Sabotage!

Donald Trump doesn’t take rejection well. Over the weekend, the lazy fascist threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions, lambasting the caucus that is (on paper, at least) his own party for failing to pass any health care reform bill. If they can’t do it, Trump mused, he’ll have to sabotage Obamacare by blocking subsidy payments to insurance companies.

NO. Get out of here, Beastie Boys! Your days of being relevant are behind you! Your songs are now a comfortable staple of commercial radio and a plot device for the mediocre J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot franchise! I’m trying to talk about something that could have a deep impact on people’s lives here!

Thanks, Deep Impact, for presenting a scenario much more in line with severity of the crisis Donald Trump could unleash, as well as reminding us of that one time we had a level-headed black president who stopped insurers from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions.

It bears repeating that Donald Trump does not understand how America’s imperfect health care insurance market works. He’s not a policy details man, or a big ideas man, or much of anything that could still be considered human. His mad grasping for anything he could call a victory could inexorably destabilize the insurance market.

And he’d unconscionably bomb the market because he didn’t get his way. President Trump would wantonly endanger the financial security, and in some cases the lives, of millions of Americans because he has the emotional maturity of a two-year-old.

How are we all feeling about his access to the nuclear codes?

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Ninety-Three)

Recently at the state level, legislators have authored Bircher-esque bills that have made it further through the lawmaking process than many thought possible in Texas, even just a few years ago—though these are less the cause of the John Birch Society’s influence than an indication of the rise of its particular strain of politics. These include bills that would forbid any government entity from participating in “Agenda 21,” a UN sustainable development effort which JBS pamphlets describe as central to the “UN’s plan to establish control over all human activity”; prevent the theoretical sale of the Alamo to foreigners (since 1885 the state has owned the former mission, Texas’ most visited historic landmark, where the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution occurred); and repeal the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who graduate from Texas high schools to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. And last month, Governor Greg Abbott signed the “American Laws for American Courts” Act into law, guarding against what the society has called “Sharia-creep” by prohibiting the use of Islamic Sharia law in Texas’ court system.

This is what the 21st-century John Birch Society looks like. Gone is the organization’s past obsession with ending the supposed communist plot to achieve mind-control through water fluoridation. What remains is a hodgepodge of isolationist, religious and right-wing goals that vary from concrete to abstract, from legitimate to conspiracy minded—goals that don’t look so different from the ideology coming out of the White House. It wants to pull the United States out of NAFTA (which it sees as the slippery slope that will lead us to a single-government North American Union), return America to what they call its Christian foundations, defund the UN, abolish the departments of education and energy, and slash the federal government drastically. The John Birch Society once fulminated on the idea of Soviet infiltration of the U.S. government; now, it wants to stop the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and possible collusion with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

The Society’s ideas, once on the fringe, are increasingly commonplace in today’s Republican Party. And where Birchers once looked upon national Republican leaders as mortal enemies, the ones I met in Texas see an ally in the president. “All of us here voted for Trump,” says Carter. “And we’re optimistic about what he will do.”

The John Birch Society formed on a frigid Monday morning in December 1958, when 11 of the nation’s richest businessmen braved single-digit temperatures to attend a mysterious meeting in suburban Indianapolis.

They had arrived at the behest of candy magnate Robert Welch, who had made a fortune with his caramel-on-a-stick confection known as the “Sugar Daddy,” and now intended to spend that money defeating the wide-slung Communist conspiracy he was certain had infiltrated the federal government. Welch had invited these men to Indianapolis without giving a reason, and asked them to stay for two days.

After exchanging firm handshakes in the breakfast room of a sprawling, Tudor-style house in the tony Meridian Park neighborhood, Welch explained why he had brought this group together: The United States faced an existential threat from an “international Communist conspiracy” hatched by an “amoral gang of sophisticated criminals.” The power-hungry, God-hating, government worshipers had infiltrated newsrooms, public schools, legislative chambers and houses of worship. They were frighteningly close to total victory—Welch felt it in his gut. “These cunning megalomaniacs seek to make themselves the absolute rulers of a human race of enslaved robots, in which every civilized trait has been destroyed,” Welch wrote in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, the organization’s founding history.

The chosen few gathered here would form the vanguard of a new political movement, an army of brave American patriots dedicated to preserving the country’s Christian and constitutional foundations. Welch christened the group the John Birch Society—named in memory of a U.S. soldier-turned-Baptist missionary killed by Chinese Communists in 1945—and laid out its goal: Destroying the “Communist conspiracy … or at least breaking its grip on our government and shattering its power within the United States.”

Chip Berlet, former senior analyst at Political Research Associates in Somerville, Massachusetts, a left-leaning think tank, and co-author of “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort,” has studied the John Birch Society for three decades.

Berlet tells me the resurgence of the John Birch Society taps into populism which surfaces periodically, especially during times of cultural and demographic upheaval. The nation’s demographic landscape has undergone dramatic shifts since the Birchers’ heyday. From 1955 to 2014, the percentage of U.S. citizens who identified as Protestant sunk from 70 percent to 46 percent, according to polls by Gallup. The percentage of citizens who identified as non-Hispanic white decreased from 89 percent to 63 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Such changes, mixed with man’s evolutionary tendency toward tribalism, means that many white Christian Americans are full of anxiety.

“The John Birch Society views white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethnocentrism as the true expression of America,” Berlet says. “They use constitutionalist arguments and conspiracist scapegoating to mask this.”

Placing blame on conspiracies is seductive to social conservatives because of the way their brains are hardwired, says Colin Holbrook, an evolutionary psychologist and research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s not a pathology, nor because they’re less intelligent,” Holbrook tells me.

–John Savage, The John Birch Society Is Back

Reince In Priebus

A simple calculation to help explain what happened to the White House’s now former Chief of Staff:

Trump says of former POW John McCain “I like people who weren’t captured” during the campaign + John McCain becomes the deciding vote in the Senate’s push to pass Trumpcare by any means neccessary + the president probably yells at the Senator for 20 minutes over the phone early Friday morning, leading McCain to give the thumbs down in Senate chambers, effectively killing the GOP’s 7-year dream of legislatively killing Obamacare + Trump has wanted to replace Reince Priebus for some time now + the failure of healthcare reform throws Donald into a mad rage and he needs to blame someone else = Reince Priebus is given the boot and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly gets to be the new whipping boy for 45’s innumerable failures.

Ten Fun Facts: Anthony Scaramucci Edition

Zealous use of pronfanity! The manners of a full-blown rabid dog! That weird squinty thing he does with his face! You’ve seen the way the West Wing’s new communications director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci acts, but how much do you really know about the political equivalent of The Human Centipede?

1. Coming this summer, The Mooch! He shoots his mouth off with the regularity of a high-fiber diet, a trait that made his new boss fall in love with him. Donald Trump feels like he’s looking into a mirror when he’s around The Mooch, though in Trump’s opinion he’s much taller, smaller, better, the greatest, nobody can ever be as good as Donald, Donald is a winner. But nice try, kid! Keep it up and you might be president someday!

2. The Mooch is a big fan of Superman and the values he represents: Truth (eh), justice (meh) and the American way (capitalism?). One out of three values ain’t bad!

3. You’re never left guessing how The Mooch feels towards a particular individual. If you’re White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, you know he thinks you’re a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” and that he wants to be Cain to your Abel. If you’re Steve Bannon, you can rest assured he holds the firm conviction that you’re “trying to suck [your] own cock.”

4. He will fire you and all your coworkers. He will hang you for treason. He will draw and quarter your dog and waterboard your great-grandmother. He’ll take you out to a fancy dinner and skip out when he sees the bill. He’ll sleep with your best friend and intentionally give them herpes. He’ll force you to drink castor oil if you look at him funny. His high fives will always go “down low” and he’ll invariably jerk his hand away before it can make contact, leaving you the aggrieved “too slow” party. When you die, he’ll piss on your grave.

5. The Mooch has been known to talk in third person. The Mooch has few close friends but a lot of money. The Mooch would never describe himself as “Napoleon on crack”. As a former Goldman Sachs banker and founder of the hedge fund SkyBridge Capital, The Mooch knows crack is for poor people.

6. The idiots in the press corps need to stop taking everything The Mooch says so literally. He’d never really murder anyone… if there was any chance he’d be caught.

7. He’ll stab you in the front! He’ll stab you in the back! He’ll stab you side to side! He’s a stabbing machine!

8. No one has ever been able to successfully convince The Mooch American Psycho is satire.

9. Mama Mia! Did you know The Mooch is of Italian descent? He only mentions it every five minutes. The origin of his (once again, Italian) family name is, shall we say, fitting:

Scaramuccia (literally “little skirmisher”), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell’arte (comic theatrical arts). The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.

10. The Mooch has been communications director for a week. In that time his flamboyant, bizarre, thuggish, hot-headed, cold-blooded personality has served a purpose Papa Don appreciates – people are talking about something other the “R” word. This guy’s the wind that blows the fucking cloud away!

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Ninety)

Worst Theme Week Ever

If the administration’s “theme weeks” have heretofore been thoroughly unimpressive, the latest such venture sets the bar so low it can be located 120 feet below the earth’s surface.

First came “Infrastructure Week”. We’ll never know if it would have had a demonstrable impact on the nation’s ailing infrastructure because the hullabaloo around that Comey thing sucked up all its oxygen. “Workforce Development Week” fell victim to concerns about Trump’s inchoate budget. “Technology Week” stumbled out of the gate when Jared Kushner chose to rail against floppy disks for reasons not fully understood by anyone in the 21st century. “Made In America Week” gave the president the opportunity to pretend to drive a fire truck like a big boy, yet offered little else of consequence.

There are more themes on the way (“American Dreams Week” starts July 31st), but they’ve hit their nadir with “Fuck The LGBTQ Community Week”. Wednesday gave us the Hobbit Troll’s Twitter banishment of all trans persons serving in the military. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was compelled to clarify saying something on Twitter does not make it official Department of Defense policy, but no matter! Donald of Orange had another steaming batch of discrimination to serve up.

The Department of Justice has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, taking a stand against a decision reached under former President Barack Obama.

The department’s move to insert itself into the New York case was an uncommon example of top officials in Washington opining directly in the courts on what is an important but essentially private dispute between a worker and his boss over gay rights issues. Civil rights advocates immediately criticized the filing not only for the arguments it advanced, but also for having been made on the same day that President Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be banned from serving in the military.

One possible explanation for the  aggressive foray into institutionalized bigotry is that with his poll numbers in the tank, Trump may be keen on shoring up support from the special interest group that stood with him while moderates and independents peeled off. The Religious Right are revanchist kooks who crave a dictatorship for Jesus, but they’re a powerful bloc of kooks. They, if no one else, view this theme week as a rousing victory.

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Eighty-Nine)