Bonfires of the Vanity

First, they flipped their lids, then they set them ablaze.  Trump supporters who feel they were burned by their hero’s tête-à-tête with Democrats are setting fire to their Make America Great Again hats by the rackful.  A private dinner with Chuck and Nancy?  Nice words about the Dreamers?  Neither was part of the bargain and loyal Trumpistas are letting the President know how angry they are with a storm of tweets and videos that show MAGA hats in various stages of immolation.  They can’t abide the fact the con man they voted for conned them.

“I have supported Trump since the day he announced his run for President and still support his agenda today,” one of them told Buzzfeed.  “I’m still on the Trump train; he’s not.”  The author did not comment on the wisdom of staying on a train after the conductor jumps off.  Another hat-burner vowed fidelity to the policies Trump said he supported but felt singed by Trump’s lack of conviction.  “I do support his policies that he once stated and campaigned on,” declared the lid-lighter, “but his recent rhetoric is troubling for me and other white Americans.”  An Indianapolis teenager who is too young to vote – or think – said Trump’s apparent willingness to provide “Dreamers” with legal status drove him to flick his Bic.  “So far, he’s pretty much reversed his stance on immigration by keeping DACA and not building a real wall, intervened in the Middle East, sold weapons to the Saudis, stayed in NATO, stayed in NAFTA, and so much more that I could just go on and on about,” he wrote in an email to Buzzfeed, adding, “the DACA deal just sent me over the edge.”  It’s not hard to speculate that all these burning hats made relatively small fires.

The recent spasm of hat-burning is actually good news from a Trump merchandise perspective because every hat-burner is a potential repeat customer.  Sure, they’re angry now, but as soon as The Donald makes them smile again they’ll purchase a replacement hat and one or two more out of guilt.  Trump probably replaced most of the burned hats with his recent tweet showing him striking Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.  Nothing Makes America Great Again (and sells hats) like sophomoric misogyny.

Or they might choose from a pantheon of Trump trinkets that extends beyond hats, most of them a mere click away on the President’s very own shopping site.  Impress your friends with a “Presidential Medal” made of bronze that shows Trump’s face – sort of — on one side of a bronze cookie that fits into its own “routed wood stand.”  The other side shows a distorted American flag encircled with the words, “Make America Great Again.”  It ships in a “Blue Kraft box” and is packed with “gold foil” and a “blue insert.”  It’s yours for only $45.  It has no obvious practical use although, at nearly three inches in diameter, it could make a decent coaster.  Did I mention it comes in gold foil?  Best of all for loyal Americans, the company that manages Trump paraphernalia sales is based in Canada – right next to America!  MAGA!

Or, you could wander over to the official Trump Merchandise site on Amazon and choose from a wide selection of Trump bobble-heads.  Can you imagine a better gift for your favorite cat than a wobbly-bobbly Trump doll?  Your frisky feline would go catnip crazy, slapping at and pouncing on the bouncy toy with kittenish glee.  Prices range from around ten bucks to more than twenty, but how can you put a value on this delicious irony:  the pussy grabbing Trump?  Priceless.

Hats and trinkets don’t pass the smell test?  Don’t worry, you can with an “Empire by Trump” deodorant stick for a mere $5.59 (with discount).  “Empire by Trump is the perfect accessory for the confident man determined to make his mark with passion,” brags the Trump Collection website.  “Bold notes of peppermint, spicy chai and a hint of apple demand attention,” it adds.  Or you can “capture the spirit of the driven man” by spending another buck and a half for a “Success by Trump” deodorant stick.  This scent, also available as an after shave and “Toilette Spray,” blends many scents and flavors including “rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk.”  Bring the cat.

You can purchase “Official Inauguration Glassware” for $20, a six-pack of “Official Inauguration Gold Seal Coolies” for $16, or a Trump coffee mug for $30, all currently available on the Canadian-run site.  Fill the vessels with “Trump Natural Spring Water” if you can find it (not sold in stores).  Hit the links with an $80 “Trump Golf Bundle (clubs not included).”  Finally, for a mere $150 you can purchase an “extra-long” Trump tie from Amazon, available in various boring colors and designs.  Nothing screams “MAGA!” like an overpriced, ugly tie.

So many items, so many possibilities, so many bonfires waiting to be set.  MAGA!

© 2017 by Mike Tully


Irma’s Lesson for the Debt Limit Debate

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around
                •  Don Henley, 1982

They came, they saw, and they wound up talking about themselves.  Irma was the storm to exhaust all superlatives, the biggest, strongest, baddest hurricane ever, that threatened to rip through the center of Florida with killer winds and a devastating surge.  Irma was a huge Category 5 storm, larger than any storm in memory, bigger than the notorious Andrew, a wow factor from space that drew an invasion of satellite trucks, camera operators, engineers, and on-camera talent.  Irma seemed poised to retain Category 5 status through landfall and the dreaded storm surge was predicted to hit 15 feet, maybe more with high tide.  “Old Testament … real wrath of God type stuff.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the Sunshine State.  Irma took a pratfall over Cuba and never regained her strength.  Instead of heading directly for Miami, the storm wandered off toward the gulf coast side of the peninsula and gradually weakened.  The anticipated killer winds and devastating surge didn’t happen and, although there was substantial flooding and millions without power, the feared catastrophic damage and loss of life never occurred.  While that was good news, the reality is that bad news attracts more clicks and eyeballs because viewers prefer dirty laundry.  “People love it when you lose.”

What of the trucks, operators, anchors and producers, millions of dollars of media assets marshalled for what turned out to be a really bad storm, but not quite an Armageddon?  They started back-pedaling.  NBC’s Bill Karins, who seemed slightly embarrassed at the lack of a catastrophe, gamely observed that millions of people had lost or would lose power, even though the dynamic (and visually grabbing) killer surge didn’t occur.  Many of the networks, even the Weather Channel, resorted to airing reruns of correspondents battling to stay upright in hurricane-force winds.  That became the theme of the evening coverage:  here’s our correspondent hours earlier fighting to stand up against strong winds.  Here is another.  And another.  It was less Dispatch from the Apocalypse than “how I spent my Florida weekend.”  One of the networks contacted a resident of Key West, who bravely remained on the island during Irma’s onslaught, and asked him to describe the devastation.  “People are out walking their dogs,” he replied.  This is not to minimize the widespread losses and suffering that so many people are experiencing – just observing that it was expected to be worse.  Meanwhile, three times as many people died in an earthquake in Mexico as perished from Irma’s wrath.  You can read about it on page A9, next to the “Shelves that Slide” ad.

Now for a thought experiment.  Imagine the networks spent millions to relocate their satellite trucks and personnel, but there was no Irma.  Instead of winds and flooding the weekend dispatches consisted of wall-to-wall coverage of a nice summer day.  That would be totally irrational right, much ado about not much at all?  It you can appreciate the absurdity of that scenario then you have an idea of how stupid it is to fight over the national debt limit.

The debt limit is not a Constitutional provision.  It was created by an act of Congress in 1917.  It is not an appropriation but a mechanism for paying off appropriations.  That’s also why it has become a political hacky sack in an era of growing national debt.  Hold the line on the debt limit, goes the argument, and you suppress spending and start to pay down the debt.  The flaw in that theory is the limit only applies to borrowing, not spending, and application of the theory in practice would result in a national default with disastrous economic consequences, kicking those who are up as well as those who are down.  For politicians who doubt such an outcome, go ahead and default on your own personal debt and see what happens.  No takers?

When political impasse threatened to lead to a default on the debt during the Obama presidency, some observers pointed to language in the Fourteenth Amendment that reads, “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”  But that language, standing alone, does not necessarily authorize the President to issue debt to cover Congressional appropriations.  The authorizing language is contained in Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution, which says the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” including laws that require spending.  To argue the President is barred from faithfully executing the law when it requires increasing the debt limit is an illogical read of the Constitution.  The President doesn’t need congressional approval.

Many progressives have argued this point in the past, most recently during Obama-era debt ceiling battles, and Donald Trump apparently agrees with them.  While many commentators have profound issues with much of what the President has done and proposes to do, even The Donald recognizes a fake storm when he sees one.

© 2017 by Mike Tully


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The Time for Trump-Shaming Has Come

“Every crowd has a silver lining.”
             – P. T. Barnum

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
            – Barnum Associate David Hannum

“(Y)ou idiots just don’t understand …TRUMP understands ME!”
           – Trump Supporter Maxon Roads

On April 6th New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published a column entitled, “My Most Unpopular Idea:  Be Nice to Trump Voters.”  Kristof was motivated by a reaction to a column that asked his mostly progressive readership to keep an open mind about those who voted for Trump.  “One problem with the Democratic anger is that it stereotypes a vast and contradictory group of 63 million people,” Kristof wrote, adding, “”Sure, there were racists and misogynists in their ranks, but that doesn’t mean that every Trump voter was a white supremacist.”  Addressing his liberal readers, Kristof wrote, “The blunt truth is that if we care about a progressive agenda, we simply can’t write off 46 percent of the electorate.”

Another blunt truth is that we have to write off some of them by publicly shaming them. 


Sheriff Joe and Trump’s End Game

I did it, I stand by it, and I’m not going to change.
                  —  Joe Arpaio

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 was like any other Wednesday in the computer building, a nerve center for a large governmental organization.  The work was routine and unspectacular, but the data maintained by the center was important and, in some cases, confidential.  Without warning, the raid started.  Uniformed individuals stormed the building and seized control.  Employees were ordered to leave their work stations while uniformed men and women confiscated their computers.  The raiders compelled computer operators to give up their passwords before they escorted staff from the premises.  Then they locked up the computer rooms, completing their militaristic take-over.

The armed raid was not in Venezuela, Cuba, or an Asian dictatorship.  The location was Maricopa County’s Computer Center and the raiders were uniformed personnel from the Sheriff’s Department, led by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.