Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stop the Presses! Trump Now Onboard with Immigration Amnesty

Donald Trump's signature issue -- from day one -- was round 'em up and throw them out. Now it's "I don't know, you tell me." Hey, Donald, that's not a policy. That's a waffle.

Trump is wondering what his immigration policy actually is. He says he
doesn't know, do they really have to go back if they're the "good guys?"
(Someone tell him that's amnesty.)

I guess when you pivot, you like fucking pivot, or something, or at the very least change your words. Yeah, that'll do it.

So very bizarre, but that's Trump National Spokesperson Katrina Pierson. But okay, what are these new words?

Yes, Trump is for amnesty for the "good guys." What's his base going to say?  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OMG, Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Neither a Libtard Nor a Repug!

Tyson has more fun explaining why he's an agnostic than, er, whatever. I used to be an atheist. Now I'm an agnostic. Why? Tyson.

A conservative decided to label Neil deGrasse Tyson a liberal. It did not end well.

I happened on to a Daily Kos post on a conservative trying to go all "libtard" on Neil deGrasse Tyson. Appreciate it here.

Tyson gave a well-reasoned response in which, among other things, he reacted to being called an atheist with a link to a YouTube video. Appreciate that here:

Many people already knew not to mess with Tyson. Another just found out why.

Stand Up If You Think America Needs a Better Retirement System

Face it, People: Republicans have been trying to gut Social Security and Medicare for years. But you knew that.

They're alive, they've got that going for them. Couldn't we do better?

One of the most irritating comments I get when I refer to success stories in other countries, like the cradle-to-grave social safety net in Denmark is, "Yeah, but that's Denmark." What the fuck does that mean? America sucks hard and can't do anything right?

No, that's not what that means. It means we're frozen in time in a Western movie full of rugged individualists muttering "Good fences make good neighbors." No, they don't. Good gates make good neighbors.

Before Social Security, old age meant unbearable poverty. Before Medicare, old age meant early death unless you were well-off and could afford insurance. Before the Environmental Protection Agency and clean-water and clean-air acts, it meant smog over vast numbers of American cities.

But I digress. So working together for a better America has paid dividends.

Our Social Security system is okay as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. Now that most companies in America have abandoned defined-benefit retirement plans and the 401(k) plan has proven a complete flop, we don't need another retirement plan. We need to strengthen and expand -- by a lot! -- Social Security.

While I'm at it, let me throw in Medicare for all.

Stand up if you're for that, too. Oh, and if you're not, what's your excuse? Are you one of those "not one goddam dime of my tax money is going to pay for one goddam thing that doesn't help me, only me, me goddamit!"

Then you can explain, if you will, how a robust Social Security and Medicare system doesn't benefit you immensely. I'm quite sure you can't.

What you can explain is that, deep down, you don't want people you don't like to have a good life. A good life is reserved just for you, thank you very much. Oh, now I get it. Should have just told me. Didn't want to have to say it out loud, you say? I don't blame you.

I know. People, including me, can get a bit preachy about this, but remember: We all pay for Social Security and Medicare, and we all benefit by it. True, if you make more money than others, you pay more than others. But the system was designed that way, and what do we get as a society? Better health, better productivity, and less crime.

But people fall through the cracks. I have friends who worked all their lives but didn't do well and find that they only get $700 a month in Social Security. What happens to them?

That's a question we all know the answer to. If they're lucky, they live off friends or family. If they're not, they're what we call "the homeless problem."

Expand Social Security, expand Medicare. We are rich. Let's act like it, even if that means being like Denmark, which turns out to be a pretty good thing.

The Trump Campaign Isn't Pivoting, It's Melting.

Donald Trump has come to the conclusion that his heartlessness on immigration won't fly in the general election. So, obfuscating while hiding behind a "wall" will work?

Okay, I got nuthin'. So sue me...

Step one: Hire a new campaign team. Step two: Admit that your immigration scheme has alienated Latinos, Asians, Muslims, you name it. Step three: Say "We're going to build the wall" really loud but we're going to be "humane," "softened," we're going "to be determined."

Josh Marshall notices that this is not working, but it might be all Trump's got:
His policy of mass expulsion is toxic for a general election audience. Abandoning the centerpiece policy of his campaign is equally unworkable. It doesn't pass a laugh test and it would trigger revolt among his closest supporters. In the end, though, it's Trump and his campaign that sound most confused, brainstorming on the public airwaves some way to square a circle that seems impossible to square. Tonight's speech indicates the plan is to double down on the wall, simply ignore mass expulsion, say Hillary wants the country to be overrun by brown hordes.
It's seldom good when a campaign's supporters can't figure out where the campaign stands on a given issue. It's never good when the campaign itself can't figure out where the campaign stands on a given issue. It's seems ridiculous and adrift.
There's always a temptation with the Trump campaign to uncover some strategy behind what seems on the surface to be scattered, erratic or foolish. But Trump's Razor counsels against this. The truth is the Trump team has no idea what they're doing. Pundits may need a few days to unravel this. But this is at best simply an effort to play for time.
It's the same with his "new" approach to African-Americans: Your lives suck, you existing in a living Hell in inner cities, blah, blah, blah, vote for me, you decrepit losers. Marshall calls this the "Trump African-American Outreach Train." Sounds about right.

Meanwhile, Reince Priebus says that, because of Trump's new "measured" tone, he'll be "tied or ahead" by Labor Day. Yeah, right.

Third-party candidate Gary Johnson said he'd give up marijuana during the presidential campaign. That's all well and good, but it appears that some in the Trump campaign and the RNC have taken up the habit in his stead.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Is Trumpism? It's the Politics of Resentment and Loss, Pure and Simple

Trumpism in a nutshell: My life sucks and it's you guys' fault. It's true, but with a twist.

Donald Trump experiences none of the things he decries. He tapped into
his followers' sense of loss and resentment for political gain. He's running
with it because it works. Does anyone else think it's a nasty thing to do?

The twist to Donald Trump's politics of resentment and loss is that those feeling it the most are the least able to articulate it and do something about it. But the elders in their tribe, the more successful non-college educated whites, embrace it because the sense that someone is stealing their American Dream is central to their tribe's ethos. Josh Marshall explains:
Two data points from the [Gallup] study seem much more telling to me. First, Trump support is highly correlated with areas experiencing rising mortality rates for whites - a massively important societal development, in addition to a tragedy for the many people affected. When that revelation was hot at the end of last year, some of the follow up debunking showed that a closer analysis of the data showed that the highest mortality spikes were among middle-aged white women. Critics said, well the angry Trumpers are mostly men, not women. So this argument falls apart. Once again, these correlations aren't that simple or linear.
The second, relatively little discussed, finding is that the people who are responding most to the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee politics are those most isolated from both groups. In other words, the people responding most to anti-immigration politics and xenophobia are ones living in fairly racially homogenous and white communities.
I don't want to attempt some grand overarching theory of Trumpism. But, broad brush, I continue to believe that it is best understood as a reaction to the erosion of white privilege, supremacy and centrality in American life.
That brings us to the second key point: Trumpism is about loss. And that loss is real. It's not just about being haters or uneducated or stupid. The fact that what's being lost is in most respects something that wasn't legitimate to have in the first place - status, centrality and racial privilege - should not blind us to the fact that the loss is real and that it will have political consequences...
It's here that Josh nails it: What's being lost is in most respects something that wasn't legitimate to have in the first place. One aspect of American life in a historical perspective is that slavery, followed by decades of racial marginalization and exploitation, has produced a racial and economic hierarchy that was never ours to rightfully exploit. We did so because we could, not because it was a justifiable predicate to our tragically misguided heritage.

It's striking that the loss of power and privilege that white folks are resenting -- what drives their "mad-as-hell" existence -- was never something they legitimately had a right to.

Try explaining that to the losers in our society. Funny, but the black poor know who to blame for their predicament, and in many ways they are totally justified. With the whites, too, it's not hard to figure out who to blame -- the blacks, the browns, even the white trash -- but what's missing is any justification, other than decades of taking our original sin for granted and failing to realize that it truly is our nation's original sin.

So, Donald Trump taps into this and runs with it. I find it contemptible, and there's nothing I can do about the approximately 40% of American voters who will push the lever for Trump. There's two things that help: knowing that he'll very likely lose and what he stands for will eventually be discredited and marginalized. It can't happen soon enough.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Using the $400 Million Payment as Leverage to Retreive Hostages Was a Brilliant Stroke

Amid our toxic political landscape, smart diplomacy is taken as a misstep, even a crime. It's neither.

Obama is smarter than his opponents admit, so they toss political grenades
that generally miss their mark. The Iranian deal is just another example.

No, I don't know all the details of the Iranian deal, but I know the gist. 37 years ago the Shah was overthrown in Iran, a famous cleric took over, and in the resulting groundswell a number of U.S. diplomats were taken hostage. All Iranian assets were frozen in U.S. banks, and the situation remained that way until recently, when the Iranian nuclear deal unfroze a lot of things, including the Iranian assets.

(The 1979 hostages were released in 1980. The hostages in this story are different and more recent.)

I also remember -- amid the howling and gnashing of teeth that was the GOP reaction to the Iranian deal -- that they screamed bloody murder that the deal was approved without demanding that a number of American prisoners in Iranian jails be returned, as well. That didn't happen because the U.S. wanted the nuclear deal, so they separated out the hostages. And there we were.

And yet, boom!, weeks later the hostages were released, and all the opposition GOP could say was, "Er, uh, it should have been sooner!"

In the past weeks, the same GOP have been trying to link a payment of $400 million to the hostages, saying it was ransom. Donald Trump seized on it, and although he botched the "gotcha!" by citing a film that was actually the wrong film, but he and the rest of Republicandom got some mileage out of it, but not much.

The Obama administration played it down, saying the payment was going to be made and the hostage were coming home. That they seemed to coincide was just a coincidence. The administration stayed with that story until yesterday. Ahem.

Now, they admit the two events coincided for a reason: The payment was withheld until the hostages were released, as leverage to make the release take place. So, far from being a ransom payment, it appears now to be more of a master stroke. You want the money you have coming, you'd better fork over the hostages. And they did.

Well done, Obama administration. Play a little diplomatic hardball, and win. Thank you very much. Now, can we go back to making sense? (I doubt it.)

Oh Snap! Clinton's Private Email System Was Colin Powell's Idea.

The nothing-burger that Clinton's email "scandal" is just got nothinger.

It worked well for him, he told an incoming Hillary Clinton.

I've long thought that the Clinton email scandal was no such thing, but rather a contrived attack for political gain and nothing else. So was Benghazi, but we knew that. Ironically or worse, so did Congress, which continues to "investigate" her.

Now comes news -- probably an illegal leak of information only recently released to Congress under incredibly tight security -- that Hillary Clinton had asked Colin Powell, as she readied herself for her new gig at State, how his private email system functioned, and he recommended that she use a private email system for unclassified communication. He had done so with his AOL account, and it streamlined his communications because at that time, State didn't have a functioning email system.

Nobody's talking much yet about this revelation, as it's rather dodgy on a number of levels, including who might have leaked it, but Colin Powell's office has released a statement that generally confirms the new information.
Colin Powell's office in a statement said he could not recall the dinner conversation. He did recall describing the system he used to her, but the statement did not say he suggested Clinton do the same.
"He did write former Secretary Clinton an email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department," the statement said. "At the time there was no equivalent system within the department."
He used a secure department computer to manage classified information, the statement said.
Clear enough for me, right? Secretary Clinton downplays the secure system, though she has alluded to it. Generally, we've gotten the impression she went to the classified system for classified communications and used her private system for a mix of personal and non-classified, job-related emails. I've always felt that she doesn't want to discuss the classified system because it's meant to be secret, and she's being a good soldier. Also, she's adopted the "it was a mistake, I now realize that" line because it's politically expedient to do so. I don't think she believes she did anything wrong with her email system, a position I've adopted since the beginning of this no-there-there kerfuffle, but Clinton can't say that because saying she did nothing wrong buys into the right-wrong duality, leading to "Yes, you did!" "No, I didn't!" and so on.

And, frankly, the one aspect of the affair that is shaky -- careless, if you will -- was the off-hand chance that her system would get hacked, and then there really would have been hell to pay. So far, so good on that score. In fact, government and political systems have been hacked left and right. Was Clinton lucky or prescient in her use of her private server? Hopefully, we'll never know.

Of course, these nothing scandals won't go away even after she wins the presidency. The GOP has their cudgels and they must use them, no matter how worn out they become.

To sum up: Clinton talks to a respected former Secretary of State, adopts his private-email-for-non-classified-communication model, uses it successfully for her entire tenure, and only comes under fire because of the Benghazi madness. Out of tens of thousands of emails, maybe -- maybe, State says only one -- three contained markings of something that could have been construed as classified or confidential, although the markings apparently run counter to State's own handbook on marking classified information, something FBI Director James Comey acknowledged during his testimony.

But, hey, GOP, keep flailing away. In this oddball political culture, it's been working, sort of.