, perhaps faced with confirmation of the validity of my complaint, decided to simply ignore me.

One thing is certainly true. I will not be ignored. And, thus, we are here, using the only tool at my disposal to try to shame CVS into responding to my documented complaint about a product sold under its brand. This is not the end of this saga but the beginning. I intend to file complaints in the near future with the Better Business Bureau and such other consumer protection agencies in New York City as I can find. CVS, this could all have been avoided if you had just acted responsibly.

 

Democrats, & Everyone Else, Should Calm Down About Ocasio-Cortez’s “Socialism”

The Republicans, of course, will not calm down about “socialism.” They will see it as the end of life itself, an evil so devious and pestilent that they dare not be alone in a room with it. Since her surprise, upset victory in the New York Democratic primaries, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who herself seemed shocked at the election result, has been making the rounds of TV and other interviews. Journalists, real and cable phonies, have been trying to figure out what she believes and, at least on the Republican side of the ledger, trying to make her look bad.

Ocasio-Cortez has indeed made some gaffes in a few interviews mistaking the total military budget figure for the increase in military funding. Judging by the reaction on the right, you would think she was the first political figure to do this and that the mistakes were likely to disturb Earth’s orbit with their gravity.

There is a pattern in these attacks. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/us/politics/women-harassment-elections.html And Ocasio-Cortez is not the only target. https://nyti.ms/2MPLz26 There appears to be a deep-seated and widespread fear among some men that women are, once again, stepping out of line by engaging in actions these bozos believe should be an entitlement reserved for men. This is partly a failure among men to understand biology and evolution. The rest is probably cultural. In any case, candidates like Ocasio-Cortez are not intimidated and may even be stimulated to more aggressive role seeking as a result of the attacks. https://bit.ly/2wMzoZZ

Whatever the root causes for such antediluvian attitudes, they will almost certainly fail to restore the male sense of entitled dominance. If manly status depends on subordination of females rather than earned merit, it is bound to lose the competition in the long run.

The hysteria about Ocasio-Cortez also reflects a basic failure to understand how Washington works. It is easy to adopt cute words and phrases like “drain the swamp” and to use “bureaucrat” with negative connotation. And, of course, Ocasio-Cortez is a “socialist!” OMG, a socialist in our midst. Run for your lives.

No doubt, Ocasio-Cortez’ agenda contains some “radical” ideas. But, so what? She’s not advocating the violent overthrow of the government. And, this being my main point, no one in the Washington power structure can be effective with any agenda without the active collaboration/cooperation/acceptance of many others. That lesson is one that Donald Trump has an impossible time learning and it explains in part why he has failed to achieve almost all of his “agenda.”

Ocasio-Cortez most likely already understands the challenges of promoting legislation at the “edge” of accepted practice. In addition to being female and non-white, both among the reasons for the backlash, she is intelligent and articulate. Harboring illusions about the ease of promoting edgy ideas like health care for everyone seems at odds with her when viewed as a complete person.

Finally, if her ideas are so crazy, disruptive, unthinkably insane, unworkable, why are so many people afraid they will gain traction? Glenn Beck, who, amazingly, seems to still have credibility with some people, called Ocasio-Cortez’s political ideas “diet Communism.” https://bit.ly/2LLiZiC If so, she is doing nothing to conceal them, so the fear of the “enemy within” is more than a little exaggerated. If people like Beck really do, as they claim, believe in democracy, they should be willing to abide the presence of “socialism” in the marketplace of ideas and let the people decide how much of it they want.

A couple of thoughtful articles that are worth reading about socialism in 2018 are “The New Socialist” by Corey Robin, professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, https://nyti.ms/2o9KnIK; “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming,” by Michelle Goldberg, https://nyti.ms/2tU4ey7; and “It’s not just New Deal liberalism,” by Meagan Day, https://bit.ly/2LLiZiC

Rather than closing our minds in fear of “socialism,” we should be open to new ideas about the role of government, the role of the people and the ways our system of government might be improved for all the people rather than just the entitled few at the top of the social/economic tower.