Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lying to your face

My last post was about how reluctant I am to post about politics.  So, predictably, this post is about: politics.

I've been watching the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico with something akin to horror. Not just for the suffering of the people -- which is considerable -- but for the callous indifference with which Donald Trump is addressing the situation.  First responders have said that the extent of devastation is unknown at this time, but we do know that 95% of the island is still without power, almost 60% without potable water, and 72% without access to telephone service.  San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, appealed to the federal government for help, and what did Trump do?

Chide the Puerto Ricans for "wanting everything to be done for them."  Point out how far in debt they are.    Pat himself on the back for his "fantastic response" to the disaster.

Others -- most others, in fact -- were not nearly so complimentary.  General Russel Honoré, who headed up President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was scathing.  "The mayor's living on a cot, and I hope the President has a good day of golf," Honoré said.  "The President has shown again he don't give a damn about poor people.  He doesn't give a damn about people of color.  And that SOB that rides around in Air Force One is denying services needed by the people of Puerto Rico.  I hate to say it that way but there's no other way to say it."

All of which brings up something I've mentioned before; Donald Trump lies every time he opens his mouth.  He has such a tenuous grasp on the truth that columnist Chris Cilizza has said that he's "living in an alternate universe."  Here are a few of the recent lies Trump has told, none of which he's backed down from:
  • FEMA and the first responders in Puerto Rico engaged in a "massive food and water delivery."  The fact is -- and this has been confirmed by people there on site -- there's been no widespread distribution of food and water, because most of the roads are still impassable. 
  • When Mayor Yulín Cruz said that what he'd said was flat out wrong, he lashed out at her, saying that evidently the "democrats had said you must be nasty to Trump."  Any contradictions between what he said and what's coming out of Puerto Rico are false, because the "press is treating him unfairly."
  • His lies don't just center around the hurricane and Puerto Rico.  No, he's been lying for ages.  Another recent one centered around the proposed health care bill.  Trump said, more than once, that the Senate actually did have the votes to pass the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but there was "one senator who is in the hospital."  They didn't, and there wasn't.
  • And, of course, there's been no meddling in anything by the Russians.  At a rally for Luther Strange, who lost his primary bid to take Jeff Sessions's seat in the Senate to the spectacularly right-wing Roy Moore, Trump said it was "... the Russian hoax.  One of the great hoaxes.  Are there any Russians in the audience?  I don't see any Russians."  This, despite the fact that the heads of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and the former Director of National Intelligence, all agree that there is overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in the election.
  • This pathological lying is not just by Trump himself, but by members of his administration.  Apropos of the proposed tax reform bill, Gary Cohn, director of the White House Economic Council, said, "The wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan."  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin concurred, adding that the bill, if passed, would reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars.  Not to be outdone, Trump himself weighed in, saying that he wouldn't benefit at all personally from the bill.  Howard Gleckman, of the Tax Policy Center, says that all three of these are blatant lies.  "There is no plausible way Congress can fully fund all of the tax cuts in this outline while complying with its constraints on revenue-raisers," Gleckman writes.  "Businesses would receive the biggest tax cuts, which would ultimately benefit the highest income households... Tax cuts for corporations and, especially, pass-through businesses, would mostly benefit the highest-income households."  Of the benefit to the economy, Gleckman was unequivocal:  "Despite the president’s promises, it is implausible that this plan would permanently boost the economy.  Trillions of dollars in lost revenue would add to the federal debt, raise interest rates, and make it more costly for businesses to invest.  Those costs would offset the benefits of lower corporate tax rates and expensing."
  • He said at a rally in Charlottesville that the U.S. had become a "net energy exporter for the first time ever just recently" -- implying, of course, that it was his policies that had caused this.  The problem is, the claim is flat-out false.  Politifact analyzed this statement from every angle they could think of, and no matter how you interpret it, it's wrong.  
And so on and so forth.  And yet... and yet... there are still people defending him.  Today I saw someone post that the well-deserved backlash Trump is receiving because of his petty, nasty, vindictive response to the Puerto Rico disaster is because "they always want to find a way to criticize the United States of America."  No, "they" (whoever "they" are) aren't criticizing the U.S., they're criticizing the President, who has once again shown himself to be a narcissistic asshole who takes any questioning of his words or actions as a personal assault.

Oh, and Puerto Rico is part of the United States of America.  Awkward, that.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

So this brings us back to a place we've been before; at this point, defending Donald Trump is to side with a man who has zero respect for the truth, and lies continuously, apparently without any twinge of guilt.  He's warped people's attitude toward the media to the point that all he has to do is shriek "fake news" or "lying reporters" and they believe every word that comes out of his mouth (and disbelieve anything contrary that they see, hear, or read).

In short: supporting this man at this point is unconscionable.  I don't care what your political affiliation is, what race, what religion, or anything else.  If you are still in support of Donald Trump, you are putting yourself behind one of the worst people ever elected to public office in the United States.  And I honestly don't know how you can sleep at night.

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