Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
If you have an older relative who spends way too much time stewing in the conservative media, you may have experienced a moment when you not only disagreed with him, but you realized that you had no earthly clue what he was going on about. Perhaps it was when he started talking about the UN plot to eliminate golf courses and replace paved roads with bicycle paths. Maybe he stopped you in your tracks with a discourse on why flies were attracted to Barack Obama, or complained about the government insisting on referring to Christians as “Easter-worshippers” or expressed outrage over 9/11 hijackers being given leniency by Muslim jurists.
A study of media citations conducted by researchers at Harvard in 2017 found that publications from the far-left to the center-right tended to reference reporting from mainstream news organizations, whereas the right-wing media were more walled off, citing mostly opinion pieces from like-minded sources. As a result, people who tend to consume mostly conservative media often come to the erroneous belief that the rest of us will be familiar with whatever controversies are raging within that bubble when in fact we have no idea what they’re even talking about.
While I don’t have an angry uncle who reads Breitbart every morning, I have had some of these odd interactions with conservatives on social media. And I was reminded of these bewildering exchanges on Friday, when Donald Trump, president* of the United States of America, addressed a pressing national problem…
We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms, where you turn the faucet on in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet, you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. It’s dripping out–very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10, 15 times as opposed to once… So we’re looking very seriously at opening up the standard. And there may be some areas where we go the other way–desert areas–but for the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down. It’s called rain. They don’t know what to do with it.
Many normal people were flummoxed by the Commander-in-Chief’s soliloquy. Some wondered whether his cheeseburger-rich diet was contributing to this flushing problem. But those of us who follow far-right nonsense know that low-flow toilets, mandated by a law signed by George HW Bush almost 40 years ago, have long been a bugaboo of the far-right.
When that law first passed, there was something to the gripe–the first generation of low-flow toilets did lack flushing power, and people did need to flush more than once, which undermined the goal of sparing water. Within a few years, however, manufacturers figure out how to make a toilet that can basically flush a bowling ball with 1.6 gallons of water. Most people adapted to these fixtures without much fuss a couple of decades ago, but on the far-right they have lingered as a grievance against government overreach ever since.
Great Moments In Presidential Speeches:
FDR: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”
JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”
Trump: “Flush ten, fifteen times”
— Tomi Flushing T Ahonen 10, 15 Times (@tomiahonen) December 7, 2019
This is not the first time Trump has come off as a doddering weirdo by referencing obscure right-wing conspiracy theories that most people have never encountered as if they’re legitimate issues of concern.
When he warned that wind-turbines cause cancer, he was referencing some junk science that came out of Australia a decade ago that conservative bloggers pounced on to attack Obama’s clean energy initiatives. He was also echoing the discourse in the fever swamps when he alluded to being personally attacked by an ISIS terrorist during a campaign rally and claimed that Antonin Scalia’s death seemed fishy because he was found with a pillow covering his face (he wasn’t). And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was reportedly caught completely off guard on that fateful July 25 phone call when Trump started babbling about Crowdstrike and a nonexistent Ukrainian oligarch hiding a nonexistent server somewhere in his country.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
As a raging narcissist who is also wildly incompetent, Trump must find solace in the right-wing media, where he is lauded as a heroic figure who can do no wrong. Like your angry old uncle, it represents a haven from the real world. And it’s where Trump picks up all kinds of nonsense that he then embarrassingly spouts to real reporters as if they’ll know what he’s prattling on about. It would all be quite comical if it weren’t coming out of the mouth of the most powerful man on Earth.
And with that, let’s move on to our roundup…
“The latest of President Trump’s confirmed federal judges has been assailed by fellow lawyers for her lack of trial experience and has been lambasted by reproductive rights advocates for her vigorous opposition to abortion, surrogacy and in vitro fertilization,” reported The Washington Post. Sarah Pitlyk is the latest Trump nominee to receive a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.
In a Sept. 24 letter to lawmakers, William Hubbard, chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, wrote that Pitlyk’s “experience to date has a very substantial gap, namely the absence of any trial or even real litigation experience.”
Pitlyk, whose experience seems limited to clerking for Brett Kavanaugh, is 42 years old. She will probably be handing down rulings that could have been lifted from the Breitbart comments section for several decades.
One in five federal judges have now been selected by Donald Trump.
“U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that if some communities don’t begin showing more respect to law enforcement, then they could potentially not be protected by police officers,” according to The Huffington Post. “American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments, said the attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically had a contentious relationship with law enforcement due to police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling.”
“On Wednesday, the Trump administration instituted a policy that would lead to hundreds of thousands of people losing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” according to NBC, which called the move “a frustrating setback for a program which has, up until now, enjoyed bipartisan support.” An estimated 700,000 people will lose the benefit.
As a taxpayer I am sick of these disabled people who have $3,501 in assets, such as a dented 2005 Toyota Camry, who also want to be able to eat food. Food or the Camry, choose one. That’s the American dream. https://t.co/Id4Q1oqvx0 pic.twitter.com/KyqZnle13M
— Hamilton Nolan (@hamiltonnolan) December 4, 2019
If you own land on the Southern border, Big Government may be coming for it.
“On Friday, the federal government filed its first land acquisition case to condemn nearly 13 acres of private property in the Rio Grande Valley, a parcel near the river levee in Hidalgo County. The owner was offered $93,449 in compensation for the land,” reported The Washington Post.
Trump aims to build 166 miles of border barrier in Texas, almost all of it slated to go on private land that the government has yet to acquire — thousands of parcels along the river, an unknown number of them occupied by their owners, including churches and single-family homes. No new border wall has been built on private land in Texas since the president took office, but land acquisition in the Rio Grande Valley is about to enter a new phase this week, as U.S. attorneys began filing initial petitions in court while making cash offers to property owners….
The fight that likely will ensue pits Texans against Trump, who has long said he wants to take whatever land he needs to build his signature promise to America.
These stories have become so common that we don’t even raise an eyebrow over this stuff anymore. But we should. [via CNN]
A senior adviser at the State Department once said he thought then-President Barack Obama was a Kenyan and called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi a Nazi whose Botox had worn off.
Frank Wuco, a former conservative speaker and radio host who is now a senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, also said it would be tough for a “solid, practicing” Muslim to be a good American and made unfounded claims that some Muslims in America were practicing Sharia law to create “Muslim land.”
“Trump announced on Monday that he’s imposing new steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina. It’s a stunning move that opens new fronts and widens his global trade war into two of the largest economies in South America,” according to Business Insider. He “announced” the move in an early-morning tweet, blowing up a deal that his regime had made with the two countries in 2018.
Trump claimed the countries were hurting the US by manipulating their currencies, but they weren’t included “on an annual Treasury Department report released in May which officially designates nations as currency manipulators.” According to the report, Trump may be “trying to dig himself out of a hole in the trade war with China instead, seeking to pressure Buenos Aires and Brasilia into limiting their cooperation with Beijing as it buys more of their goods.”
In related news, Trump’s bailout of farmers who have been hit hard by his tradewars is looking more like an act of corruption. According to Bloomberg, “Trump’s $28 billion farm bailout may be paying many growers more than the trade war with China has cost them.”
“It’s clear that the payment rates overstated the damage suffered by soybean growers,” said Joseph Glauber, the USDA’s former chief economist who published a review of the research in late November. “Based on what the studies show, the damages were about half that.”
Recall that the bulk of these funds are going to huge corporate farms–the kind that hold political sway–rather than small producers whose livelihoods are at stake.
The Washington Post reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is following through on his campaign promise to root out corruption, but is worries that his anti-corruption measures will run headlong into Trump’s–and Rudy Giuliani’s–anti-anti-corruption agenda.
OMG… Rudy Giuliani is in Kyiv TODAY continuing his pursuit of dirt on the Bidens.
could there be any greater proof that Trump & his inner circle believe they’re above the law?https://t.co/ywm9mx4INI
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) December 4, 2019
Finally, if you’re interested in uncovering your family’s roots, you might want to get a jump on that. “The Department of Homeland Security has proposed jacking up fees to access genealogical records from much of the 18oos and 1900s,” according to Forbes. “In some cases, fees would triple; in others, they would rise nearly 500 percent, from $130 to $625 to obtain a single paper file.”
This fits with all their other weirdly vicious anti-immigrant policies and takes it to a genuinely Orwellian extreme: They don’t just want to block immigrants and normalize cruelty toward them. They also want us to forget our own immigrant histories.
In every other area of governance they’re incompetent and lazy — often mean (as with the SNAP cuts), but giving no evidence that they’ve thought much about what they’re doing. With immigration, however, they’re like mad geniuses, calculating to destroy even the concept.