100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Monday, October 16, 2017

GLASS HOUSES

A lot of you may not be old enough to remember when Joe Biden left Anita Hill in the lurch when she reached out to him for guidance during her testimony against SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas, but I do.

As much as I appreciate him speaking out against Harvey Weinstein now that the latter’s officially been hung out to dry, there was a time where his silence as a rising star in the Democratic Party could also be construed as complicity.

The only his stone-throwing hasn’t broken the walls of his glass house yet is due only to the fact that they’ve been frosted by a collectively foggy memory.

HANGING GAYS? THAT'S JUST "LOCKER ROOM TALK"

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of this administration…

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer just released a profile on Vice President* Mike “I Call My Wife Mother” Pence, which is about as unsurprisingly disturbing as you might expect. I won’t horrify you with too many details; if you’re in the mood for a proper TL;DR hate read, that link is your for the clicking. But I’d like to direct your attention to a particular paragraph near the end of the piece that is particularly illuminating for a number of disturbing reasons:
“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
Honestly, you can skip the rest of the profile; this is the important part. Obviously the critical takeaway is an incredibly revealing glimpse into the depths of Pence’s anti-LGBTQ fanaticism by way of Trump’s typically boorish remarks. Regardless of how seriously a comment like Pence wanting to “hang them all” should be taken, there’s no denying that the nation’s top theocrat has had a hair up his ass (among other things, perhaps? #justsaying) for the Rainbow Coalition for a long time now.

"Who has two thumbs and a hard-on for
gays...er, gay-bashing? This guy!"
Among the more notorious efforts of his Indiana gubernatorial run was 2015’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state. The backlash against the bill was massive, forcing even his own supporters in the legislature against him and nearly tanking his political career. Mayer writes that according to hate-wing radio host Steve Deace, Pence “had no chance at national office after that, other than getting on the Trump ticket.” Lucky for him, that particular gravy train pulled into the station not long after.

But there’s another aspect of this that I’d like to direct your attention to, which is what the president*’s remarks reveal not about Pence, but about himself and his relationship with the glassy-eyed zealots that have set aside everything holy in their support for him. Not that this is terribly surprising to hear, but the only chance of reaffirming that Trump is not in fact the Second Coming Of Moses is to repeat observations like these as often and as loudly as possible.

For example: Trump riding Pence for having “wasted all this time and energy” on overturning Roe V. Wade makes it crystal clear that Donald Trump could give a shit about challenging abortion rights, which is the one issue above any others that Pence built his career on. Over the years, he’s backed so-called “personhood” legislation banning all abortions, including in the case of rape and or incest; he sponsored an ACA amendment to allow government-funded hospitals to deny abortion coverage’ he even once signed a bill that barred women from abortion fetuses with developmental disabilities. As if that isn’t heinous enough, the bill also required that all aborted fetuses be either buried or cremated, at the mother’s expense. It’s since been ruled constitutional, but…yeesh.

With everyone now taking bets on how long until he’s discovered stumbling through the West Wing talking to potted plants about what a cuck Grover Norquist is, a whole lot of eyes are nervously eyeing Pence’s potential succession with increasing seriousness. As the Martin to Trump’s Lewis, he’s done a great job of making himself appear, well…sane for starters, along with eminently reasonable by contrast. But make no mistake: the nation’s top theocrat has had his eyes on the POTUS prize for a very long time, and while he might feel constrained enough by the office to not behave like an adolescent baboon once installed, he’s also savvy enough and savage enough to work the levers of executive power in ways that Trump could never dream of. And the way will be more than clear enough for him to do so, if out of nothing other than sheer gratitude that ding, dong, that big orange bitch is dead.

MEDIA BROWN-OUT

L to R: Jorge Ramos (Univision), the president*, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL). (PHOTO: Media Matters)
It’s a well-known fact that despite Donald Trump’s numerous declarations that the mainstream press are “the enemy of the American People,” not only would he not be president* were it not for their largely unblemished coverage, he would be nothing without them, period. (Let’s not forget CNN’s long, loving shots of empty podiums at Trump’s rallies while the commentariat blathered endlessly about Hillary’s e-mails, shall we?) He is a media parasite, who has learned to adopt “controversial” stances to generate the heat that drives mainstream media narratives, regardless of the cost or the consequences. In pursuit of this charade, he’s even now gone so far as threaten using the power of the FCC to revoke the licenses of networks who say things about him that he doesn’t like.

Now, this threat may more or less be toothless, but that doesn’t mean the public shouldn’t be concerned. However, what’s more concerning is what the president* and his Congressional goon squad are able to do in order to shut down and/or restrict negative press coverage surrounding his administration, and nowhere is that better evidenced than in today’s domestic Hispanic media.

From the moment Donald Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” (a move that to this day still baffles the mind for its sheer arrogance alone), he’s ground his axe the sharpest against Hispanic journalists, and the Republican party has not hesitated to follow suit. From the leadership on down, the attacks have been sustained, intense, and largely ignored by mainstream media outlets that are otherwise so “unfair” to him.

Trump’s rhetoric has inspired a horde of imitators among the electorate who, not bound by the what remains of media protocol, have unleashed all manner of hateful rhetoric against journalists like Henry Gomez, a senior political writer for Cleveland.com. In September last year, Gomez wrote an article describing the influx of hate mail that had poured in from hundreds, if not thousands of angry bigots for his critical coverage of Trump during the election, a broad swath of what he called “Donald Trump’s greatest hits.” When his article was released, he made the rounds through nearly every mainstream media outlet except for one: Fox News. Whatever the chatter on the crotch couch was that day, I’m not certain. But odds are good that it wasn’t especially simpatico with the plight of brown-skinned journalists and the liberals who love them.

The most notorious of Trump’s battles with Latin journalists would have to be his feud with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, widely thought of as the Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media. Ramos began using his platform to roundly criticize Trump from the moment his campaign began, to the point where Trump had Ramos ejected for a press conference shortly thereafter for refusing to suck up the man’s mouth farts like the rest of the Good Germans in the room. Trump proceeded to categorically deny Ramos any interviews despite being Latin America’s preeminent newsman, and in fact went on to blacklist nearly every Hispanic media outlet for the remainder of campaign, only doing two interviews with Spanish-language networks after the incident. The rest of the conservative movement, eager to prove that they, too wouldn’t take no shit from no Mex-i-cans, proceeded to pile on Ramos left, right, and center, culminating in a failed Media Research Center campaign to force his resignation.

Trump wasn’t alone in his Hispanic media blackout, either. Back in March, a top anchor at Univision named Enrique Acevedo told Tiger Beat On The Potomac (thanks, Charlie!) that “it’s harder to get access to Republicans than it is to get access to Democrats” nowadays, noting that it’s “happened more since the inauguration.”

Sure enough, he’s not wrong. Media Matters did a review of appearances by Republican officials on Univision and Telemundo during Hispanic Heritage Month in both 2014 and 2017 which demonstrated that, while an equal number of Republican officials and elected Democratic officials appeared on their Sunday chat shows in 2014, that number was down by 60% for Republicans. As the official marketing firm for American white supremacy, the Republican party has had zero interest in reaching out to people who don’t look, act, think or fuck like them, period. And wow that they’ve managed to use their propaganda arm to gain control both houses of the presidency and legislature and the judiciary and the electoral college, they have even less incentive to do so.

The saddest part of all this is how easy it would be for mainstream media outlets to offer greater support and solidarity to their colleagues in Hispanic media. Not only would they certainly be grateful for the support, but coordinated coverage between both parties could easily turn Trump into burnt orange tomato paste. Of course, that would require a fundamental shift in the goal mainstream press away from providing for-profit cover fire for crooked conservatives to something along the lines of honest reporting. And frankly, there’s just no money to be made in that.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A ROLLING CATASTROPHE, CON'T.

U.S. Army Special Forces co-ordinating supply deliveries in Utuado, Puerto Rico. (PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
You know how I know the president* and his people don’t give a single crap about the disaster in Puerto Rico?

‘Cause Bloomberg Media done got the receipts, that’s how.

Apparently, communications people in the Pentagon accidentally included Bloomberg’s climate reporter Christopher Flavelle on one of their internal distribution lists, where DOD and FEMA officials where discussing their evolving responses to Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

Bloomberg repeatedly notified the Pentagon about the gaffe, who didn’t respond to them for five whole days. Even better? Every single message was marked “unclassified.” If there is a Hell, somewhere in its depths Joseph Pulitzer is gleefully rubbing his fingers together, and having a good chortle at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Bloomberg published a series of passages from the e-mails, tied to various events federal officials were trying to spin. Get a load of this pure horse pucky right here:
Sept. 28: Eight days after Maria hit, coverage of the federal government’s response is getting more negative.
The Government Message: Pentagon officials tell staff to emphasize “coverage of life-saving/life-sustaining operations” and for spokespeople to avoid language about awaiting instructions from FEMA, “as that goes against the teamwork top-line message.”

Sept. 29: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticizes Washington’s spin, calling Puerto Rico a “people-are-dying story.”
The Government Message: FEMA talking points ignore Cruz, instructing its officials to say that “the federal government’s full attention is on Hurricane Maria response.”

Sept. 30: Trump attacks the mayor’s “poor leadership ability.” The Pentagon worries that Trump’s “dialogue” with Cruz is becoming the story, with “many criticizing his lack of empathy.”
The Government Message: FEMA stresses its success in reaching “all municipalities in Puerto Rico.”

Oct. 1: Trump calls critics of the response “politically motivated ingrates.”
The Government Message: Defense staff admit that “the perception of USG response continues to be negative.” Spokespeople are told to say, “I am very proud of our DOD forces,” before conceding “there are some challenges to work through.”

Oct. 2: The massacre in Las Vegas dominates the headlines.
The Government Message: The shooting “has drawn mainstream TV attention away from Puerto Rico response,” FEMA says. Still, the roundup seems to have lost some of its previous optimism. It concludes, simply: “Negative tonality.”
This is everything Bloomberg has published so far. With any luck, there will be plenty of juicy bits to come, immediately proceeding the usual protestations and walkbacks that accompany these sort of reveals. Don’t buy any of it.

When coupled with reports coming in from on the ground in Puerto Rico, these revelations pretty much destroy any semblance of compassion or respect that anyone in a position to offer aid to the island might have for its people. Meanwhile, most of the island is still without power, clean drinking water has already become a myth, and residents of the island have taken to drinking from EPA superfund waste sites in their desperation. But at least they have plenty of paper towels. Thank you, Mr. President*.

Grab your popcorn, folks: we’re in for a Category Five media spin cycle any moment now…

THIS SHOULD END WELL

For about $1500, you, too can create, as Greenberg puts it, your very own, “tiny, anarchic rifle factory.”
Conversations around the use of so-called “bump stocks” – a quasi-legal firearm component that allows semi-automatic weapons to be converted to full-auto – have greatly intensified in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, when it was confirmed that shooter Stephen Paddock had converted a number of the guns found in his hotel room to fully automatic weapons.

“Bump stocks,” however comprise only a small fraction of the entire secondary arms market, which is rife with more than enough parts and accessories to build your very own, all-but-completely-untraceable gun from scratch, an it’s about to get easier than ever.

Wired’s Andy Greenberg just released a video outlining just how simple it is to do this, and how incredibly low the overhead is to essentially set up your own underground gunsmithing operation. The results, as you might imagine, are rather unsettling.
Anyone can buy every part of an AR-15 on the Internet. There's one part, though, that you can't buy without a background check, and that is a functioning lower receiver…For years, DIY gun makers have been legally creating their own lower receivers to skirt gun control laws and build untraceable weapons. I wanted to see if new, digital tools would make building one of these ‘ghost guns’ even easier for someone like me…If I can legally make a semi-automatic rifle, and circumvent all gun control, anyone can.
Crafted from a solid chunk of aluminum, partially-unfinished lower receivers can actually be purchased legally, as well. From there, according Greenberg, “all you have to do is remove a few cavities of aluminum…and you’re left with a true, functioning gun.”

Obviously, upon closer scrutiny the finishing process is easier said than done, as Greenberg aptly demonstrates by attempting to mill a lower receiver with a drill press, and then print one with a 3D printer. It’s when he demonstrates the “Ghost Gunner,” however, when you can really start to feel the ice crawling its way up your spine.

Created by Defense Distributed, a “controversial” organization who’s claim to fame is putting blueprints for 3D-printable gun parts on the web (including one for the first fully 3D-printable pistol), the “Ghost Gunner” is a computer-controlled milling machine designed specifically for the purpose of converting partially-unfinished lower receivers for use. For about $1500, you, too can create, as Greenberg put it, your very own, “tiny, anarchic rifle factory” anywhere you damned well please.
As I watched the “Ghost Gunner” precisely carve away aluminum, it became clear that the barrier to legally obtaining a fully metal, untraceable, semi-automatic rifle is lower than ever before.
On their website, Defense Distributed claims that “due to Federal regulatory overreach, Ghost Gunner is now the only affordable CNC solution for privately finishing your 80% lower receivers.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how making it difficult for people to manufacture untraceable firearms is some form of “overreach,” unless you’re some sort of fanatic. Or maybe an assassin. Either way, if you’re at a point where you’ve bought a “Ghost Gunner” or a seriously considering doing so, it might be time to take your guns away in the first place.