Thanks, Australia!

Yes indeed ...

The Australian vote to legalize same-sex marriage by a substantial majority, overcoming a well-organized religious campaign against it, triggered elation in major cities Wednesday.

A nonbinding referendum conducted by mail found 61.6 percent of Australians in favor of allowing gay couples to wed. Even though the measure was expected to be approved, the size of the win and the unusually large participation of 12.7 million Australians out of the 16 million eligible voters added to its political legitimacy.

Though the vote isn’t binding, all major political party leaders have promised to implement the decision, which would make Australia one of about two dozen countries that allow gay couples to wed.

You can read more of that article excerpted above here.

I just want to offer a big personal shout-out to the people of Australia for endorsing the referendum allowing gay couples to marry. I have a fair number of readers in that country so I’m elated Australia has set such a positive example for the rest of the world.

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Weekly Toon …

The Pride of Alabama ...

Bill Bramhall, the editorial cartoonist for the New York Daily News, captures one of the things that makes Alabama a laughingstock in that toon featured above. You can view more of his work here.

It’s always delightful when Bible-thumping paragons of virtue like Roy Moore get exposed for the hypocrites they are. It would be nicer still, of course, if they didn’t get rewarded by being elected to the U.S. Senate. But this is Alabama that we’re talking about, people, so don’t hold your breath.

You’ve got white men in Alabama comparing Roy to Joseph, the carpenter who married the mother of Jesus. You’ve got white men saying they would vote for Roy even if he did it. And you’ve got white men saying they would vote for Lucifer himself if he was the Republican candidate so voting for Roy is easy.

That’s not surprising. The gene pool in Alabama, especially the white male gene pool, leaves something to be desired. So don’t be surprised at all if the man gets elected.

Another aspect of Alabama’s hypocrisy, one that applies to southern states more generally, is captured nicely in our runner-up for the week. Nice racket, don’t you think?

Weekly Toon – Impeach Him!

Being Trump means never have to say you're sorry ...

That great cartoon above from Tom Toles and our runner-up for the week deserve your serious reflection, dear reader, not just a laugh.

The United States is not a banana republic yet, but will be soon enough if Donald Trump has his way. In banana republics those in power love nothing better than persecuting and locking up their political opponents; and that’s what Trump would like to do with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

It’s not an act, people. He’s serious.

In a series of astonishing, indeed incredible, tweets on Friday Trump demanded that the Justice Department go after the Democrats.

“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems … People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!”

Later, in remarks to reporters, Trump continued in the same vein.

“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department. I’d like to let it run itself, but honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at [John] Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

I cannot think of another president who has so repeatedly, directly, and publicly called on the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents this way, not even Richard Nixon. Trump is both assuming guilt and applying pressure to go after an opponent based on false propaganda he and his moronic followers have created.

This is indeed conduct worthy of a banana republic – and a complete abuse of presidential power to boot! We’re not talking about an isolated event, but an ongoing pattern of trying to lean on the Justice Department and the FBI either to pursue or not to pursue criminal proceedings against specific individuals; and a willingness to go after people like James Comey who don’t cooperate.

But it isn’t just Hillary and the Democrats that Trump has in his sights. It’s anyone who incurs his petulant wrath. Trump called Bowe Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who should be executed. Not surprisingly, Bergdahl’s lawyers seized on those remarks, arguing they compromised his right to a fair hearing.

“Every American should be offended by [President Trump’s] assault on the fair administration of justice and disdain for basic constitutional rights.”

While we don’t know to what extent the judge hearing the case took that into account in sentencing Bergdahl, he did indicate that Trump’s remarks could result in a less severe sentence.

And that’s precisely what happened. But rather than backing off from inflammatory remarks, Trump doubled down. He called the judge’s decision “a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

Pot, kettle, black, people!

Still more recently Trump publicly called for the DEATH PENALTY [Trump’s emphasis] for Sayfullo Saipo, the assailant in this week’s deadly Manhattan terror rampage. Not once but twice!

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but the President is not just some private citizen. He’s the head of the Executive branch of government and so his tweets “will make the prosecutor’s job of securing a fair, unbiased and untainted jury more difficult,” according to Ellen Yaroshefsky, professor of legal ethics at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.

She also pointed out that a prosecutor who voiced the same opinion would be disciplined for acting unethically. But Trump doesn’t care a whit about that – or about the rule of law for that matter. He’s already made clear he considers our justice system “a joke and a laughingstock.”

Those would be good terms to describe Trump himself … if he wasn’t in a position of authority that makes him so dangerous.

What makes all of this worse is that neither the Democrats nor Republicans seem willing to call the man out for his boorish and outlandish behavior. They seem all too willing to tolerate presidential meddling in our criminal-justice system to protect friends and persecute enemies.

If any of them had an ounce of backbone, they would be condemning Trump’s conduct and demanding that it stop immediately at a minimum. If they were really serious, they would be considering whether the behavior described above rises to the level of impeachable conduct.

This has gone on long enough and in too many cases to ignore. Trump’s efforts to turn this country into banana republic and to destroy our judicial system is indeed an abuse of power that rises to the level of an impeachable offense in my opinion.

Trump is our national treasure …

America’s Best Idea is now just another commodity. A president who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, as Oscar Wilde had it, wants to make it prohibitively expensive for many to enter the most popular national parks.

Read more here.

Let me be the first to admit the article quoted above isn’t the most earth-shattering crime of the Trump administration, but I thought it was kind of appropriate to call attention to this in a week when the GOP revealed plans to add $1.5 trillion to the Federal deficit with another in a series of GOP trickle down tax cuts.

And, yes, I should probably fess up to the fact that I make use of these national treasures and may not be able to make use of them as much any longer once these fees takes effect.

But, hey, everyone has to do their part so that the rich and powerful can get their well-deserved tax cut; and so we can partially offset the proposed $300 million cut in the Park Service budget with the $70 million these new fees will raise.

Welcome to Trump World people. a place where ordinary Americans are expected to pay more so the 1% can pay less!

As for the toon above, you’ll have to read the entire article in order to appreciate why I decided to feature it.

Weekly Toon …

I vote for none of the above ...

I cut my trip short a day in order to avoid an East Coast storm. I didn’t have a lot of time to look at cartoons this week, but liked the one featured above that comes to us courtesy of Tom Toles.

It’s times like this when you wish we had an option of voting for none of the above, bu that being said I think Toles does a good job of capturing the internal strife bedeviling the GOP these days 🙂

Our runner-up for the week comes from the cartoonist known as Tom Tomorrow, also known as Dan Perkins. He can be a bit wordy at times, but does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the times in which we live.

Weekly Toon …

Is this a devastating commentary or what?

The toons will have to speak for themselves this week as I’m currently traveling. Our winner was drawn by John Cole of the Scranton, Pennsylvania, Times-Tribune. You can view more of John’s cartoons here.

Our runner-up for the week comes from someone I feature here quite often, Tom Toles. I could probably find a winner from Toles every week if I had to. To me he’s consistently the best political cartoonist of our time.

I’m not sure there will be a toon a week from today as I’ll be on my way back to Washington if all goes well. That may not leave time for me to put up a toon, but who knows? Although there aren’t many of you, I could surprise those who seem to enjoy this feature every week.

Weekly Toon – Expanded Egomaniac Edition

If you care about such things, this was a very bad week for America … the worst week it has experienced in a long time and certainly the worst week since Donald Trump took office. Joe Heller, more of whose work can be seen here, captured the essence of things well in that toon above.

But there’s also something to be said for this one by Milt Priggie as well since Trump seemed to delight in doing much of the damage on Friday the 13th.

Here at home Trump abandoned any pretense of caring about his fellow citizens when he launched an all out assault on the Affordable Care Act on Thursday and Friday.

Among other things, he decided to bring back the kind of junk insurance policies that used to fleece people of their money without ever providing any real coverage when they needed it. He also decided to end the subsidies that play a crucial role in getting insurance companies to cover those they otherwise wouldn’t.

Nevada GOP Governor Brian Sandoval, a staunch conservative, said it best: “It’s going to hurt people. It’s going to hurt kids. It’s going to hurt families. It’s going to hurt individuals. It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues. It’s going to hurt veterans. It’s going to hurt everybody.”

Overseas, the President took the first step toward scuttling the Iran nuclear deal – demonstrating to the entire world, including North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, that the United States can no longer be trusted to keep its word.

Whatever you think of the deal – and unlike Trump I think it was the best deal that could be had short of war – it was an agreement our government signed. Trump dishonored our country by scuttling it and made us demonstrably less safe as a nation in the process.

Not surprisingly, the other nations that signed it, including our western European allies, condemned Trump’s decision immediately.

And, no, don’t be fooled by the suggestion that Trump just tossed the issue back to Congress. Trump was clear. “In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies,” he said, “then the agreement will be terminated.”

But it wasn’t just Iran and the assault on health care that made this such a terrible week.

There was also the latest assault on women, the environment, and the continued stoking of the culture wars, all of which took our attention away from issues like gun violence and the botched Federal relief effort in Puerto Rico – where more than 90% of the island is still without power and more than a third without access to safe drinking water even now.

All of this begs the question as to why. Is Trump a f**king moron like Rex Tillerson suggested?

In this case it's America that's in jeopardy ...

Probably, at least in the sense that he doesn”t have the intellectual capacity to engage with important issues in a serious way.

But I also think the explanation is much simpler as well. As I’ve said before, Trump is many things, including an egomaniac whose long-standing hatred of Barrack Obama compels him to try undoing everything his predecessor accomplished no matter the consequences for America.

That’s not my view alone by the way. Check out this article for a more in-depth view of the matter.

In the end, five issues, discussed in more depth in the articles linked to below, lead to a single conclusion. Trump is well on the way to ruining America while Americans sit on their ass doing nothing.

Dishonoring America, Making The World Less Safe

If President Trump decertifies the Iran nuclear deal this week, as seems likely, “it will show total disrespect for America’s allies,” Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to the United States, told me. That’s the least of it. This — and I know competition is stiff — would be the rashest, most foolish act of the Trump administration to date.

The president’s refusal to certify an accord his own defense secretary, James Mattis, says Iran is upholding, and is in the American national interest, would send a strong signal that the United States has become a bait-and-switch power whose word is worthless.

Read more about why America can no longer be trusted as nation here and why even prominent Israelis think the President is making a big mistake here and here.

Trump’s War On Women

Saudi women are gaining the right to drive. American women are losing the right to employer-provided birth control.

The first development signifies a theocratic kingdom’s bow to the inexorable onslaught of modernity. The second is a cynical bow to the forces of reaction against modernity.

Find out more about the war on women here and here.

Chris Britt / Illinois Times
Killing Obamacare

Michigan Consumers for Health Care, a nonprofit group, has enrolled thousands of people in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and was honored last year as one of the nation’s top performers — a “super navigator” that would serve as a mentor to enrollment counselors in other states.

So the group was stunned to learn from the Trump administration that its funds for assisting consumers ahead of the open enrollment period that begins Nov. 1 would be cut by 89 percent, to $129,900, from $1.2 million.

Trump’s efforts to deprive Americans of health insurance continues. Learn more about that here and here.

And if you need further convincing here are twelve ways the Trump administration is undercutting Obamacare.

Raping The Environment

The Trump administration is gutting President Barack Obama’s climate legacy with a series of moves designed to favor the fossil fuel industry while punishing solar and wind energy producers — and Tuesday’s proposal to repeal an Environmental Protection Agency rule on power plants is just the most visible.

President Donald Trump’s agencies have also taken steps toward buttressing coal’s historically dominant role in the electricity markets, protecting it from rising competition from cleaner sources like natural gas and wind. The administration has opened the door to rolling back the stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks that are due to take effect in 2022. And Trump’s Interior Department is loosening Obama’s limits on fossil fuel production on federal lands, while potentially clamping down on leases for wind and solar projects.

Find out more about the five biggest U.S. energy policy shifts taking place under Trump here.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon
The Cultural Warrior

In the wake of 9/11 and with the Iraq war not yet a year old, President George W. Bush bluntly described himself as a “war president” who makes “decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind.”

President Donald Trump is a war president of a different sort: a culture war president.

You can read more about why you need to pick which side you’re on in the culture wars here.

What’s To Be Learned?

Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, summed things up well while commenting on the ongoing dispute between Trump and Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker.

“[T]he real problem has always been Trump’s fundamental unfitness for high office. It is not Trump’s indiscipline and lack of leadership, which make carrying a legislative agenda forward nearly impossible. It is not his vulgarity and smallness, which have been the equivalent of spray-painting graffiti on the Washington Monument. It is not his nearly complete ignorance of policy and history, which condemns him to live in the eternal present of his own immediate desires.”

“No, Corker has given public permission to raise the most serious questions: Is Trump psychologically and morally equipped to be president? And could his unfitness cause permanent damage to the country? It is no longer possible to safely ignore the leaked cries for help coming from within the administration. They reveal a president raging against enemies, obsessed by slights, deeply uninformed and incurious, unable to focus, and subject to destructive whims.”

If you care about such things, wise up. If nothing changes, America will be in ruins by the time Trump leaves office. But, then again, perhaps it’s only appropriate that Americans reap what they sow with their indifference.