Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bottom Line: Trump Is Not a Legitimate President.

It's hard to look at the report of who hacked whom on behalf of whom without concluding that Putin's Russia picked its winner and won.

Donald Trump is the opposite of qualified. Yes, he's disqualified.

The very unfortunate reality is that this delegitimated, unqualified person gets to be president anyway, with all the power that entails, and this catastrophe of a leader has aligned himself with a political party that has been waiting decades to crash the whole system. Holy crap. But there's more.

Out of a sense of craftiness or simple contrarian mindset, Donald Trump has chosen -- very much against the established positions of his own party -- to also align himself with a long-established and quite deadly opponent. Which American thinks getting along with and going along with Vladimir Putin is a vibrant and uplifting occupation? This is what America should be doing?

Unsurprisingly, we have an amazingly quick answer: Americans that align their interests with fossil fuels easily find themselves all in with the Russkies. Are we talking about the Koch brothers, Rex Tillerson, Alaskans, Texans, and residents of any number of oil-rich states that are politically aligned with the Republican Party? Why yes, we are.

Are we talking about people that, due to the necessity of soiling our own nests by digging for and pumping and moving more oil, shale, tar, etc. must then also deny that we're on the verge of destroying the planet by the very process of powering what we humans do? Why yes, we are.

And what makes Putin tick? Oil and natural gas? Pretty much. So what does Putin do? He works to put an unlikely stooge into office -- who would have predicted that Trump would come along tailor-made to be that stooge?? -- despite the chance that his gambit would fail and he'd be left with a very pissed Hillary Clinton in office, who then would spend a good part of her energy making life very difficult for Putin and his gang.

Putin has grit, you have to admit.

Donald Trump is our president because an assortment of people looked at him and said, "He's our guy because this, this, and this."

A completely irreligious man is supported by the Christian Right because he'll work to take the right to abortion away from American women, despite the fact that he supported abortion all his life. This, however, doesn't make him delegitimate. It makes him unethical.

A large portion of the uneducated white working class supported him because they saw in him a champion, both of the white race and against the brown and black races. Trump's play here was openly racist. Trump's anti-trade polemics had the bonus value of attacking the "yellow man" as well. Fuck the Chinese. Trump's bringing back all the jobs! The fact is that at best he'll nibble around the edges. Why only the edges?

Because that's just about all a president can do, short of actually enacting an expensive -- and likely successful! -- infrastructure-oriented stimulus program. The problem is that Trump is unlikely to do it because, oh noes!, the deficit! A president can also support an industry, like alternative energy, and generate jobs, but our president-elect has no such intentions. Okay, he may generate oil jobs...

Why will the deficit be the huge dream-killing machine? Simply because the tax cuts the wealthy have been promised can't co-exist with the spending that they preclude. Also, the same GOP who serves the donor class that supports it also wants to finish the job of killing the New Deal by slashing Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, and the biggest justification for that is WE HAVE NO MONEY LOOK AT THE DEFICIT!!

So the only infrastructure plan that the rich will like is one that profits them. That's why the plan Trump put forth during the campaign looks like a payoff to corporate interests, not a plan to produce working-class jobs.

So, to further rile yourself, read this Atlantic article by David Frum. Tidbit:
Without Trump’s own willingness to make false claims and misuse Russian-provided information, the Wikileaks material would have deflated of its own boringness. The Russian-hacked material did damage because, and only because, Russia found a willing accomplice in the person of Donald J. Trump.
Many questions remain about how the Russian spy services did what they did. That includes Putin’s motives for ordering the operation. But on issues from Crimea to Syria to NATO to the breakup of the European Union, Trump’s publicly expressed views align with Putin’s wishes.
Over Trump’s motives for collaborating so full-throatedly with Russian espionage, there hangs a greater and more disturbing mystery—a mystery that Trump seems in no hurry to dispel. And maybe he is wise to leave the mystery in place: as delegitimizing as it is, it’s very possible the truth would be even worse.
What is that truth? Here's an educated guess: Russian oligarchs closely aligned with Vladimir Putin have helped Trump with cash when he needed it -- since much of Trump's western sources have dried up -- and for Trump to move against Russia might have the oligarchs calling in their markers, which then crashes the whole carefully constructed "brand" that is Trump. Trump built that brand on debt. When the debt is called, the brand is worthless.

Sounds too simple? Truth doesn't have to be complicated.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

North Carolina No Longer a Democracy According to International Standards

A study shows that North Carolina now ranks near Iran, Venezuela, Sierra Leone, and Cuba for electoral integrity. Is the U.S. heading there?

Demonstrators protesting voter-id laws at the North Carolina House.

North Carolina has gone beyond a state that passes a law permitting discrimination against LBGT citizens and voter-id laws admittedly designed to reduce minority participation. They designed district boundaries that prevent real democracy from taking place.

According to a recent look at the 2016 election by experts in judging international elections found that North Carolina did not make the grade:
In the just released EIP [Electoral Integrity Project] report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.
Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.
Got that? A key swing state -- that didn't swing this year -- has devolved to such an extent that the barest majority of the electorate, Republicans, can hold 100 percent of the political power over the rest of the electorate, Democrats, who hold 0 percent of the political power, all due to the illegitimacy of the way Republicans drew district boundaries.

Then, when the state as a whole elects a Democrat to punish the Republican governor for signing a pro-discrimination bill (that cost the state hundreds of millions in lost revenue through boycotts), said lame-duck governor signs bills the Republican-controlled legislature passes in a lame-duck special session called to strip as much power as possible from the new Democratic governor, leaving the office of the governor the least powerful it's been in state history.

Holy shit, America. Read the whole article and weep. Is more of America headed this way? It will if red-state Republicans get their way.

Read more here:

Friday, December 23, 2016

Working-Class Whites Against State Aid that Helps Them? Yes, It Might Go to the "Wrong Whites." (Or Minorities, of Course.)

Study after study, focus group after focus group, show working-class whites rejecting aid programs that directly benefit them. The why is a stunning example of how people view themselves and their place in the world.

LBJ came down to Kentucky to start the war on poverty. Fifty years
on, there's much left to be done, and job prospects are worse.

In an article two years ago, NPR talked about the plight of Kentuckians who fell through the cracks as coal mining jobs died out. People were getting by with state and federal aid but resented those they thought didn't deserve it:
Today, many people here rely on government aid. In fact, it's the largest source of income in Martin County. People say it has helped to reduce hunger, improve health care and give young families a boost, especially at a time when coal-mining jobs are disappearing by the hundreds.
Thomas Vinson, a Martin County resident for 41 years, used to work in the coal fields, but he is currently unemployed. Vinson says he has a big house payment and three sons to raise. Times are tough, he says, but "we are making it."
One reason is that Vinson's wife got a job at a gear factory through a federally funded program to help unemployed miners. Vinson is grateful for the short-term help but worried about his future. In the big picture, he's disappointed in the war on poverty. He says he sees too many people around here just collecting checks.
"They call it poverty, but I call it abusing the system. Like, if you're going to file for SSI, you go in there and say the right things, you'll come out of there with a check," he says.
His feelings are widespread around here: What good are all these government programs if they don't get you a job?
The disconnect is palpable and widespread. I'm on welfare, but it's the other guy collecting it that's the slacker. That's what wrong with government aid. So they vote for someone they think is going to end the aid. As for Martin County? The jobs are still gone. Then the aid is gone.

And so it came to pass that Kentuckians voted in droves for Donald Trump. What will they likely get? They'll get the world of their dreams: the end of or drastic cuts to aid programs that have been keeping them barely alive. And jobs? What jobs? There are no jobs in places like Martin County and aren't likely to be any any time soon.

And yet they keep voting against their interests, says WaPo's Catherine Rampell:
Why did all those Economically Anxious™ Trump voters reject policies that would have helped relieve their economic anxiety?
Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people — that is, people unlike themselves.
There are other groups that draw the working class's ire: professionals. Oddly, professionals, whom working people see all the time, are resented, while they rarely encounter the rich, whom they admire:
One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.
Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.
In the end, the voters get what they deserve if not what they expect. If the white working class listens very carefully, they'll hear Trump's cabinet -- and the Republican Congress -- making plans to cut taxes on the rich, end Obamacare, and cut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Unfortunately, too many of them are listening to Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Fox News to hear anything resembling reality. And that reality will hit them in the face soon enough. Can Trump and his Congress blame everything on Obama? They will sure as hell try.

Will they succeed? Don't be surprised. They're primed to blame the black man.

Yes, this Glenn Beck video is from quite a while ago, but here's Bill O'Reilly two days ago:

Yeah, Bill, minorities and women and voters in the cities are bad! And white, rural male voters good! Thanks for making this clear for us people who can do math:

voters - minorities, women, city dwellers = white male rural voters

...who, of course, should rule our country, also known as the white establishment! Hmm. When you put it like that... We might be screwed.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

OMG I Got It: Trumpsters Reject Science Because it Too Successfully Proves Facts

Facts in a post-truth world are inconvenient to say the least. Solution? They're not true!

A broad consensus has accepted human-caused global warming.
The general conservative view? No way! Looks pretty cold to me!

No need to go into much, but I find the furious movement in the scientific community to move as much federally acquired climate data as possible to safe repositories extremely disquieting, not because it's crazy but because it's not. It's a sound decision based on rational expectations.

And now we hear that the new director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who might have a profound effect on how and whether federal money is spent, has a skeptical view of the value of federally conducted research, most especially on the Zika virus. He claimed that the data from Colombia cast doubt on whether the Zika virus even causes the birth defects so prevalent in neighboring Brazil. It turns out that Mulvaney merely took the first report, which was in no way the last word on the subject, as gospel, not waiting to find out that, indeed, after the data really started to flow from Colombia it was shown that birth defect rates started to track Zika infection rates.

But what good is science if you're not busily refuting it, eh? And who cares if a vast amount of progress is made due to state and federal support of research in so many areas of human endeavor? Who cares if it took the Defense Department to invent the Internet, and yes, for visionary politicians like Al Gore to insist on funding and promoting its development?

We're entering a brave new world soon to be known as the Trump administration. I for one am not sanguine, especially when it comes to making the kind of progress our scientific community, with broad support for its work, has routinely made possible. Let's hope that we fear the worst and yet will be pleasantly surprised at the outcomes. So far, though, the prognosis is not good, based on the statements of men and woman Trump has put in place. Are we headed for the new Dark Ages?

Note. For the sticklers, I note that science is a method of inquiry, not a set of facts. With the scientific method, theories become so well tested that we elevate them to the status of established fact, even though viewed through the method they remain, technically, theories. Refusing the theory of evolution the status of facthood leaves religionists with a leg to stand on, one they'll take to the bank every time. More's the pity. We become more ignorant as a nation because of it, but oh well, views differ on shape of planet!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I'm Really Disappointed by Trump's Pick for Secretary of Grab Them by the P*%$y.

Okay, he hasn't actually made the final choice, but the people he's interviewing, like Pee-Wee Herman and Ellen DeGeneres, I think, are really just distractions, or, more likely, deflections.

Do it, Donald, you know you want to.

Seriously, give the job to Hulk Hogan. After all he's been through, he deserves it. And besides, he probably won't stay in the job the whole four or eight years. You could just rotate people through, you know, Howard Stern gets a turn, and then maybe Glenn Beck. He always seems on the verge of unemployment.

Anyway, Think about it. Oh, and don't even think about your sons. That would be just gross.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump Foreign Policy Fail-in-Waiting: Putin Is Allies with Iran.

For all I know the Trump Team thinks these things through, or do they? Doesn't appear so. Or Trump's open hatred of Iran could just be so much posturing. Build a wall, anyone?

Foreign policy mastermindblown. Take an intel briefing and call me in the morning.

No links or fancy points here, simply to note that Trump hates a Russian ally, Iran. So, an item on his first hundred days (other than blowing Putin) is going to be scotching the Iran nuclear deal, which Putin signed on to? Who knows?

Not relying on my years in the foreign service -- I did teach a couple of years or so in Japan, does that count? -- but a back of the envelope calculation says that Chechens, who Putin kills with a passion, are Sunni Muslims, and Iranians, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Syria's ruling clique are all Shia Muslims. So there's your line of demarcation.

So where's Donald's, somewhere between KFC and real food?

Freaking man of the people...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trump Foreign Policy Fail-in-Waiting: China Won't Budge

Trump's "I know how to make a deal" doesn't work with China. Make a deal on Taiwan? China says I got your deal right here. It's called war.

The Chinese move very slowly, except when they're threatened.

The China that I've watched all these years, especially post-China-card, doesn't make quick moves because it doesn't have to. Allow capitalism to creep in over a couple of decades (and quietly chop off a few heads if someone gets too greedy), apply for WTO membership and eventually get it, raise or lower their currency but not so much as you'd notice it (except over time), and so on. They even built an island before any international body could to do anything about it. As for human rights, lock up a few highly symbolic figures, quietly release them and let them go seek asylum.

They govern by monolithicism. It works. Funny thing is, we do it, too. That's how we roll, too, except also with freaking big-ass armed forces.

Complain and China will start another island over there. It's what they do (or, as is in the papers today, they'll put anti-aircraft weapons on them). If there's hope in any of this it's that they aren't going to start World War III. That's Trump's job.

If there's any other hope it's that Trump, for all his bluster and his "Gee, I got a great idea! Let's fuck with them on Taiwan!", will make absolutely no headway at all on the "China Question," and we'll all have forgotten about it in a year, except for some article in Foreign Policy magazine or someplace called "Trump's China Efforts Stall."

And we can go back to practicing our Nazi salutes and planning the next attack on the First Amendment. Have a happy day!

Note. There's also some hope in his choice for ambassador to China. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad knows China, knows their leaders, and can help Trump cool his jets. Might even make quiet progress. It's how it's done, after all.

Note on currency manipulation. Trump loves to complain about China's currency manipulating that "rapes" our economy, but the Chinese yuan has strengthened as much as 30 percent over the past decade, as you can read about in the excellent U.S News report, also linked to above. China has done this partly as a response to IMF and U.S. pressure but also because its burgeoning middle class demands it. A strengthened yuan gives the Chinese increased purchasing power overseas, and though that stifles exports and encourages imports, it's required of a modern, expanding economy. Also, China has a labor shortage because of longstanding population-control efforts, and they need higher wages -- and more modern cities -- to attract new workers to manufacturing centers. You can't export if you can't manufacture.

Also, most of the IMF members manipulate their currencies, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hannity Says Trump Should Ditch the Press

He sort of already has, but Sean the Hannity shows us his hole card, and it's a joker. He's so completely post-truth, but we knew that. Oh, and prick.

Fine, Hannity has talent, maybe even a purpose, like, I dunno, a scab.

Atrios linked to feature on Media Matters:
Hannity has used his radio and television shows to urge the incoming president to “rethink how he deals with media,” arguing that mainstream media outlets are “all full of crap." Hannity advised fellow right-wing radio host and potential Trump administration press secretary Laura Ingraham that, if she got the job, she should not "go out and talk with" the media every day. Hannity even suggested to Trump advisor Newt Gingrich that, instead of a press office, Trump should come on The Sean Hannity Show to “take calls from people all over the country.”
I might have to get to the Golden Gate Bridge before they build those stupid suicide nets. Because I'm like totally read to jump. Because this is so Trump. Gulp... I'm reminded of the phrase "That way madness lies."

Ignorance Is Bliss, Trump Team Edition

We don't need reminders of what ignorance looks like, but they keep insisting on offering them to us. Trump spokespeople are masters of word salad and outright obfuscation, and watching them at work is a severe pleasure or an exquisite pain, one of the two.

Count on Talking Points Memo to capture this kind of mischief:
"Look, I know that the current president believes that human beings are affecting the climate. There are scientists that believe that that's not happening,” Scaramucci began, before Cuomo interrupted him.
“The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is that man's actions have an impact on science,” Cuomo said. “You have to correct that whenever it comes out. Go ahead.”
“Chris, there was an overwhelming science that the Earth was flat,” Scaramucci responded. “And there was an overwhelming science that we were the center of the world.”
Oh myyy. Watch all of it and weep:

Bonus link: Paul Waldman does some Trumpslaining.

The Title "National Security Adviser" Doesn't Sit Well on Gen. Michael Flynn

Aw, poor boy. He done got busted as a Fake News purveyor. Who cares, as long as he doesn't write the president's intel briefings. And that wouldn't even matter. Trump doesn't plan to read them. 

What's that line from Frank Sinatra's My Way? Oh yeah: "Regrets? I've had a few..." Turns out one of Gen. Flynn's regrets is his penchant for Fake News. So he deleted the above.

Connecting Hillary Clinton to sex crimes with children? Simple mistake, anyone could do it! Oh well, bygones!

Trump Set to Replace Presidential Press Conferences with Tweets?

Tweets can be anything depending on the sender. But with Trump, Tweets are fastballs aimed at the head, otherwise known as brushback pitches. Often, they're knuckleballs, meant to fake the batter into thinking it's here when it's really there. They're usually pretty silly, often preposterously untrue, but could they replace the traditional presidential press conference. With Trump, I'd say yes!

A columnist for The Week thinks so, then points out how he did so. He canceled a press conference and sent these Tweets instead:

"MarketWatch warns that it might not be the way to go:

Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter finger has become quite the market mover in recent sessions. Just ask Boeing and Lockheed Martin investors. So what’s a trader to do? Well, some are crafting plans to profit from his next target, according to Politico.
“It’s uncharted territory we’re in, that’s for sure,” he said “You have to take each tweet and analyze it. Because he tends to lash out. But Boeing just hit a new high today, and I imagine the same will wind up being true for Lockheed. So if he does initially move the market, a smart trader can take advantage of that.”
And that’s where computer—trading models enter the picture.
“There are people diligently working to create algorithms for Trump’s tweets, and if he continues to increase the size of the data set then we’ll likely see full automation sooner than later,” Zachary David, a senior analyst at KOR Group, told Politico.
Holy freaking crap, Batman! Market movers to watch: new jobs data, quarterly GDP, interest rates, Trump Tweets. Just shoot me now.

Donald Trump's Conflicts-of-Interest Mount. His Response? Cancel Press Conference on His Plan to End Conflicts.

Pipe dreams of an Electoral College revolt aside, Donald Trump will become president, and a Republican Senate will probably approve ALL of his nominations. The only place to "get him" is in his business dealings.

By law, Trump's lease on the U.S. Post Office in D.C. must be revoked
when he's sworn in to office. Funny thing: He gets to appoint the head of
the agency that must enforce this. Funnier thing: The lease is illegal even
if Trump appointed himself to head the agency.

That's right, the lease Donald Trump holds on the U.S. Post Office where he developed his D.C. hotel disallows any officeholder from being a party to the lease. Even if somehow he could remove his name from the lease and put a son or daughter in charge, it would still require the first lease to be revoked.

Now, here's the really funny part: What happens when he refuses to do the right and legal thing under contract law?
In their letter, Democratic lawmakers asked whether Trump could appoint a new senior counsel or administrator for the agency who could alter the current interpretation of the lease.
The deputy commissioner was quoted in the letter replying that GSA officials who manage contracts “are independent, base their decisions on the laws and regulations governing the contracts they oversee, and would not change their positions based on political influence.”
Of course you'd be right to assume he'll take this whole mess to court rather than do what generations of presidents have done.

Now, imagine that court fight times ten or a hundred or a thousand. There are so many potential conflicts of interest that much of his early presidency will be taken up with it.

So be it. Everyone who has an interest in the rule of law should relish a vigorous fight with our new Litigator-in-Chief. That may start now with the very federal agency that extended a lease to Trump for his D.C. hotel:

Let's get ready to rumble! Oh, and yes, he canceled his press conference on how he was going to solve his conflicts of interest. Hmm. What does that tell you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Theme Emerging for Trump Presidency? Oil, maybe? Ya Think!?

This just in: The Trump administration will be pro-oil, pro-coal, and anti-EPA, anti-environment, and climate-change denial 24/7. Let's party like it was 1999! 1999 B.C.!

Death rattle of an ecosphere. I'm going to miss you.

Let's see now.
  • Rick Perry, from oil-state Texas, for Secretary of Energy.
  • Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, for Secretary of State.
  • Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general, from oil-rich Oklahoma, a climate denier who's suing the EPA, for head of EPA!
If you wanted to telegraph the world that, with oil, the bitch is back!, this is the way to do it. This set of picks could also be called "Paris in My Rearview Mirror."

Dems, here's your new theme song:

Sarah Palin was right. Drill, baby, drill!

OMG alt-theme song!

Hey, Vladimir, Trump wants to be your Valentine! How 'bout it? But please don't make him your bitch. Too late, you say?

Monday, December 12, 2016

If You're a Hammer, Everything Looks like a Nail, Trump Edition

And if you're a businessman, everything looks like a deal. So, for national intelligence director, get a CEO! Waterboard everybody until they accept the deal!

These freaks can't get jobs? Maybe he's fucking with her. Stay tuned.

Nominating Carly Fiorina for National Intelligence Director is like, is like, holy shit, I got it. He's just sending a message to the intelligence bureaus: Mess with me, and I'll make you have endless meetings with Carly Fiorina.

And also he sends a message to China. Russia used to be our biggest adversary. Carly says it's China now. Who knew? Fuck, where's my hammer?

Garrison Keillor is Right: Trump Can Never Be My President

It's bad enough that Donald Trump will, as a living, breathing president, be an utter catastrophe. Looking at what kind of man he is, I only see someone who is repulsive, contemptible. He's as incapable of leading me as I am of following him.

Why couldn't he release his tax returns? It would have caused
 a total shit storm. His character would have been laid bare.

Daily Kos did a feature on Garrison Keillor's reaction to Trump's election. Keillor put it well: 
“He will never be my president because he doesn't read books, can't write more than a sentence or two at a time, has no strong loyalties beyond himself, is more insular than any New Yorker I ever knew, and because I don't see anything admirable or honorable about him. This sets him apart from other politicians. The disaffected white blue-collar workers elected a Fifth Avenue tycoon to rescue them from the elitists -- fine, I get that -- but they could've chosen a better tycoon. One who served in the military or attends church or reads history, loves opera, sails a boat -- something -- anything -- raises llamas, plays the oboe, runs a 5K race now and then, has close friends from childhood. I look at him and there's nothing there.”
I'm continually reminded of Louis the XV's famous words:"Après nous le déluge," or "After me the deluge." And who knows what Marie Antoinette meant when she said, "Let them eat cake." But the revolutionaries she inspired chopped off her head, so they apparently figured it out.

But from where we stand in the U.S. today, a majority of Americans outright reject Donald Trump. He's not ours, you take him. As far away and as soon as possible.

Note. As with so many famous quotes, it's pretty clear that neither Louis XV nor Marie Antoinette ever said what was attributed to them. It is, however, still fun, and apt, to pretend they did.

As for Donald Trump, we've got YouTube. Watch a bit, and there's only one conclusion to be drawn. The dude's wack.

I Named My Blog The American Human. Why Does That Seem Harder to Be Right Now?

No, it's not presumptuous to attempt to speak for American humans. I thought about it, and it turns out I am one. So...

Yeah, I know, shit's getting weird.

The notion of an American human isn't meant to be complicated. A friend of mine pointed me to a way of thinking using models, actually multiple models. That's complicated but probably wise.

Choosing to frame myself as an American human was a shortcut for saying religion isn't a favorite model. Works for some, for me not so much. It's superstition, mostly, and a pretty ancient collection of it at that. Jams us up pretty bad, from my perspective. If I had to choose another way, I'd go with science.

It's funny. What's got me jammed up lately is the bizarre turn that the United States has taken in electing Donald Trump president. I liken it to the Brexit vote in the UK. The day after the referendum passed, a good number of Brits said, "If I'd have known it was going to pass, I'd have voted against it." Counterfactually obtuse but likely true. Hard to measure, just as it's hard to measure how many Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or didn't-bother-to-vote voters now feel they'd have voted differently if they had known Trump could actually win. Hard to know, anymore than we can know how many people fell for the manipulation by the Russians or the connivance of the FBI's James Comey in announcing further investigation of Hillary Clinton ten days before the election and a week later saying, "er, never mind!"

But for a lot of us there's a sort of otherworldliness surrounding us, as we watch a government of billionaires being assembled before our eyes that appears to be constructed on "Just how much damage can we do to a system that was, okay, maybe running on five cylinders already, if we pour a bunch of rat poison in the gas tank? Just wondering."

So I'm going to try not to be too obsessed with a HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK DO WE DO NOW? kind of imperative that sucks up all the oxygen in town and leaves us, well me at least, in a fog. Because probably I'll still shop at Safeway, look for cheap gas on, drink a little too much, and work on my golf score. I might even notice that nobody's coming to get me, at least not yet. I mean, I'm not black and live in some hellhole like Florida, for christ's sake.

So I'm going to write less about politics and more about life or LIFE or, more likely, my life because I'm familiar with it.

Here's a start: I thought I'd write about the fact that I couldn't remember my first favorite song, you know, the one your mom sang to you when you were a baby or something. And I thought the reason probably was that my mom couldn't carry a tune if her life depended on it. Oh well.

Then I realized that, wow, it was probably "It's Howdy Doody Time," the theme song for the first TV show I could remember absolutely adoring. Howdy was Buffalo Bob's sidekick, a kind of little cowboy dude, like the real meaning of the word dude, and a puppet at that.

And then I thought, fuck, Howdy Doody, a freaking puppet, would make a significantly better president that Donald Trump, and the whole edifice of I can think about something else besides Donald Trump just sort of fell apart. Hopefully, I'll get the hang of it with a little effort. Maybe I need a model, a specific model or way of thinking that doesn't have Donald Trump in it. That should work. That and maybe a couple of Zanax.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

How to Be Trump's Bitch, Romney Edition

I could give a crap about Mitt Romney, though I understand he thought acquiring companies and either fixing them or sucking them dry was a "business." Fine. It was, though, creepy to see him grovel before Donald Trump.

 Oh my, but I won't feel sorry for this sorry supplicant.

A picture can be worth a thousand words. This one is worth a thousand personal catastrophes. Oh, Mittens. And all for nothing!

How Can Liberals Beat Trump? Ignore Him and Do Everything Right.

Donald Trump actively abandons truth and the rule of law. Each day there's another insult to the integrity of the nation. And yet fighting back is not complicated. Simply do everything right to the best of your ability, and do it without restraint.

An independent farm in Burlington, Vermont.

To say it's depressing to contemplate -- from what's still the vantage point of looking at something that hasn't even started yet! -- is an understatement.

So what to do?

Live your lives, of course. I intend to play at least a couple of rounds of golf a week because it's good for my mental and physical health. And sing in a local club a couple of times a month for the same reason. You've got stuff you like. Do it! But aside from that, think of the life of your town, county, state, country, and world and do what you can each day to foster what you think is good for you/us. I'm naturally hoping you're not a Trump fan who thinks your billionaire has gone to Washington to shake things up on your behalf because if you believe that, you've got your own cross to bear. One, you won't get what you want from him, and, two, you'll bear some of the guilt when everything goes to shit. So, for now, fuck off.

If, on the other hand, you're evolved and educated enough to know what's good for you/us, then do something each day. Er, what, you ask?
  • Confront the Trumpsters when you run into them. Okay, don't waste much time or lose your job over it. But if you can afford it, say something, but not much (because they're mostly not capable of listening). Say "You're biased and probably live in a bubble. The result is pretty toxic for the rest of us, so, good luck, oh, and fuck off."
  • Make green choices. Coal is over, and oil is next,. Let's push it off a cliff, a little bit each day. Get a greener car next time. Go solar at home if you can afford it. Don't waste water. 
  • Boycott asshole companies. You can spot them you know. Also, let them know. Don't shop at Whole Foods. Their CEO is a dick. If you don't know that, do some research. Then don't shop there, and let them know why. Example: I'm not going to watch NBC until they drop Trump as an executive producer on the new celebrity apprentice thingy. I'll miss MSNBC, but I'll get over it. Hell, I may win, and I can watch again. Not now, though. And I'll let them know early and often.
  • Pick sensible news sources. NPR and PBS are far from perfect, but they're better than nothing. And let them know what you don't like! Go ahead, watch network news if only to know how and why they suck. As for CNN, watch it but wear safety glasses. Ear plugs might help. Or turn it into a drinking game.
  • Help your town or city go green. This Politico story on Burlington, Vermont going all-sustainable is inspiring. Do something that helps your locale do that!
  • Seek out like-minded people, support local businesses that seem to get what's best. Go to farmer's markets, buy local art. Go to city council and planning commission meetings. Help them do the right thing by yelling at them occasionally. They need to know that the locals want what they want!
  • Contact every politician you can influence. Money talks and bullshit walks, but if they get the feeling the voters think they suck, they might stop doing sucky things. You never know. It can't hurt.
  • Support your local public schools, go to board meetings, warn them that they'd better have a good reason to add another low-performing charter school other than it's trendy? Hold local school administrators accountable and become involved in your children's schools and education in general. There are right and wrong ways to do this, and Trump has signaled he's all-in for the wrong way!
I'll stop. Do something everyday. Stay informed. Vote with your feet. It's starts local. Be involved. It's better than passing the time with Trump drinking and pot-smoking games, like smoke another reefer every time he makes another grotesque cabinet pick...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Repealing Obamacare Is a Tax Cut for the Rich and a Tax Hike for the Middle and Working Classes

Obamacare was funded -- and Medicare strengthened -- in part through tax increases on high-end earners. By cutting those taxes, the rich get richer and the middle and working classes get poorer as they pay more for healthcare. As for the poor, they're screwed either way.

Speaker Paul Ryan can't believe his luck. Donald Trump is a dream come true.

It's not all about ending affordable healthcare for those who finally achieved it under Barack Obama. There's more! As in tax cuts! From TPM:
Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — which health care policy experts predict could cost 30 million people their health insurance — will also bring a major tax break for high-income Americans.
Two taxes that will be presumably axed with the law affect only those making $200,000 or more. The break the ACA repeal will bring to those taxpayers will amount to a $346 billion tax cut in total over 10 years, according to the CBO report on the 2015 repeal legislation GOP lawmakers say they’ll be using as their model next year.
The beauty of this is that Trump has sorta kinda promised his tax cuts would be paid for -- assuming Trump means anything in particular when he makes a promise. But with the tax cuts built into repealing Obamacare, it's a freebee, especially if no one does the math.
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act is a way to give wealthy people a fairly substantial tax cut without that necessarily being the largest headline,” Harry Stein, the director of fiscal policy at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, told TPM.
The taxes in question are known as the Medicare tax on higher income individuals and the net investment income tax. The former is a 0.9 percent tax placed on those who earn $200,000 or more individually (or $250,000 for married couples who file jointly). It comes on top of the Medicare payroll tax employees pay together with their employers, but only applies to the income that exceeds the $200,000 threshold.
The GOP has equivocated on its promise to repeal and replace Obamacare because they'd never done the math, which, they discover, would throw the health insurance system into utter chaos. Hence the "repeal now, replace later" with a built-in two- or three-year holding pattern. But now GOPers want to flat-out repeal with no replacement because they've never seen a tax cut they didn't like. To hell with healthcare.
Tax-cut cheerleaders are already celebrating this effect of a Obamacare repeal.
“To me personally, that’s the best part about repealing Obamacare,” Ryan Ellis, former tax policy director for Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, told Politico. “Because on the health care side of it, you have this complicated ‘replace’ that you have to turn to after that, but on taxes, it’s all easy — it’s all dessert.”
Some Republicans are gleeful that they can say "we didn't repeal Obamacare, we just eliminated the HUGE TAX INCREASES, it's your money!", while not admitting that defunding means utter collapse. And I've always felt that the Republican game would be to say "See what the Democrats did to you? First they rip you off with Obamacare and now they take away your health insurance because Obamacare is the reason you don't have healthcare now. Don't blame us, we're just trying to fix it. They did it!"

Watch and see. They'll be blaming Obama as long as they can, one way or another.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Through the Looking Glass: Kafka, Orwell, Trump, in No Particular Order

The Republicans have been good at "controlling the message." Donald Trump gravitated to them because he has a similar, though more gargantuan, approach to information: BURN THE MESSAGE DOWN.

I've been watching -- all of us have -- as Donald Trump attacked language and turned it on its head. Either he's a genius at it or is simply the most over-reactive human alive. One way or another, we're going to regret he got anywhere near the presidency.

Karl Rove said something back in 2004 or so, quoted, more or less, in a Ron Suskind magazine article:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore." He continued "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
I of course appreciated the utter and audacious narcissism of Rove's view, that he was something like a Master of the Universe and the rest of us not even relevant to be considered "actors" on history's stage. Rove still matters on the margins of politics, but the comeuppance Rove and the whole George W. Bush presidency received makes his arrogance, in the end, somewhat digestible.

Enter Donald Trump. What clarifies the mind with Trump is the rapid -- if we've accomplished it at all! -- new understanding we had to undergo as we watched him actually win the presidency. So we're left scrambling to get a handle on a Trump style, if that little word can even encompass it.

I started by turning Hitler's notion of The Big Lie into Trump's Big Lies, as we had to deal with Trump's near-constant lies and distortions, in order to grasp what Trump might be up to, to find an organizing principle. (And yes, we can utter the names Hitler and Trump in the same sentence, and not simply to discuss their particular notions of propaganda.)

I've been helped lately by Masha Gessen's insights -- she regularly steps in, for me at least, ever since the battles of the disintegrating Yugoslavia -- into what Trump's up to, even if Trump himself might not explicitly understand it. Definitely listen to her appearance on NPR's On the Media in which she, correctly I feel, defines Trump's Way as controlling reality through constant distortion as if it were his superpower.

Referring to Soviet propaganda and the impoverishment of language it caused, Gessen asks:
How do you use the word freedom when you've used it to lie for all those years? Fact is you don't.
By the way, Gessen is Russian, so she knows of which she speaks. Knowing Putin as she does, she warns us of Trump:
Right. Most Americans and the media certainly didn't believe there was even the possibility that Donald Trump could be elected president. And I think that part of the reason for that disbelief was an inability to look around at the world and consider the possibility that the United States was part of a worldwide trend of reversal of democracy, and a worldwide trend of right-wing populists coming to power.
Holy shit. Think Putin, Ertogan, Poland, even Brexit. Then add Trump. Speaking of chess champion turned activist Garry Kasparov's metaphor using chess, Gesson goes on:
It's like playing chess with someone who keeps knocking figures off the chessboard...When you've got a candidate who's lying more than 90 percent of the time, then checking each one of his lies is probably not the best way to go. Probably the best way to go is "Okay, so, what is he trying to say by lying 90 percent of the time?" What is this new game we're playing?.. This is where, actually, Putin and Trump are incredibly similar...One thing they do share is the cacophony of lies that they produce and I think the larger message there is "I claim the right to say whatever the hell I please." That's a really important thing to understand, that the lying is the point, not in the sense that Trump really wants you to believe that millions of people voted illegally, but the point is that "I will say whatever the hell I want and that is also a component of my power."
Rovian-based reality writ even larger. Gessen goes on to say that we need to call him out and not "normalize" his lies as campaign rhetoric or hyperbole but instead look to the larger story, and that is that they -- Putin and Trump -- are autocrats.

Autocrats. That's the larger story, and they reinforce it through chaos, and in particular the chaos of language, of information. Putin used it in Ukraine, and in his smaller way, Trump used it with the Carrier incident. Where next? (And he's not even president yet.)

It's Trump's goal that we can't get a grip on his next move because he smothers us in non-sense. How does a man alienate China one day, then the next claim a Japanese business decision made months ago as if he were just now responsible for it, and then the next day or moment hear the CEO of Boeing criticizing him and then tweet a complete distortion of the facts of Boeing's plans on building the next Air Force One in order to recommend canceling the deal -- based on those distortions in the tweet -- as if he were already the Deal Master? It's almost too much to take. In fact it is too much. And he wins. He wins the point, the day, the news cycle, while we sit around saying what the fuck is he up to. He's up to no good, but we're too discombobulated to absorb it. Then it's on to the next news cycle.

And yes, we can call it Putinesque, or Hitleresque, or Trumpesque, whatever we like, because we need to figure out what's really going on, what the bigger thing he's trying to say. And, so far, it's I control reality, and you don't, so, as Rove had said, "and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

I can only hope that we do get a handle on Trump and stop him, the way we inevitably stopped Bush, though that came a bit late for so many people and so many countries, and so many of our troops, not to mention the lives of so many in the Middle East. What mischief can Trump get into? Frightening thought.