Sometimes Someone Does the Right Thing for All the Wrong Reasons

President Drumpf and Kim Jong Un met last night (Tuesday morning their time) in Singapore. What will come out of it? Who knows? Even if they come to an ostensible agreement, it’s a long way to that actually meaning something. It’s a long way to actually denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Here’s the sad thing. President Drumpf isn’t there to make the world a safer place for all of us. He’s there for self-aggrandizement. He wants what Obama has, which is a Nobel Peace Prize. [1] A number of Republican Congressmen already nominated him for the prize last month, when the summit was initially scheduled and before anything else had happened.

Believe me when I tell you that it pains me to say this, but if President Drumpf could get a formal peace treaty between the two Korea’s[2] and get the peninsula denuclearized, he might actually deserve a Nobel.

Sometimes someone can do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

Regardless of what happens at the Summit, it’s only the first step in a long process. The United States and North Korea still have very different expectations for the summit.  The Drumpf administration has announced that anything short of immediate, verifiable and irrevocable denuclearization on North Korea’s part will not lead to the lifting of any sanctions.  North Korea, as pundits have articulated, expects to make discrete steps and expects each of those steps to be rewarded. And, as historians have reminded us, North Korea has reneged on agreements before.

So, we’ll see. But remarkably enough, it appears to be a step in the right direction. And Donald J. Drumpf is involved. Who knew?

[1] Count me among those who thinks that Obama didn’t deserve his Nobel Prize. According to the Committee, Obama received the Nobel for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” They also cited promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world. Personally, I think Obama got the prize mostly for being elected President while being black.

[2] Although there is a Korean Armistice Agreement, signed back on July 27, 1953, that never turned into an official peace treaty between the two Korea’s.

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Propaganda in action: Fox News use of Kneeling Eagles

Here at the Skeptic’s blog we have long promised to expose examples of propaganda where we find it, and nothing could be much more delicious than catching Fox News redhanded.

As some of you may recall, Donald Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House since it became obvious that fewer than 10 players were going to show up.[1]

The Donald, to fire up his base, turned it into a patriotic exercise, and Fox News, to pour gasoline on the flames, showed a picture of a praying Zach Ertz and another picture of a group of players praying as proof that they had kneeled in disrespect of the anthem.

The only problem was, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the few teams that had no players kneel during the anthem throughout the entire 2017-18 season.


I’m not sure if Fox News didn’t think that any of the players would notice the discrepancy, or if they were just so eager to rush in with their extra container of gasoline that they didn’t have time to check the facts.

So there it is, my friends. Propaganda in action. If the lie hadn’t been so obvious, they probably would have gotten away with it. I’m sure there are still millions of Fox viewers and Trump supporters who will continue to believe that the praying players were out there disrespecting the flag.

[1] In the middle of their contentious NBA play-off, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have already agreed on one thing: neither team is going to the White House when either one wins the championship. Courtesy of LeBron James and Steph Curry.

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Both Sons of Privilege, and yet so Different

As many have heard on the news, it’s been 50 years since Bobby Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.[1]

I was thinking today about the differences between Kennedy and our current President, one Donald John Drumpf. Consider:

  • Both are white men born of extreme privilege;
  • Both had fathers who were real assholes;
  • Both got an early start in what was essentially the family business.

And yet, they could not have turned out more differently.

What was the reason. Certainly, Bobby had some thing in spades that Drumpf does not: compassion. For his part, Drumpf is almost completely lacking in compassion. So much so, that one could argue that he is a sociopath.

I’m not a Kennedy apologist, and I’m well aware of the family shortcomings. But it is interesting to contemplate how history might be different if Bobby K had not been assassinated and had actually won the Presidency. There surely would have been a different course for the conflict in Vietnam.[2]

[1] For those of you who don’t remember, Sirhan was essentially an early model for what has now become the “Arab terrorist.” A Jordanian-born Palestinian, Sirhan assassinated Kennedy almost exactly one year after the beginning of the 1967 six-day war, in which the Arabs were just stunned by the efficient Israeli army. Bobby had promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel if elected president. Sirhan had obsessed about this possibility, and it became the focus of his anger.

[2] I have yet to meet someone who went to Vietnam as part of the American military who didn’t get their brain scrambled there. It was the defining issue for my generation, and the country was at least as divided then as it is now.

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WTF, Eric Schneiderman?

It came as a bit of shock when, at the beginning of the week, I found out that crusading Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had suddenly resigned from his office because of accusations from four women with whom Schneiderman had had personal romantic relationships with that he had been abusive in those relationships.

What the fuck, Eric Schneiderman?

This is the same Eric Schneiderman who has been championing the Me-too Movement, prosecuting Harvey Weinstein, and taking on Donald Trump over and over again, including for his sham Trump University.

That Eric Schneiderman?

Schneiderman claimed that he had engaged in consensual “role playing” in the intimacy of his own personal relationships. The women claimed he had just assaulted them.

I believe the women.

Two of them have identified themselves as of this writing: the blogger and activist Michelle Manning Barish, and the author and actor Tanya Selvaratnam.  Two have not.

So, as readers of the blog know, I have frequently outed Republican hypocrisy under the heading “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.” But not in this case.

If there is any man who should have known better, Eric Schneiderman is that man.  Not only did he victimize four women, but he completely undermined the things that he was fighting for.

What the fuck was he thinking?

And what is it with being the Attorney General of New York? This path – crusading reformer hoisted up by his own penis – is one that was previously tread by Eliot Spitzer, who eventually had to resign when it was discovered that he had been frequenting a “high class” prostitute by the name of Ashley Dupré.

What the fuck, Eric Schneiderman?

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President Moron-in-Chief pulls out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Most of you heard the news on Tuesday that President Moron in Chief had withdrawn the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Back in July of 2015, I posted an entry asking the detractors of the Joint Plan eight questions, which, of course, no one answered. Donald Trump has been opinionating for years that the Plan was the “worst deal” ever negotiated, and made it one of the cornerstones of his campaign promises to withdraw the United States from the plan. In all that time, he never explained what was so bad about the deal, although we’re finally beginning to have some insight into that based on what he said on Tuesday.

What is the Joint Plan?

The Joint Plan is an agreement not just between Iran and the United States, but also including Great Britain, Germany, France, and most significantly, China and Russia. It took 20 months to negotiate the plan, and followed a previous interim deal (which somewhat confusingly was known as the Joint Plan of Action as opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).  In essence, the Plan lifts previously imposed sanctions on the Iranian regime in exchange for the Iranian’s offer to stop development of nuclear weapons for a period of 15 years. Iran also agreed to dismantle some of what they had built and agreed to a rigorous program of inspection.

Why Does Trump Hate the Plan so Much?

The answer to that question, most probably, is that it was negotiated on the American part by the administration of Barack Obama.[1] But at least yesterday Trump identified three objections: (1) that it was not permanent, (2) that it didn’t include a ban on developing ballistic missiles, and (3) that it didn’t prevent Iran from acting as a proxy in the Middle East. So, let’s take these objections one at a time:

  1. Temporary Nature of the Agreement: I’m not sure why this is a fatal flaw. A lot of agreements are temporary. Over fifteen years, that would have been plenty of opportunity to determine whether the agreement was working, and to negotiate either an extension or a new agreement as the old one came to a close. Fifteen years is a life-time in politics.
  2. Non-Inclusion of Ballistic Missiles: these missiles, for the uninitiated, are long range missiles that can be used to deliver warheads. Not just nuclear warheads, but any kind of warheads. Now, it would have been nice if a prohibition on the development of ballistic missiles was included in the agreement, but clearly the Iranians weren’t willing to agree to that. They were negotiating against six other competent nations. If those nations, collectively, had thought this was a deal-breaker, then the deal would not have been struck.
  3. Iranian activity through Middle East Proxies: you know who else has proxies in the Middle East? The United States. And Russia. And China. And Great Britain and France. These questions are all interpretive, of what counts as a proxy. It’s not clear how any of this should be measured. Or prohibited. It would be like prohibiting lobbying. You could prohibit the formal aspects of it, I suppose, but lobbying would still take place, just under a different guise.

So, like all agreements, the Joint Comprehensive Plan was not a perfect agreement, but it did exactly what it’s authors wanted: it got the Iranians to stop developing a nuclear weapon. And on the Iranian side, it gave them a chance to revive their economy.

Who were the Winners from the Withdrawal?

  • Iranian hardliners.
  • The Chinese.
  • The Russians.
  • Bibi Netanyahu.

In other words, not really the people you want to have winning right now.

Who were the Losers from the Withdrawal?

  • Boeing, which isn’t going to get to sell jets already on order to the Iranians.
  • Iranian moderates.
  • The reputation of the United States of America.
  • France, Germany, Great Britain, and the companies they have doing business in Iran.
  • American consumers, especially those of us who buy gasoline and enjoy low prices.
  • Anybody interested in Middle East stability and world peace.
  • Anybody who thinks we might be able to come to some agreement with North Korea.

What are the Iranians and the Europeans Going to Do Now?

Who the hell knows. They’re definitely not happy. The Europeans will probably try to keep as much of the deal intact as possible, but it will get tricky.  What happens when the United States starts to sanction European countries doing business with Iran?

And what is Hassan Rouhani going to do now? Who knows? It’s not exactly like his economy is going gangbusters. He had enough to do to keep his economy on track. This will definitely not help.

And why? Most likely because little-hands Donald J. Trump is still jealous of Barack Obama, and is still obsessed with wiping out his legacy.

In the meantime the Chinese and Russians get to expand their sphere of influence in the Middle East. Hey Trump supporters, are you tired of all that winning yet?

[1] Former Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry was the public negotiator and signatory of the deal on behalf of the United States.

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Hypocrisy on display (again!) after White House Correspondent’s Dinner

Last Saturday night we had the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, which seemed to generate a little controversy because of the monologue provided by Michelle Wolf. I don’t like to judge things without seeing them, so I decided to take a look for myself.  (It was broadcast on C-Spann, so very few of us saw it live, ha ha!)

Here’s my take on it:

  • It definitely had an edge, and was arguably a little bit one-sided. Past correspondent’s roasts were usually distributing the jokes a little more generously around the room, including the press itself, and also both parties.
  • Michelle didn’t say anything that was meaner or any more inappropriate than many of the things said by our current Commander in Chief. One could argue (as many have) that things that Trump has said things that are much worse.
  • Compare to some other legendary routines, such as those of Seth Meyers or Stephen Colbert, I thought that Michelle’s routine was more uneven. There was some funny stuff, but also a lot of things that didn’t seem that funny to me. I didn’t actually get the “smoky eye” routine about Sarah Huckster Sanders, other than that she was calling her out for being a blatant and unrepentant liar (which she is).[1]

The Correspondent’s Association has been in existence since 1914, and the dinner has been held since 1921. It didn’t really become that much of a “thing” until comedians started delivering the headline speech, which began in 1983. At that point the dinner took on more of the flavor of a roast. Some of the people who have headlined include:

  • Rich Little (1984, 2007)
  • Jay Leno (1987, 2000, 2004, 2010)
  • Paula Poundstone (1992)
  • Al Fanken (1994, 1996)
  • Conan O’Brien (1995, 2013)
  • Jon Stewart (1997)
  • Darrell Hammond (2001)
  • Drew Carey (2002)
  • Stephen Colbert (2006)
  • Craig Ferguson (2008)
  • Wanda Sykes (2009)
  • Seth Meyers (2011)
  • Jimmy Kimmell (2012)
  • Joel McHale (2014)
  • Cecily Strong (2015)
  • Larry Wilmore (2016)
  • Hassan Minajh (2017)

The line-up has obviously been pretty strong in Daily Show alumni, especially in the last decade.  And for the second year in a row, Trump didn’t show up.[2]

Democrats and progressives have been somewhat amused that the Trump “fuck your feelings” crowd have been so upset by the roast that Michelle Wolf delivered to Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckster Sanders, the two Trump staffers who actually had the courage to show up.[3] They’ve just been fulminating in apoplexy over on Fox and Friends.

It does make you wonder whether his crowd as actually heard any of the things that President Shithole has said over the last couple of years, both as a candidate and since arriving in the highest office in the land. We all thought they liked people who are not politically correct and “tell it like it is.”

Trump and his supporters poisoned the well, and now that Michelle Wolf was serving them some of their poisoned water, they were all like, oh my God, Michelle is serving us poisoned water!

No shit, Sherlocks.

Even so, I don’t disagree that at some point we’re going to have to turn over a new leaf and not serve each other poisoned cups of anything. But until the Republicans develop just a little bit of self-awareness of their towering, unmitigated hypocrisy, I don’t think we can get there.

[1] If you’re interested in checking out Seth Meyer’s routine, by comparison, you can check it out here. Meyers got in a lot of funny jabs at Trump, who managed to attend when he wasn’t President, but is too much of a chickenshit to attend now.

[2] Given that it’s an open secret that Trump decided to run in 2013 when he was roasted by Obama at that year’s event, one might think that he has some affinity for the event. Also, it does President’s the chance to deliver their own comedic performances. Obama and George W. Bush received very good reviews for some of their routines.

[3] Michelle had one of her best lines of the night when she said that she would have grabbed Trump to have him show up but that “Trump is the one pussy that you’re not allowed to grab.”

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The Smearing of Robert Mueller (Propaganda in Action)

Here at the blog we have promised to expose propaganda from time to time, and today we have a very clear example of it. It involves Sean Hannity at Fox “News” who, despite all his ethical lapses is, remarkably enough, still on the air.

Hannity has been on a one-man crusade against the Robert Mueller probe, echoing our sad President’s sentiments that this is all a Democrat-orchestrated witch hunt (despite the fact that the majority of people who are running or authorized the investigation, including Rod Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe and Mueller himself are all registered Republicans).

Lately, in their efforts to discredit Mueller, the right wing machine has been claiming that Mueller was part of the conspiracy to protect Whitey Bulger, and was directly responsible for keeping four innocent men in prison, two of whom died while still incarcerated.

You can see Sean Hannity make this claim (above) starting at about 4:13 in his fifteen-minute diatribe.  There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s try to unpack some of it.

  • Whitey Bulger, for those who don’t know, got a good deal of his notoriety for being a mob boss in Boston while his brother (“Billy Bulger”) was the President of the Massachusetts Senate. In a bit of a Cain and Abel story, Whitey turned out to be an informant for the FBI – a bit of a “no no” for a mob boss – and fled to California, where he escaped capture for a remarkable 16½ years.[1]
  • Joseph Salvati and three other men were convicted in Massachusetts for the 1965 murder of Teddy Deegan, a murder they did not commit. Although the FBI knew the identity of the actual murderers, two FBI informants (Vincent “Jimmy the Bear” Flemmi and Joe “The Animal” Barboza) provided the needed testimony to convict Salvati and the others. Flemmi was, in fact, one of the murderers; he was also the brother of Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who was one of Bulger’s closest associates and also an informant for the FBI.
  • Salvati was eventually vindicated after the extent of the FBI’s use of Whitey Bulger and his associate’s was exposed.
  • In a subsequent civil trial for wrongful imprisonment and certain civil rights statues, which was presided over by Judge Nancy Gertner,[2] Salvati was awarded over $100 million (which was the largest award of its kind at the time).

Now, while I had a vague recollection of this, I was reminded of this history via an article in the Boston Globe which detailed a heavy-weight battle between former Judge Gertner and Alan Dershowitz, the legendary Harvard Professor and agent provocateur who made his fame defending the likes of Claus von Bülow. Dershowitz, who loves nothing like the spotlight, has recently been making waves by arguing legalities in defense of Trump. And Dershowitz provided Hannity with some of the “evidence” that led Hannity to conclude that Mueller conspired to let four innocent men rot in jail.

Are you still with me?

So here is the really interesting part: Gertner, having read every transcript and piece of evidence related to the Salvati case while she was presiding over the trial, said that Mueller’s name never came up.  He was not alleged to be part of the conspiracy, and there has been no credible evidence uncovered by anyone that he was.

That, however, has not led Sean Hannity to stop repeating the false accusation over and over again on his show.

Yes, the same Sean Hannity who was recently found to be the third of three clients of President Trump’s personal attorney, Andrew Cohen.[3]

Why can Sean Hannity get away with his blatant and obvious out-and-out lying on Fox “News”? It’s a good question, my friends.

And the answer is because Hannity is not part of the “news” department at Fox; what he offers is “commentary.” Which is a crucial distinction in the law of libel and slander.

However, a day of reckoning may be coming. Alex Jones was recently sued for continuing to repeat the lie that the murders of school children at Sandy Hook was a “staged event” by two of those parents. I can only hope and pray that they leave him bankrupt.

P.T. Barnum famously said “there’s a sucker born every minute.”[4] And let me tell you, my friends, we, the American voters, have been suckers for a long time. Not all of us, to be sure, but enough of us to bring you President Donald J. Trump.

[1] During this time he made it to the top of the FBI Wanted List.  The FBI took a huge public relations hit, especially in Boston, for essentially allowing Whitey to stay on as a crime boss, actively committing murders and other crimes, while they were getting inside information from him against other syndicates.

[2] Gertner was a legendary feminist and firebrand as a defense attorney before becoming a federal judge. While at Yale Law School, she was friends with Hillary Rodham (Clinton) and spent time with Bill Clinton.

[3] To his credit, Dershowitz subsequently went on Hannity’s show and told him on air that he should have revealed his conflict of interest to the public.

[4] Or maybe he didn’t say it because, let’s face it, some version of fake news has been around for quite some time.  But in any case, it’s been attributed to him.

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