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Category: General

Trump and Antisemitism

[ 22 ] February 23, 2017 |

BritLibCottonNeroDiiFol183vPersecutedJewsIs Donald J. Trump an antisemite? If so, he would not be the first American president to harbor prejudices against Jews. Nixon, despite his close relationship with Henry Kissinger, obsessed about whether Jews were out to get him. Regardless, this question was the subject of a heated exchange on CNN yesterday.

CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany posed a simple question to Steven Goldstein, the Anne Frank Center’s executive director, on Tuesday night: “You think the president does not like Jews and is prejudiced against Jews?”

Goldstein’s response was unequivocal: “You bet.”

So began an intense exchange on CNN’s “Out Front” that escalated when McEnany suggested that President Trump cannot be anti-Semitic because his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner.

“Does he hate his daughter?” McEnany asked. “Does he hate his son-in-law?”

“You know what, Kayleigh?” Goldstein shot back. “I am tired of commentators like you on the right trotting out his daughter, trotting out his son-in-law as talking points against the president’s anti-Semitism. They are Jewish, but that is not a talking point against anti-Semitism, and that is a disgrace. Have you no ethics?”

Indeed, ‘some of my best friends are Jewish’ isn’t much of an argument—even when it extends to one’s own family. As Erin Burnett correctly noted, it’s far from unheard of for people to make exceptions to their prejudices when it comes to, say, ‘their Jews’ or ‘their blacks’ or ‘their Catholics.’ For that matter, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the Prime Minister of Israel praised a President supportive of his policies.

However, I think that a focus on Trump’s personal views misses the point entirely. Since the start of his campaign, Trump has rarely missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to condemn antisemitism, whether among his supporters or in the form of anti-Jewish terrorism. The administration’s exclusion of Jews from its Holocaust remembrance statement, and the way that it doubled down on the matter, justifiably provoked concern among members of the Jewish community and their allies.  Consider the statement by the Trump that McEnany invoked:

Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had — 306 electoral college votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.

I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on because lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time.

I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation. Very divided. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that. And, you know, it was something that was very important to me.

As far as people — Jewish people — so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love. Okay? Thank you.

As Callum Borchers noted:

“For those wanting to give the president a fair chance,” McEnany said, “you would have heard him condemn anti-Semitism. … That sounds like a condemnation to me.”

If it was a condemnation, it was one that did not specifically mention anti-Semitism and began with an off-topic boast about Trump’s electoral college win — all in all, an unconventional answer from a president.

To put it differently, Trump took a softball question—’Mr. President, I am providing you an opportunity to condemn a wave of antisemitic incidents’—and provided an discursive and elliptical answer. We shouldn’t have to be parsing his precise meaning. When Trump did call antisemitism “horrible,” it shouldn’t have come across as petulant damage control. What this suggests to me is not so much that Trump is antisemitic—but rather that he just doesn’t care that much. It’s another example of his narcissism and spotty empathy for the suffering he might inflict—by commission or omission—on others. Trump’s Jewish problem, in other words, is merely a symptom of the fundamental flaws that render him unsuited to the Presidency.

 

 

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Republican States Rights Doctrine

[ 70 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Spicer really laid out Republican states rights doctrine today in about 3 seconds. First, he was asked about transgender people and bathrooms.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the White House had rescinded guidance to public schools on transgender students’ access to facilities that match their gender identity because it ought to be a “states’ rights” issue.

Spicer also pointed to a federal judge in Texas who blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s guidance last August. Obama had instructed the Department of Education to instruct public schools not to discriminate against transgender students.

“It’s a states’ right issue. And that’s entirely what he believes,” Spicer said, referring to President Donald Trump, “that if a state wants to pass a law or rule or an organization wants to do something in compliance with the state law, that’s their right, but it shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”

A mere few minutes later, he was asked about states that had legalized marijuana.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”

It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.

And there you have it. States’ rights for policies that President Bannon and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III when states do something they like, full-throated federal repression when states do something they don’t like. Why, it’s almost as if “states’ rights” is not a principle!

Today in Trump’s America

[ 88 ] February 23, 2017 |

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White people feel emboldened to kill people of color in Trump’s America.

A Missouri man is accused of shooting and killing an Indian immigrant engineer he thought was Middle Eastern and wounding two others after shouting “get out of my country” and opening fire.

Adam Purinton was arrested after fleeing Austin’s Bar and Grill, a suburban Kansas City restaurant that was packed Wednesday night when he allegedly blasted off several rounds at 7:15 p.m.

Cops arrested the 51-year-old at an Applebee’s hours later in Clinton, Mo., some 80 miles away after they were able to negotiate with him over the phone early Thursday morning.

The fatal victim was identified by the Kansas City Star as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an aviation engineer at technology company Garmin whose Facebook page says he is from Hyderabad, India.

Surprised ICE doesn’t sign this guy up.

The American Gestapo

[ 75 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Above: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

ICE is the American version of the Gestapo and they should be demonized as such, individually.

An undocumented woman in desperate need of brain surgery has been forcibly removed from a Texas hospital — and her relatives in New York fear she could lose her life, a family representative said early Thursday.

Sara Beltran-Hernandez was detained after trying to migrate to the Big Apple from El Salvador without proper documentation in November 2015, family spokeswoman Melissa Zuniga told the Daily News. Beltran-Hernandez has been held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas ever since, as her Queens-based family members have tried to petition for her asylum.

Earlier this month, Beltran-Hernandez, 26, began complaining about severe headaches, nosebleeds and memory loss. Last week, she collapsed and was subsequently taken to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor and determined that she needed surgery.

But Zuniga told The News that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents forcibly removed Beltran-Hernandez from the Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth on Wednesday evening.

“They had her tied up from hands and ankles,” Zuniga said. “She was brought in a wheelchair and is not being given treatment even though her nose continues to bleed and she has told them her head is exploding.”

Beltran-Hernandez had been put on a surgery waitlist over the weekend, according to Zuniga. But when Beltran-Hernandez’ relatives called on Wednesday night, the surgery was suddenly off the table.

“ICE was preparing paper work to get her back to the detention center,” Zuniga said.

We need to find out who these terrible human beings and confront them. We need to make working for ICE so shameful for these people that they quit. More directly, we need to take radical action to stop this. Maybe I don’t know what the right path is, but we need to do something. This is horrifying and despicable and we cannot allow it to continue.

NEO-MCCARTHYISM!!!111!!!!

[ 164 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Watching Glenn Greenwald desperately fling his hands and talk VERY LOUD to dissemble from his role in electing Donald Trump through funneling everything about Hillary Clinton the Russian propaganda arm known as Wikileaks gave him throughout the election is pathetic. Only Greenwald and Katrina vanden Heuvel know the real truth–that by focusing on Russian interference in American elections, that we are engaging in a NEW COLD WAR that makes any criticism of Glenn NEO-MCCARTHYISM! If you don’t believe this YOU ARE A DESPICABLE LIAR!!!! AND A REDBAITER YOU JOE MCCARTHY YOU!!!*

No one should ever take Glenn Greenwald seriously again. He’s a malevolent force of pure self-righteousness who simply refuses to consider that he is part of a problem instead of the only truth teller of whatever topic he chooses to write about.

*Post written in classic Greenwald all-caps blog commenting style. I hope my imitation is acceptable to you.

The Great Pumpkin Moderate Republican President Is Coming!

[ 129 ] February 23, 2017 |

Zaid Jilani, who is paid to write about politics ostensibly from the left, actually tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 12.51.15 PM

So, let me get this straight:

  • Donald Trump had a great infrastructure plan (note: it wasn’t.) He was totally committed to it.
  • Through a mysterious mechanism that will probably never be identified, his administration became packed with finance executives.
  • After their spontaneous appearance in meetings with Trump, these alien finance executives “shut down” Donald Trump’s very serious infrastructure plan.
  • Their mechanism for “shutting down” the plan was to make an argument, which Trump agreed with.
  • Even had these finance executives who mysteriously appeared in meetings with Trump had not been able to “shut down” Trump’s secret plan to create a new PWA by arguing that it was a bad idea and Trump agreeing with their arguments, I would ask how anyone could possibly think there was the slightest chance in hell the proposal would be enacted by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, only I’m not sure Jilani knows who these people are.

And to add to the comedy, I’d bet Euros to pesos that like many of his buddies Jilani is firmly convinced that Obama, who by this point in his first term had actually signed a major New Deal-style infrastructure program, is a Reaganite shill for capital because he was unable to get multiple Republican votes (not to mention Lieberman, Bayh, Nelson, etc. etc.) for a trillion-dollar stimulus.

I will grant that Jilani’s faith in Republicans is towards the extreme end (Trump is going to stick it to big pharma! And he totally would have done it if the Goldman Sachs people Hillary Clinton forced him to pack is executive branch with didn’t force him to back down!)  But this is part of a broader phenomenon. Trying to minimize the historically yooooge and increasing differences between the parties obviously involves a lot of lying and distortion about Democrats. But it also involves applying a much more charitable standard towards Republicans — the slightest crumb thrown by even a completely obvious fraud like Rand Paul, say, is glommed onto as hope for a Principled Alternative to the Democrat Party.  “The ACA was a Republican plan” is a bullshit argument because it understates what statute accomplished, but it’s also bullshit because it’s massively too generous to the national Republican Party, whose offer to the uninsured has always been either “nothing” or “worse than nothing.” (Cf. also “Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican.”)

Hence, we get stuff like this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 2.17.38 PM

So, the the hope that the Republican Party will turn in a populist direction is be based on 1)two statutes passed by a Democratic Congress with veto-proof majorities and signed by a Republican president who would be either noncompetitive for the Republican nomination today or very different in their political stance, and 2)actions that happened more than 100 years ago. In conclusion, it’s very surprising that Donald Trump hasn’t governed as a New Dealer. But I’m sure the next Republican president will totally deliver the goods!

…as noted in comments, another classic of the genre. Yes, it truly mysterious why the left has not “won slots” in the Republican Party and why it is not trying to do so. Similarly, it’s hard to understand why the NAACP in the 50s decided to invest in litigation rather than lobbying the South Carolina legislature.

The Pruitt Emails

[ 39 ] February 23, 2017 |

Hear_speak_see_no_evil_Toshogu_cropped_enhancedAs you may recall:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Friday won Senate confirmation to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency he repeatedly sued to rein in its reach during the Obama administration.

The vote was 52-46 as Republican leaders used their party’s narrow Senate majority to push Pruitt’s confirmation despite calls from Democrats to delay the vote until requested emails are released next week.

As part of a public records lawsuit, a state judge in Oklahoma on Thursday ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails that he exchanged with oil and gas executives by Tuesday. Pruitt has refused to release the emails for more than two years.

Yesterday the emails came out, and they’re pretty much what you would expect.

The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one firm, Devon Energy. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once.

The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitt’s office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. AFPM encouraged Oklahoma to challenge the rules, noting: “This argument is more credible coming from a state.” Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both of these regulations.

It takes a special kind of craven to push through Pruitt’s nomination before their release. Here you have a Republican official who resisted compliance with public records laws, and the GOP rushes to secure for him his promotion before the American people have a chance to see what he was hiding. Of course, the whole reason someone like Pruitt is attractive to the modern GOP is his war against the environment on behalf of polluting industries. So the contents of the emails should be a feature, not a bug, right?

Such shenanigans reminds me of Pruitt’s attempts to dissemble on Bernie Sanders’ question about climate change—or, for that matter, Betsy DeVos’ refusal to directly answer questions about educational accountability. Such an unwillingness to take public ownership of their own positions tells you, I think, quite a good deal about modern Republicans.

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Donald Trump’s Callous Bullying Is What the Republican Party Is

[ 147 ] February 23, 2017 |

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This is very Trumpian in its gratuitous cruelty, and yet President Pence, Rubio, or Cruz would be doing the same thing:

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.

Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

Needless to say, Jeff Sessions is here to provide some neoconfederate analysis that lacks the the courage of its own repugnant convictions:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that his department “has a duty to enforce the law” and criticized the Obama administration’s guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis. Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the “proper interpretation” of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX but said deference should be given to lawmakers and localities.

“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue,” Sessions said.

Whether or not transgendered people are human beings who merit the equal protection of the laws is a question of states’ rights. Or Congress. Whoever is most likely to answer “no.” For more of this particular Republican line of analysis, cf. “We must overrule Roe v. Wade to send the issue back to the states, and so Congress can pass national anti-aboriton regulations.”

I would conclude with a “not a dime’s worth of difference” joke, except that I think the play here from this faction of the “left” is to say that caring too much about the rights and physical security of transgender people is IDENTITY POLITICS about BATHROOMS, and Democrats will never be able to win statewide elections in states like North Carolina if they oppose cruel attacks on transgendered people too loudly.

How much did it and does it cost to educate law students? An interview with myself

[ 117 ] February 23, 2017 |

A couple of days ago I wrote about the extraordinary increase in Stanford Law School’s revenues and operating budget over the past twenty years (Revenues have tripled in constant dollars, while expenditures have risen a more modest 174%, also in constant dollars.  The size of the student body has not changed).

Anyhoo, I’ve been digging around in various dusty financial documents (the old ones are sometimes literally dusty, while the newer ones tend to be PDF files, so they give off metaphorical dust).

I recently interviewed myself about this research.  (Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity).

NOTE THAT ALL DOLLAR FIGURES ARE GIVEN IN INFLATION-ADJUSTED CONSTANT 2016 DOLLARS.

How big was Harvard Law School’s operating budget in the year that current — so we’re not talking about the Middle Ages m’kay? — Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg matriculated? (She was one of nine women in the 1956-57 class of 552.  HLS had started admitting women six years earlier).

About $19.68 million.  Again, 2016 dollars yo.

How much was that per student?

Around $11,927.

Was that a lot in those days?

Compared to the average law school, yeah that was a lot.

How much did the average law school spend in operating costs per student back then?

Around $6,110 in 2016 dollars. (I keep repeating this because of the incredulity factor). This average includes Harvard, which by itself accounted for 8.92% of the collective operating budget ($220,590,000) of the 129 ABA law schools at that time, so that figure would be somewhat lower if you backed out HLS’s contribution to the total, which I’m too lazy to do at this moment, but I would appreciate it if someone would do for me, TIA.

How much did Harvard charge to attend its law school in 1956?

$7,765 (2016$)

How much did the average ABA law school charge?

$4,191

How much did the average public law school charge in resident tuition?

$1,853

What was the median income of American families 60 years ago?

$42,177

What’s Harvard Law School’s operating budget now?

In fiscal year 2015-16, about $253 million.

How much is that per student?

$126,374.  TBF, Stanford is spending $135,011.

Is the educational experience of today’s Harvard Law School students better than that experienced by Ruth Bader Ginsberg et. al.?

For sure.  Ginsberg got asked by the dean how she could justify taking a spot that could have gone to a man, so yeah, I bet it’s a lot better in many ways, especially for women, Kenyan Muslims, etc.

Is it 959.56% better?

Probably not.

What about Ye Average Law School?  How much is it now spending per student?

$53,174. So only 770.28% more.

How much does Harvard charge these days?

$62,700.  Per year.

And your average law school for average law students?

$46,050 at private law schools, $25,870 for state residents at public institutions.

But aren’t only about 35% of law students paying full sticker these days?

Yes but that just means the poorer students are paying their richer classmates’ bills. And that ain’t right.

Did you know Mick Jagger had a kid a couple of months ago?

Yeah when he goes to law school he can tell people that poppa was a Rolling Stone.

How much is median family income in America today?

$70,697

So how much more expensive has law school gotten relative to median family income since the notorious RBG’s student days?

Back then, HLS’s annual tuition was 18.4% of median family income.  Now it’s 88.7%. Average law school tuition was 9.9% of median family income.  Now private law school tuition is 65.1% of median family income.  Public law school tuition was 4.4% of median family income.  Now it’s 36.6%.

Will the revolution be televised?

No.

Wanted: Neo-con lackeys with strong, agile tongues

[ 94 ] February 23, 2017 |

Instead of being sworn in on a Bible, members of tRump’s cabinet will be sworn in on a loyalty oath to Himself. Just kidding. For now.

Donald Trump’s propensity to surround himself with loyalists—and to exile dissenters from his inner circle—is reportedly making it difficult to staff an administration that has made enemies, at one time or another, of just about everyone in Washington. For agency directors who hoped Trump was serious about creating a “team of rivals,” the past several weeks have provided a rude awakening.

That was their first mistake. Any reasonably observant person should have known Trump would want nothing less than a cult, although he might settle for a fan club. In addition, he’s vain, mean and addicted to attention – traits one can detect by watching the guy for a few minutes – which pairs nicely with the incompetence, laziness and low intelligence.

I know many intelligent people thought or hoped or prayed he’d be content to sit around until it was time to sign whatever was respectfully placed in front of him while the cameras whirred. However, all of the available evidence pointed to That isn’t happening. Or, as someone here – efgoldman I think? – likes to point out: tRump found a way to make casinos fail. If he were just dumb and lazy he’d have sat around and let other people make him money. However, he’s convinced he’s the ne plus ultra of CEOs, so he gets involved and at that point everything gets fucked up. For example

Politico reports that Cabinet nominees who accepted Trump’s offer were under the impression that they would have control over whom they hired, but have found themselves stymied by the White House, whose staff have gone behind their backs to make their own hires. In other cases, potential hires have been prevented from joining the administration after it was discovered they had made past critical remarks about the president.

[…]

In perhaps the most dramatic turn of events, Shermichael Singleton, who had worked with Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson for years, was quickly dismissed from what would have been a top position at the agency when it was discovered that he had written critical statements about Trump, Politico reports. Singleton, who was already in the process of helping Carson plan a nationwide tour when he was terminated last week, was escorted out of the department’s headquarters by security guards.

I wonder how far this goes? Are they checking people’s Yelp! accounts for bad reviews of tRump restaurants and hotels? Probably.

Trump’s inability to brook dissent has compounded the administration’s struggles to fill a number of high-ranking positions. According to the Partnership for Public Service, the president has nominated “fewer than three dozen of the 550 most important Senate-confirmed jobs,” leaving his Cabinet empty as he golfs each weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Assuming the administration ever does get every position filled to Trumplethinskin’s satisfaction, everyone will have to keep on His Orangeness’ good side. As I’ve written before, this is not possible, because he’ll be the one deciding pretty much at random who is In and who is Out. In addition, there will be random bouts of meddling and God help anyone who objects. Maybe all of the incompetence and clusterfuckery will keep the Republicans from doing as much harm as they might, but I’m not hopeful that it will render them harmless.

The tRump Fib-o-lator

[ 36 ] February 22, 2017 |

The Tangerine Nightmare has gone 0 days without lying or twisting the truth. The Washington Post has project to track the nature and the frequency of the fibs. May the saints preserve them from carpal tunnel, poor posture and eye strain.

Donald Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s president, he has continued his proclivity for making dubious, misleading or false statements. He also often repeats the same debunked claims even though they have been fact-checked. It’s hard to keep up with all of Trump’s rhetoric, so the Fact Checker is assembling in one place all of his suspect statements from his first 100 days as president. You can sort them by various categories and see how many times he has repeated the same false statement.

I hope they won’t stop after a 100 days. But they’ll probably need a long vacation at that point because if lies were money, Napoleorange would be as rich as he claims to be.

At rate, there are all sorts of nifty graphs and charts and even a way to submit lies they may have missed.

The Washington Post also put together a pie chart showing how he spent his first 744 hours in office, including time spent Tweeting.

Maher doesn’t know what he did to Yiannopoulous, but you should thank him for it

[ 132 ] February 22, 2017 |

Chronically unfunny being Bill Maher is one seriously confused sack of creep. He wants credit for the fact that Milo Yiannopoulous lost his job, a book deal and a speaking gig. At the same time he insists Yiannopoulos is harmless. (Thanks to Tsam for the heads up.)

Was Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher the tipping point in his career downfall?

No.

Maher thinks so.

And that proves it.

In an interview with the New York Times, Maher took credit for Yiannopoulos’ crumbling public image, saying his Real Time appearance exposed him as an “emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe.”

“And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC,” he said. “Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You’re welcome.”

As the article notes – right after the lede so Maher looks especially far up himself and dim – Yiannopoulos’ comments about men having sex with minors are what got him in trouble. Maher – for reasons that make sense to him – is eager to give the impression that appearing on his show is the kiss of death for one’s career.

Even while claiming Yiannopoulos’ career as a casualty of his show, Maher refused to claim that Milo is dangerous, instead calling him “a little cuckoo” and blaming the outrage on the left.

“You know what he is? He’s the little impish, bratty kid brother. And the liberals are his older teenager sisters who are having a sleepover and he puts a spider in their sleeping bag so he can watch them scream.”

To take Maher’s stupid metaphor to its natural conclusion: Maher is the abusive dad who beats the bratty kid brother black and blue for his little prank. Once he’s tossed the kid into the basement he goes back to the girls’ room opens the door and leers at them. “You’re welcome,” he says.

But really he’s just full of shit.

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