Just before lunch this past Wednesday, a stone-cold Twitter Nazi apparently outed SpongeBob Squarepants (or at least the person running his Twitter feed) as a sympathizer. Yeah, it was that kind of a week. A whole barge of very bad crud came down the river while we were encompassing the farce that was Attorney General William Barr’s 43-hour “summary” of the 300-page Mueller report. Given the weight of a lot of the past week’s news, it’s worth taking a hard look back at the non-Mueller events that may have been missed.
Jeremy Richman, father of a student who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary seven years ago, was found dead of an apparent suicide on Monday. His death followed closely on suicides by a pair of teenagers who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but never emotionally recovered from the trauma. Even as Newtown and Parkland continued to bleed from wounds caused by the gun violence crisis, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was caught red-handed sharing their tactics for spinning public discourse after the bodies drop in piles.
An undercover investigation by Al Jazeera journalists captured video of NRA representatives teaching the fine art of gun spin to members of Australia’s far-right One Nation party months before the mass killing of Muslims at prayer in New Zealand. “Just shame them to the whole idea,” Lars Dalseide, public relations team member for the NRA, told One Nation representatives. “If your policy, isn’t good enough to stand on itself, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward. How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?”
Adding insult to injury, the NRA declared its opposition this week to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act here at home because they want men with domestic violence incidents on their record to be able to purchase firearms. “It is a shame that some in the gun-control community treat the severity of domestic violence so trivially that they are willing to use it as a tool to advance a political agenda,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker, taking a page straight from the playbook they were peddling to the fascists in Australia.
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before a House appropriations subcommittee in the guise of a Trojan horse stuffed with $7 billion worth of unspeakably cruel policy cuts. Among them was a proposal to eliminate the entire $17.5 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics. While there is nothing positive to say about such a pestiferous proposal — one so bad, in fact, that Trump reversed it on Thursday – the subcommittee hearing did provide the public an opportunity to watch Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) chase DeVos up a tree and set fire to the trunk.
Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court took up the question of partisan gerrymandering as it heard cases from Maryland and North Carolina. With the national pool of reliable Republican voters shrinking every year, the party has worked to stave off irrelevance by jiggering district maps in its favor all over the country, and the matter is now in the hands of a wildly political and right-leaning high court.
Adding a ripple of the surreal to the situation is the fact that normally astute court-watchers somehow seem to believe Justice Brett Kavanaugh – a lifelong partisan Republican hack of the first order – is leaning toward labeling the practice of gerrymandering unconstitutional. Sounds to me a bit like Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) saying he was against Trump’s emergency declaration right before he voted in favor of it. Yeah, I’ll be over here holding my breath, or, you know, not.
Tuesday wasn’t done with us quite yet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), in a ham-fisted attempt to jam Democrats on an issue most voters think he’s completely on the wrong side of, brought the Green New Deal to the floor for a vote. It was defeated, of course, after every Republican voted “No” and most every Democrat voted “Present” to protest McConnell’s chicanery. In the aftermath, the right-wing media fell all over themselves crowing about how the GND got “zero votes,” which, of course, twists the actual story. The real show, however, came in the guise of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who singlehandedly bent reality into new and thoroughly unrecognizable shapes.
“This,” crowed Lee, “is the real solution to climate change: babies. Climate change is an engineering problem – not social engineering, but the real kind. It’s a challenge of creativity, ingenuity, and technological invention. And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans.” While the concept of “Copulating For Climate Change” has its appeal, the farmers who just lost their crops to climate-driven flooding in the Midwest are in desperate need of actual solutions.
Meanwhile, the vote to override Trump’s veto of the bill to quash his border emergency declaration failed in the House by a vote of 248-181. With only 14 House Republicans joining the Democrats, the effort fell more than 100 votes short of the needed 290 for the override to succeed. As it was already defeated in the Senate, the declaration will stand unless and until a successful legal challenge is mounted, and as ever, the right-leaning Supreme Court will be waiting at the end of the process.
No review of a bad week would be complete without a peek at the various shenanigans President Shameless got up to after his pet attorney general’s non-exonerating exoneration. Trump, over the course of the week and in no particular order, groused to Republican senators about how much hurricane relief Puerto Rico was getting, presumably because he thinks that vitally necessary cash would be better spent on a totally useless wall meant to keep Brown people out of the country.
Trump also went on to declare yet another war on the Affordable Care Act to the abject horror of congressional Republicans, who are still picking up the pieces after losing the House in 2018 thanks in large degree to the issue of health care. They’ve already died once on that hill, and many do not relish another tussle on the subject during another election year. Trump, of course, could not possibly give less of a damn about what they want, and so of course, they will carry his fetid water even to their own electoral doom.
As ever, Trump’s Twitter escapades this past week delivered a full budget of horror, shame and confusion to the masses. Highlights include Trump’s tweet summarily dismissing new North Korea sanctions his own administration had just announced, which sent White House officials scrambling to explain how this particular water isn’t actually wet and we should all just ignore the president of the United States because the sanctions are still happening, which, as it turns out, is true.
Following that debacle was Trump’s declaration that he was sending the FBI to get to the bottom of the Jussie Smollett fiasco. “It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” he tweeted, clearly agitated by the agitation on Fox News over the dismissal of charges against the Black actor. Given the Bureau’s long record of abject racism in both policy and practice, the Feds’ involvement would not be good news for Chicago.
What fresh hell, indeed. One does not need a degree in spelunking to plumb the depths of all this. We live in an era of deliberate mayhem, a political funhouse where the mirrors are all cracked and the clowns enjoy lofty titles. Given the current state of the corporate news media – our very own organ grinders camped beside this dizzying calliope – it is dangerously easy to get lost in One Big Story and lose sight of so many others of equal or surpassing importance. We are all the proverbial Little Dutch Boy, with only 10 fingers and 11 holes in the dike.
The conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation and the subsequent Barr whitewash were important stories that took nearly two years to come to a head, but damn! A whole lot can happen when you don’t look around. Total vigilance today is thoroughly exhausting, and deadly necessary.
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