Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Think Poland Was Just Born in the Wrong Place

A couple of years ago I visited Krakow and nearby Auschwitz and Birkenau. Heartbreaking. Now I visit Warsaw and learn of the Uprising and Treblinka.

Warsaw before WWII.

Warsaw after.

Nobody should have to be located between Germany and Russia, nobody.

For brevity, I'll skip centuries of Teutonic Knights, and Prussia, and then not Prussia, and compacts with Lithuania, and then shifting borders, and World War I, and free Gdansk, and then, crap, World War II.

When the Germans crushed the Uprising in September, 1944, they agreed to spare Warsaw. Of course, they quickly and systematically destroyed it.

The Soviet Union was complicit in this destruction. The Red Army, poised across the river, could have saved and even backed the heroic Polish Home Army, who ostensibly were allies. It didn't. Instead, it arrested its leaders and left the rest to die. All told, 18,000 troops and 180,000 civilians perished as Germany crushed the revolt, with Stalin's Red Army's tacit approval, sparing the Soviets having to crush the Poles later after the Russians finished off the Germans.

Then the Soviets took over. They Sovietized Poland, which, as far as I can tell, involved building huge, grotesque apartment blocks and scores of factories, and then looting the country of the product of its labor and resources.

Eventually came Lech Walesa and Solidarity, who stood up and, in essence, toppled the Soviet Union. Some semblance of payback, I suppose.

I left out what I learned about Gdansk, where Hitler first attacked when he broke the non-aggression pact. He later leveled the place, too.

Anyway, like I said, Poland was born in the wrong place.

Of course, I won't even start on the Native Americans. That's another, though similar, story.

Note. Germany has, without a doubt, completely changed. Russia has, emphatically, not. May NATO and the EU keep Poland safe, as they have since it joined in 1999 and 2004, respectively.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is Trump Staking Out the Tax Return Fraidy Cat Position? (Mitt Romney Is the Bigger Hypocrite Here.)

It's hilarious when the last GOP presidential candidate and the first to fudge his tax-return releases becomes the spokesmodel for condemning Trump's refusal to release his. This IS reality TV, isn't it? (Survivor: Tax Return Island)

Losers should hang out together more often.

This story can write itself, but here's a little help. Romney here and Trump here.

Of course, now we'll get to hear a bunch of GOPers demanding Hillary release the transcripts to her speeches to private groups. Apples and oranges, but we'll hear it and probably more.

"I'll release my tax returns when Hillary releases the last ten years of MasterCard records!"

Sniveling cowards. The GOP has invented a new form of stupid, relying on their base to not care. But in the general? Right. Stupid.

So, Um, Hillary Is a Woman Strong Enough to Release Years of Tax Returns, and Donald Is a Fraidy Man Who Can't Release Any of His? A Real Fraidy Man?

Are Republicans falling down a shit hole? You bet, and so is Donald Trump.

We all knew he'd never release his tax returns. I wonder if he's hiding something.

Asked and answered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Funniest Thing Ever Said About Ted Cruz -- and Possibly the Truest

John Boehner's famous quips about Cruz being "Lucifer in the flesh" and "a miserable son of a bitch" rank right up there, but this is, er, pithier...

What else can you say to demean Ted's character that his college
roommate hasn't already said, which, to paraphrase, was, "Ted Cruz
was very annoying. It was like his superpower." And yet, it gets worse.

Okay, college roommates and John Boehner aside, this comment -- by a Rom Roberts -- on a Gawker story has narrowed in on what makes Ted Cruz so special:
“My favorite Ted Cruz story is the time he tried to lay his egg sacs in a tree that was just too young. Thing was, he couldn’t inject the eggs deep enough into the tree and the tree didn’t have the kind of mature bark you need to protect the eggs from predators. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this goon spends nearly all July digging at this tree with his mandibles and slugging these eggs down through his proboscis into the flesh of the tree and he’s proud about it, rubbing his hind legs together and making this sickening whirring noise the whole time. He gets finished and perches himself on a branch to shed his skin and this Blue Jay, just a common Blue Jay comes over and just immediately gets to work pecking at the tree where millions of his eggs were and poof, just like that, a summer’s work is gone. Cruz is furious, we’re all laughing, it was great times. Hell of a stinger though on that little freak.”
Oh, um, yeah, what he said.

Will Republicans Survive the Holocaust? Maybe, but Not as the Party of the Rich.

Ersatz conservatism got a free ride for decades. The party is over, to mix metaphors.

What the hell are these guys smiling at? Their pensions?

It's all well and good for Republican "insiders" to maintain there's life after Trump, but if wishes were horses than beggars would exit the GOP like somebody left the barn door open, to mix metaphors, again.

Martin Longman of Political Animal explains it like the keen political analyst he is.
To me, though, the question is about enduring change, by which I mean that we want to know if the GOP will snap back into being once the presidential election is over.
And, to answer that question, you want to know what’s happening to their mechanisms of power. You want to know how they’ve been successful and whether they’ll still have all the tools to be successful with the same strategies that have worked in the past.
So, I look at a variety of factors. There’s the three-legged stool of free-market capitalism, massive defense spending, and social conservatism. What happens when Wall Street backs a Democratic nominee, neoconservatives back a Democratic nominee, and a Democratic president locks in a Supreme Court that will be reliably pro-choice for more than a generation? Seems to me that the Republican stool is left as a pile of sawdust.
What would hold it from springing back? Lots of factors:
What happens to the Republicans’ traditional advantage with message discipline when they’ve lost the free trade argument with their own base, the social conservatives have no dog in the fight anymore, and the isolationist wing of the party is at near-parity with the internationalists?
What happens to their partisan media dominance when the talking heads are all squabbling with each other, blaming each other for their failures, and can’t agree to push one united message through each news cycle?
They lose their money advantage, the passion of their door-knocking envelope-licking foot soldiers, the ability to grind their wurlizter until their base is in a mass hypnosis, and any agreement on their basic raison d’ĂȘtre.
Would be nice to see that. Why can't the rich continue to use conservatism as a tool of hypnotism?
There are always more poor people than rich people, so a party for rich people cannot compete on an equal playing field. They always need to distract and divert attention from the fact that their policies are primarily aimed at giving rich people what they want. That’s why partisan media dominance is critical. That’s why a unified message is indispensable. That’s why they need to march in lockstep and never validate criticisms coming from the other side. 
And the biggest realignment of them all is the youth vote, because although they’re only voting for the first or second time, they’re not conservatives and they have no sympathy for conservatives, and they could not be more unimpressed with conservatives.
Add it all up, and you have a party that needed a bunch of things to win because rich people are always outnumbered. And those things are all either shattered or burning like a dumpster fire.
Read all of Longman for the whole picture. It's not the Bolshevik Revolution, but I wouldn't make book on conservatives for a while. Republicans in some reinvented, Eisenhower/Rockefeller shape-shift, maybe, but the days of the robber barons are numbered.

And we have Trump, likely, to thank.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Weird Effect! Trump Makes Some Republicans Look Good.

Whether Trump is "Republican" or not is beside the point. You guys nominated him, he's yours. So now you start making sense!

Donald Trump has given heartburn and conniption fits to GOPers.

Michael Gerson is one conservative pundit who sometimes made sense and, at the very least, avoided the vitriol. He's very good here.

Jennifer Rubin always put me off. But I read this piece with gusto and, er, respect.

The Trump effect: making conservative pundits self-reflect and back off of their worst notions. At least he's doing something good.

Why Bernie Never Had a Chance: Americans Make Crappy Socialists

I've spent the past six days in social democracies like Denmark and Germany. They rock socialism because they can.

This is Copenhagen. But their beauty is in their people, not their past.

I'll own up to the fact that while I support everything that Bernie Sanders supports and then some I never for a moment thought he had a chance. I'm a proud socialist, which is why I've been to Copenhagen four times in three years. It's my happy place, as expensive as it is for a tourist who pays the taxes but doesn't live there to get the services. Oh well, still love it and its people, who are judged the most contented in the world.

Bernie never had a chance because his supporters are, for the most part, young idealists who haven't accrued enough stock and savings to have anything to lose (actually most older people are clinging to the hope for a decent retirement by a thread, but....). Americans that vote, vote with their pocketbooks. And, frankly, Bernie's brand of socialism scares the bejesus out of them.

They're dead, flat, unquestionably wrong, but too bad. Americans are not yet ready for the kind of common-good, communitarian, we-all-do-better-when-we-do-it-together common-sense way of managing our society. We want lower taxes and better services and we want it now, and the hell with everyone else if we can't have it.

That's moronic beyond measure. There, I've said it. Donald Trump is a danger we should all hope we get past. But the real danger we face is our own self-centered, self-defeating inability to figure out that if we work together, pay more taxes (and, yes, get more services!), and face the need for income redistribution toward more income equality (so we can get more services!), it will lead to a fuller, more contented, less stressful life.

But we make pretty crappy socialists, so don't hold your breath. Vote for Hillary Clinton because it's the best we can do (and it isn't horrible!) and hope that in the future a Bernie Sanders is just our brand of Americanism we're ready to endorse.

The Freakiest Political Paragraph I've Read This Campaign Season, Bar None

I think Paul Krugman is not just right most of the time but that he's a witty SOB as well. He hits it out of the park with this one.

Not knowing you're a knucklehead is a distinct disadvantage,
except in business, where bullshit is your stock in trade.

Paul Krugman served a dish very cold, except for how funny -- and scary -- it is:
Truly, Donald Trump knows nothing. He is more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine, even when you take into account the fact that he is more ignorant than you can possibly imagine. But his ignorance isn’t as unique as it may seem: In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally.
What he said.

If we knew he'd just keep being stupid and therefore get his ass kicked in the general election, we'd be fine. But we're not fine, for reasons we all sort of feel occasionally in the hairs on the back of our necks.

Greatest Country in the World! (Unless You're Poor in Fresno, CA)

First, pay the timid immigrants shit wages. Then, let them live in squalor. Want to build a wall, Donald? How about around Fresno? And make their housing inspectors pay for it.

Livin' the dream in Fresno.

Living in California most of my life, I've passed through Fresno dozens of times. As in pass through. It's not a city about which you say "I think I'll move to Fresno for the good life!" But it is in the heart of one of the richest agricultural regions in America and has a decent state university known for its sports and ag and oenology (winemaking) programs. And there must be some gated communities somewhere.

Now, though, it's better known for being a hellhole. Good on ya, Fresno! Attract a bunch of farmworkers and treat them like shit.


Okay, boys and girls, let's get out there and vote like good little limited-government Republicans. After all, who needs housing inspectors when you can keep 'em down on the farm at shit wages? Capitalismo!

Note. Yes, California is the bluest of blue states, but the Central Valley is different. Because the Okies came here and settled during the Depression, it's like having Alabama smack in the middle of, well, er, California. Great for growing food, but a political and cultural shithole.

Just an opinion! (You move there.)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Did Trump Just Say Cut U.S. Debt by Giving Bondholders a Haircut? Yes, He Did.

Our Constitution says we don't deal, for heaven's sake. Now Trump wants to anyway? Holy crap.

"We gotta run this country like a business." Run it
into the ground like your casinos, you mean.

"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

So begins Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment. Now Trump wants to dicker. Read Josh Marshall's take. About right.

We're so screwed.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The View from Denmark: It's Trump! (I Never Knew I'd Miss #NeverTrump)

I went to Denmark just in time for the apocalypse. Holy shit.

It's pretty here, and there's no Trump.

As I emailed a friend, hearing that Trump had won Indiana, forcing Cruz and Kasich to drop out (!), made me think that zombies had actually invaded the U.S. and that we here across the pond hope they never make it here, and that maybe we actually have to build the wall after all.

Yes, Denmark is actually a well-developed Bernie-bro-before-there-was-a-Bernie country, with leggy blonde socialists on bikes to prove it. So the apocalypse looks especially dire from here, not that they care much. At this point they are amused at the March of the Zombies, also known as the Republican Party.

(Quick update: I'm staying in a Copenhagen apartment that looks and feels right down to its silverware drawer like an Ikea store. I know that this is Denmark, not Sweden, but I have the feeling that the Scandinavians believe if they design everything as perfectly as possible, the coming apocalypse will bypass them entirely.)

We actual Americans cannot afford to be amused. But if only to not go mad, read this Andrew O'Herir piece at Salon to feel better. It's actually the keenest account of what's just happened as I've yet found.

So, stay indoors and bar the door. They're coming!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hillary's (Not So) Secret Weapon Against The Donald: His Vanity

Donald Trump's advisors are telling him to go easy on Clinton's gender. But he won't be able to!

A woman getting over on Donald Trump? Not on your life!

Trump would be wise to listen to his advisors on the gender thing. The problem is he's not wise and probably not listening. All Hillary has to do is goad him into attacking her on her gender identity, and it won't be difficult. Sez Paul Waldman in The Week:
Clinton will have so many different paths to attack Trump on issues of concern to women that she may not know where to start. But don't be surprised if she baits him into insulting her in ways that every woman voter will recognize. A barbed comment about his age here, a joke about his hair there, an implication about his virility over there — and Trump will respond with a sexist tirade the minute he hears about it.
Just the fact that the critique is coming from a woman — and even worse, one with her own power — will send Trump into a rage. I promise you that at some point Trump will call Clinton ugly (even if he doesn't use that word), because he plainly believes that proclaiming his lack of sexual interest in a woman is the most cutting insult he can offer.
Few candidates have ever appealed more directly to anxious masculinity than Trump, and every time he gets in a new flame war with someone like Megyn Kelly, many of his supporters are overjoyed. Trump voters pine for a return to the familiar social hierarchies of the past — one part of Making America Great Again is a return to an imagined time when everything was perfect and certain kinds of people knew their place. Yet for every voter who thinks that, there are more who could not want to go back any less.
Hey, Hillary, just hint at your superiority to his manhood, and uh-oh, watch out! Sparks will fly, and Trump's negatives with women will climb. Pass the popcorn, this ought to be fun.

Just How Stupid Is the Transgender Bathroom Debate?

Pretty stupid. But that's not the point.

Nobody would think to stop this guy from using the ladies room. Nobody.

What exactly is the point, then? Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of The Week takes a stab at it:
First of all: These laws [against transgender bathroom use] are only symbolic. They serve no functional purpose. Presumably, post-transition transgender people look like the gender they identify with. Who, exactly, is going to stop someone who looks like a woman from walking into a ladies' room? Or someone who looks like a man from walking into a men's room? The American nanny state may be out of control, but we still don't have bathroom police. As such, post-transition transgender Americans likely already have access to the bathrooms of their choice, even without these new laws.
As for the conservative claim that these transgender rights laws give sexual predators license to attack people: This is nonsense. There are surely transgender sexual predators, just like there are cisgender sexual predators, just like there are straight, bi, and gay sexual predators. The problems posed by bathrooms and sexual assault (the access, the relative privacy) are the same with or without the transgender element, and with or without these laws.
Conservatives just hate icky stuff they think is weird and -- in their world -- against their religion. As much as they like to think they're in favor of "religious liberty" as guaranteed by the Constitution, they don't actually think it works both ways. Only their religious beliefs hold sway.

So Gobry has it right: Allow the symbolic -- transgender people have rights -- and their world falls to shit, a place where icky people get to do what they feel is right even if there is no practical way to police the icky behavior (behavior, by the way, that some people don't think is icky).

But they shudder to think! Tough break, conservative tribe. You may get your way, for a while at least, in your territory, but it'll cost you. Ask North Carolina...