Tuesday, October 31, 2017

John Kelly Shows his True Color(s), and They're White, White, and White

The Civil War could have been averted by compromise? John Kelly could have avoided looking like a racist an idiot if he had only remembered history.

Adult in the room? How about just another asshole in the room.

John Kelly went to the podium in the White House press room a couple of weeks ago to defend Donald Trump. How'd that work out?

Now he goes on Fox News to show what a level-headed gentleman he is, and blows up history and sounds like a white version of a white supremacist waving a white, white, and white flag. Plus, he sounded ignorant.
If, by appearing on Laura Ingraham’s show on Monday night, John F. Kelly was trying to do damage control after the indictments of Trump associates earlier in the day, it did not work.

Instead, Mr. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, resurrected the debate over Confederate monuments — previously fueled by his boss, President Trump, over the summer — and the Confederacy itself. He called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state,” said that “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,” and argued that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
Yep. Kelly forgot the Missouri Compromise, a few other compromises, and the biggie, the Three-Fifths Compromise in the Constitution.

Trump gathers them up, doesn't he?

Friday, October 27, 2017

What Races Really Come Down to These Days (Race)

In Virginia, the Republicans are going all-in on saving Confederate statues. And, of course, this is not about race. A recent poll shows different.

Greg Sargent of the WaPo flags a new poll showing Democrat Ralph Northam holding his own despite the all-in conservative push to make the Virginia governorship race all about race.

In recent days, Republican candidate has been running ads condemning Northam for being, essentially, anti-Confederacy. Wonder what that's all about. Er, hem.

In the graphic up above -- the only copy of the Wason Center poll I could find, courtesy Sargent's Twitter feed -- note the line "Gillespie leads among white voters." Also note that "Northam leads among men and women, young and old, and among African-American voters."

To say "it's come to this" ignores the last 50 years, since Nixon's Southern Strategy. But face it, in this Trump-Bannon era, we need to take a really long look at our racist past-present-future and, perhaps, weep.

This is our America.

Update. The WaPo editorial board weighs in on the toxicity of Ed Gillespie's approach.

Donald Trump: Just Say No to Opioids. (Sound Familiar?)

Echoes of Nancy Reagan abound in Trump's opioid speech. What's he really saying? Just Say No to spending any money fighting opioids. Translation? Let them eat opioids.

We don't need to show you no stinkin' money!

No one should be surprised that Donald Trump -- again! -- says something large and does something small. He appointed a commission on the opioid crisis, said he's declare a national emergency and then in the middle of a big push for huge tax cuts for him and his cronies decided, "Wait, we can's spend money on these losers! It'll ruin our tax cuts!"

So he let Mick Mulvaney and his no-money-for-the-needy-or-sick crowd prevail. Instead of declaring a "national emergency,"  which would free up serious spending, Trump declared a "public health emergency, which frees up $57,000, which is what's left in the public health emergency fund. Want more? Let my Republican Congress add money to the fund. Will they? Er, what do you think?

ABC's report sums it up nicely (or maybe deadly):
Trump's declaration, which will be effective for 90 days and can be renewed, will allow the government to redirect resources in various ways and to expand access to medical services in rural areas. But it won't bring new dollars to fight a scourge that kills nearly 100 people a day.
"As Americans we cannot allow this to continue," Trump said in a speech at the White House, where he bemoaned an epidemic he said had spared no segment of society, affecting rural areas and cities, rich and poor and both the elderly and newborns.
"It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction," he said. "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic."
But of course we won't because this is just optics. Real help would be real help. Let 'em eat opioids, fucking losers.

To understand that I'm not just blowing off steam at a typical conservative reaction -- inaction -- to a societal problem, look at this from a fascinating new study of the political typography of America by the Pew Center:
Government can't afford to do more to help needy Americans
  • Core Conservatives 83%, Country First Conservatives 70%
Blacks who can't get ahead are responsible for their own condition
  •  Core Conservatives 80%, Country First Conservatives 76%
Approve of Donald Trump
  • Core Conservatives 93%, Country First Conservatives 84%
(Note. Unlike the crack cocaine crisis, which was predominantly a black problem, today's opioid crisis is predominantly a white problem. Oddly, that doesn't change the conservative reaction to it.)

Now, are you surprised at Trump's weak response to a problem of addiction? To get a look at where this attitude comes from, look at this study of models that explain addiction and responsibility:
  • Who is responsible for creating a problem?
  • Moreover, who is responsible for solving it?
These two questions yield four possibilities with respect to responsibility for personal problems:
  • The Moral Model: People are responsible for creating and solving their own problems.
  • The Medical Model: People are not responsible for creating or solving their own problems.
  • The Enlightenment Model: People are responsible for creating, but not solving, their own problems.
  • The Compensatory Model: People are responsible for solving, but not creating, their own problems.
Read the whole page to see these models further explained.

The bottom line? We should not be surprised to find out:
  • Donald Trump decides not to spend much time and money, despite the conclusions of his own commission,
  • because he is actually a true conservative,
  • and believes it's addict's own fault. 
  • 90 days from now, when the policy is to be reviewed? Won't happen and people won't notice.
  • Sad!
Remember, folks, you can Just Say No!

Monday, October 23, 2017

My New Subaru Has Lots of Driverless Features. My Wife Hates That.

I bought a VW diesel in 2010. They cheated on the smog device, so they're more or less buying me (most of ) a new car. So I went with Subaru because of its safety features. Now my wife has panic attacks whenever she rides with me. Go figure.

Okay, this is not my Subaru, but is it the future?

I moved to Portland recently, and with a check from Volkswagen for cheating on the smog device in my Jetta -- along with Oregon's being the second-cheapest state for taxes and doc fees on a new car -- I decided to go for the safety and all-wheel-drive of a Subaru because I could, and Portland does have the occasional snowfall and/or ice storm.

Great. Or so I thought.

I don't want to dwell on my wife's anxiety about all the bells and whistles that I (mistakenly?) was all aflutter about, so I won't. I hope she gets over it when she realizes that, no, I won't get cocky, crank up all the fancy near-driverless features on the Crosstrek and run us into a ditch or a school bus.

But she's not the only one who's nervous. So I was very entertained by this David Leonhardt article in the NYTimes. He tangled with a newfangled Volvo. Read his report. It's illuminating. He gets it about right.

Apple's Near-Invisible Attack on Google and Facebook

I hadn't even heard of this, but Apple has found a way to disrupt Google -- and likely Facebook's -- data stream and is endeavoring to do so. Why? Apple doesn't give a crap about ad revenue, but its competitors do. Steve Jobs 2.0 is a bitch.

Apple and Google are in a battle for the world! Should we care?

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo cares a lot about ad revenue models. He's got a premium publishing service that has a delicate balance between subscription revenue and ad revenue. Which way the world goes means a tremendous amount to him.

That's why he caught on to the new Apple move to disrupt the use of cookies on its web browser Safari.

In short, Apple's revenue stream is hardware and proprietary subscription content. Google's revenue stream is advertising and ad data revenue. Apple's main avenue is its tremendous market share of cell phones. Google main avenue is the world wide web, but by providing the second most popular cell phone operating system, Android, for free, it's battling there, too, but, again, to guarantee its ad revenue stream.

Josh does a good job explaining this new battle and its ramifications. There is way more going on in the online world, and this beneath-the-radar competition could rock it.

Check this out. It's big. Oh, and while I was Googling around for info on this, I found this other tidbit that illustrates the behind-the-scenes mini-battle between Apple and Facebook. It's a tiny little illustration of the same machinations.

Support Trump? You Believe Him. Don't Support Trump? You Don't Believe Him.

Correlation is difficult to prove without digging. But if 36 percent of the people approve of Donald Trump, and about the same believe him more than the media, there's a pretty good chance it correlated.

 He may watch Fox & Friends to feel good about himself,
but he knows he's madly, deeply, unloved and untrusted.

The conundrum about why Donald Trump is president is easily solved when you accept that, yes, there was well-directed connivance by a disciplined group of Russian trolls with an advertising budget who helped him win key states. It's why he lost the national vote by 3 million and nonetheless sits in the Oval Office.

Yet it remains a mystery how a consistent 36 percent of Americans approve of his job in that Oval Office, even given the brief time he spends there.

Even more mysterious is how about the same percent believe him more than the media. Here's a semi-random tweet that sums that mystery up nicely:

Truth is Trump's rubber ball: It's always bouncing away from him. If he accidentally catches it, he tosses it away like a live grenade.

But the same number of people who believe the media more than Donald Trump -- roughly 54 to 60 percent -- also appear to disapprove of him, so that's a relief.

I did come across an article on Vice entitled "I Watched 15 Hours of 'Fox & Friends' and I Want to Die" that may explain how 30-something percent believe Donald Trump. Sample:
Our host for the 4 AM hour is Heather Childers, one of FOX News's many innumerable blond female anchors, who has mastered the art of providing just enough facts to piss people off. We don't learn what Trump's immigration plan is, only that he has one. We learn that Vice President Mike Pence protested—or un-protested or reverse-protested—an Indianapolis Colts game, but we don't hear why, just that Pence loves the flag, and black football players don't. Heather tells us about a Texas high schooler (a black girl given a free education!) who was expelled because she wouldn't stand for the pledge. "Did she get what she deserved?" Heather asks.
It's one of the more fun posts I've read in a while, even though the author makes clear how much he wants to vomit (and more!). Read it! It won't make you forget Donald Trump is president (gulp), but it will help you understand why.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

John Kelly Was Always a Hard-Right Jerk. Why Are We Surprised?

General John Kelly (retired) has been saying nauseating authoritarian things for a long time. He's also in the Trump administration. It's required of the Trump team that you protect and defend Donald Trump. John Kelly could do so because he's well-schooled in Trump assholery.

No, General Kelly, the military works for us, not for your precious little clique.

John Kelly is quotable, but not for the right reasons. Here are samples from The Intercept:
“If anyone thinks you can somehow thank [members of the military] for their service and not support the cause for which they fight — America’s survival — then they are lying to themselves and rationalizing away something in their lives, but, more importantly, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”
Go to war for the wrong reasons? Find out that misinformation led the drumbeat for war? Just plain against war as a tool of diplomacy or for any other reason? According to John Kelly you are "mocking [our warrior's] commitment to the nation." What if you're supporting the troops by recommending that we not go to war for imbecilic reasons? Kelly said this of the troops, in 2010, after nine years in Afghanistan and Iraq:
 “America’s civilian and military protectors both here at home and overseas have for nearly nine years fought this enemy to a standstill and have never for a second wondered why. America’s warriors have never lost faith in their mission, or doubted the correctness of their cause.”
Remember, these were two wars the U.S. essentially lost, and no veterans said WTF? At the conclusion of the Iraq conflict we virtually handed power to the Iran-favoring Shia on the one hand and on the other inspired the disenfranchised Sunni to turn to ISIS. And, yes, the jury's still out on Afghanistan, but what rational observer, inside or outside the military, hasn't come to the conclusion that war is, by definition and historical perspective, substantially unwinnable there? Hey Kel, you yourself characterize us, the greatest fighting force in the history of mankind, as having only "fought this enemy to a standstill." You think our troops are standing around high-five-ing  each other and shouting "Motherfucking Semper Fi, dude!"

No, our troops are hoping they get home from an impossible conflict with both their legs intact. If not, they're Kool-aid drinkers of the highest order.

Read the whole Intercept article, and for extra measure read this, and this by Ryan Lizza:
No, it is not [referring to Sarah Huckabee Sanders' claim that it's "highly inappropriate" to debate a four-star general]. Kelly is the chief of staff and a political operative. He held a press conference and told a lie that smeared one of Trump’s political opponents. No government official’s military background, no matter how honorable, makes him immune to criticism, especially given the subject at hand. Sanders’s response was unnerving. But the bigger lesson of the episode is that no matter how good one’s intentions are, when you go to work for Trump, you will end up paying for it with your reputation. For Kelly, not even his four stars prevented that.
Four-star General John Kelly is just another of Trump's tools, it turns out. Clean as a whistle for while, at least in the eyes of those who didn't know you very well, and, regardless of your past, you're another victim of Trump's reputation-destroying machine. It couldn't happen to a nicer moralizing bastard elite macho snob.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Heart of the John Kelly Farce: He Disrespected Federica Wilson While Decrying that We No Longer Hold Women "Sacred." What?

During John Kelly's moments at the podium attempting to mitigate Trump's self-damage, Kelly spoke of the loss of civility, citing as one example how women are no longer treated as "sacred," or treated with "honor." Then the only woman that he spoke about was Frederica Wilson, whom he vilified, attacked, and called an "empty barrel." Way to treat women, General!

He came, he spoke, he fucked up big time.

Chief of Staff John Kelly would have preferred to stay out of it, but several things dragged him in. One, he coached Donald Trump on how to offer condolences to families of the fallen. Two, he hung around and listened in on what Trump said in his phone call to the widow of Sargent La David Johnson. Three, he felt obliged to defend the president after Rep. Frederica Wilson attacked Trump for making matters worse with his phone call.

Those three things on their face might have passed. But he did two other things that are connected and contrary to one another. Kelly gave his version of a Make America Great Again pep talk decrying how we no longer treat women as "sacred" to be treated with the upmost "honor," and throwing in remarks about religion and Gold-Star families. And he also attacked Rep. Wilson for being in the car when the Trump phone call came and was put on the speakerphone so that all could hear. Kelly pointedly said he was "stunned." He ignored that Wilson and the family go way back and that she had personally mentored the dead soldier through a program she initiated.

Kelly went on to denigrate Wilson for bragging about funding for a new F.B.I. building in Florida. She did no such thing, as it happens, with a video of her speech coming out supporting her version.

But the damage was done. Kelly says that women are "sacred" and should be treated with "honor." Given a chance a few minutes later, he viciously -- with falsehoods it turns out -- attacks and disrespects a black woman, calling her an "empty barrel that makes the most noise."

Kelly has disgraced himself but good and revealed to the world that he's an elite snob and a moralizing bastard of the highest order. Kudos, General!

An apology is in order, but don't hold your breath.

The Trump and Kelly Show Has Really Low Ratings but Lots of Viewers!

Nothing about this story is hilarious. It's like an unfunny Amos and Andy but about white people. What I want to know is how did Trump take a chance to act presidential (hint: quietly and in a dignified manner graciously offer sympathy to a fallen soldier's wife) and turn it into a total shit show? THEN, have your hitherto respected military man take to the podium and trash his stature by re-emerging as the Boston racist he's always been.

Kelly, Kelly! You were my cover! Now what I'll do??

You could always tweet some nonsense to distract everyone from your continuously failing presidency. Oh, already done that, you say?

Parsing this tweet, you get a quinfecta.
  1. Call the accurately reporting media Fake News.
  2. Impune the dignity of a black congresswoman by calling her "wacky."
  3. Falsely claiming she was listening SECRETLY in on your phone call to a grieving family.
  4. Accuse her lying about the content...
  5. ...when she was essentially accurate (as proven by your Chief of Staff!).
All in less than 140 characters. A Twitter Ninja!

Only problem is you and now your four-star general who was supposed to be the adult in the room went and -- with your "wacky" and John Kelly's "empty barrel" -- implied a black woman was  "uppity."

The simple solution to this is for both of them to apologize for the "poor choice of words" and reiterate their deep sympathy for the fallen. Chance a narcissist and an elite snob are going to do that?


Trump Not Only Hadn't Called Families of Fallen Soldiers, He Didn't Even Have a List.

As George Takei might say, oh myyyy. But this is Trump's classic move: Make an absurd claim, try and fail to back it up, do something inexplicably bad, then doubledown trying to explain that. Then double-doubledown by saying he didn't say, didn't do, it's fake news. Boom! A week's worth of news cycles spent trying to undo the damage. Rinse and repeat.

I keep crapping myself. Gotta stop doing that.

I know. There are roughly 36 percent of Americans who like this guy. All of us also know he does a lot of this stuff to divert our attention from the last dumbass thing he said or did. So he keeps saying random things off the top of his head, pulled out of thin air (the thinnest air). His base, so far, has stayed with him. It amazes me, but then 28 percent of George W. Bush's fans never deserted him, and his time in office has been widely, brutally panned. Oh well.

Trump does this kind of horrific nonsense so often it appears to be a strategy he's adopted on purpose, thinking "hey this is working, why stop?" We could give him some reasons.

But this seriously stinks:
In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.
It would be comical if it weren't wrapped in tragedy. Of course the kicker is Trump's aides reach out to the Pentagon but pronto to get an up-to-date list of the fallen, which they didn't even have.

The beat goes on.

John Kelly Weighs In, and He's Contemptuous and Contemptible.

Josh Marshall over at TPM reminds us that Trump is poison and those around him get poisoned. To paraphrase Roger Stone, it's Kelly's turn in the barrel.

A "stunned" General Kelly: I get to weigh in on Trump's phone call,
but the family's Congresswoman (and family friend) can't.

As I’ve written several times in recent days, Trump is poison. I don’t have a clear enough read yet to have a settled opinion of just what he was thinking when he did this. But Kelly shamed himself with this attack. It was ugly and at least far afield of the fact, intentionally or not. Through it all, whatever President Trump was trying to accomplish in that call, whoever coached him, it seems clear that he deeply upset Johnson’s widow and family. Certainly this is a relevant fact Kelly could have taken some note of, even if it was all with the best of intentions on the President’s part. He didn’t. He ignored all that Trump has done over the course of the week. And at the end of the day that is because Trump is poison. Everyone around him gets damaged. Because he is poison they damage themselves.
Marshall was highlighting what John Kelly got wrong about Congresswoman Wilson. He attacked her viciously -- calling her an "empty barrel" -- using falsehoods or, at the very least, the least likely and charitable view of events, events that James Comey had praised Wilson for.

But this is the first time that I saw John Kelly step in the bullshit that litters Donald Trump's path. Kelly was contemptuous of Wilson -- for all the wrong reasons -- and thus his action in turn became contemptible. What's more, during his appearance, Kelly actually proved what the congresswoman, La David Johnson's mother, and his widow had said about Trump's comments to be true. Why? Because Kelly admitted putting those very words in his mouth when he counseled Trump on what to say in his phone call, telling Trump that he had been told on his son's death that he died doing "what he had signed up for."

Then, it turns out Kelly was listening in when Trump made his phone call. What? He can listen and -- at the press-room podium -- recount what he had told Trump to say, but the grieving family's congresswoman can't remark on the family's horrified response? What a contemptible, moralizing bastard.

Now, John Kelly joins the list of poisoned people. I have no sympathy for him. He was born and bred to be an elite snob. He's found suitable company.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, like John Kelly, grew up in Boston and went to the same schools. If a takedown can be eloquent, this one is.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Poll Says 50% Believe Trump's Fake News Claims. What Do They Think the Real News Would Say about Him?

Donald Trump may have done his job too well with his incessant complaints about how badly the news media treats him. But what's the true story, and where would we find it?

The picture above contradicts everything that Trump claims. The key network Trump cites as true is Fox News, and yet here is Fox News helping the president dish up fake news, since Obamacare is clearly not dead, it's the law of the land.

What more is there to say?

Still, TPM has more:
The Politico poll, published Wednesday, found that nearly 50 percent of Americans do, in fact, think that the media fabricates stories about Trump and his administration, while 37 percent don’t. Republicans are more suspicious of the media than any other group, with 76 percent saying they believe in fake news. The group’s distrust of the news is not particularly surprising as the party’s leader, Trump, spends so much time criticizing the media.
Only one in five Democrats have bought into Trump’s media outrage, but 44 percent of independents think the media is making up stories.
50 percent. Think about that. Half of Americans don't believe the news. The question remains: What do they believe? And where do they find it?

Americans favor Democrats for Congress in 2018 by 14 points. That's big. How did they decide that? A significant majority of Americans don't trust Trump on most things, and 57 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. What makes them think so?

Of course, Trump's answer is and has always been that the polls are fake news. That will be his answer until he's history. And that history will say he was unbelievably bad. What will that be, fake history? Yes, of course it will be. Everyone always lies about Trump. We all know that. Just ask Trump.

The truth is actually ????

George Orwell said it best: "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

Poor Trump. Everyone is always lying about him. Everyone knows that.

Note. John McCain, Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and Jeff Flake don't like Trump. Are these Republican senators spouting fake news?

Monday, October 16, 2017

As Trump Pushes Coal, The Industry Declines

A well-worn conservative mantra says picking winners and losers is anathema. Trump apparently hasn't gotten the memo. Picking coal is picking a loser. What does that make Trump?

Photo ops won't get you back to the future.

Trump promised to bring the coal industry back to Make America Great Again. One, bringing coal back won't do it -- we need a cleaner world, not a dirtier one -- and, two, coal as a fuel may linger, but its days as a source of energy are numbered. And guess who knows it? The coal industry:
In the six months since that announcement at the EPA, companies have withdrawn five of 44 pending lease applications, and at least eight are indefinitely on hold. In a number of cases, companies have explained that their decisions are based on persistently weak market conditions. According to the BLM’s figures as of this past week, only one new lease application has been filed, for a modest extension of a mine in Colorado that primarily feeds a nearby power plant whose fate is uncertain. (Two companies would expand mines in Utah by modifying existing applications.)
In the letters to state BLM offices obtained through FOIA requests, coal companies admitted that the future is not as rosy as they might have hoped or would like to project. Arch Coal, the second-largest supplier in the United States, referred to the “continued downward pressure on the Powder River Basin and subsequent reduced output over the past seven years” in explaining why it was withdrawing a lease application for a major new mine in Wyoming. Rhino Energy, which has operations in Appalachia and the West , said that “current coal market conditions remain depressed” and that it wouldn’t move forward with a lease for a proposed 14,000-acre mine in Colorado until that outlook changed. Cloud Peak Energy, with operations confined to the Powder River Basin, asked the government to reconfigure a proposed lease because it was “simply too large for current market conditions.” And Kiewit, a Fortune 500 contractor and mining company based in Omaha, withdrew its applications for two new mines in Wyoming after waiting for years in the hope that market conditions would improve.
Trump is playing his usual game here, which is to craft, with crude bluster, a message loud and clear, that he's going to make America manufacturing great again by going back to a golden past where women were barefoot and pregnant and men had black lung and died at 59. His base might cheer him at rallies for that, but the coal executives in the boardroom have already moved on. Why? They make business decisions, not messages for their base. Their base is their stockholders, who want profits, not proclamations.

Hey, Trump it's time you noticed. The coal industry is declining in two ways. First, as an industry it continues to trend down, and second, it's saying thanks, but no thanks.

Courtney Love Warned about Weinstein in 2005. Nobody Listened?

This video speaks volumes that apparently nobody read.

Sarah Polley's essay on the costs Hollywood pays for its Harvey Weinsteins -- and her own brave story on an encounter with him -- is a must-read. From Anita Hill to the latest atrocity is a continuum that must be eradicated. How long will it take? Society must decide. To say that all women must be brave reporters of their own encounters is a tall order, especially if society isn't ready to listen, accept, and act. Otherwise, it's just lambs to the slaughter of damaged careers because we're all cowards waiting for the next awards show.

And it ain't just Hollywood.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Freakish Parallels: Harvey Weinstein, Free Markets, and Income Inequality

No, don't blame Harvey Weinstein on Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, Lou Dobbs and Larry Kudlow, but "free markets are always best" and "government shouldn't pick winners and losers" should be reviewed through the lens of abuse of power and consensual -- and non-consensual -- transactions.

Abuse of power transcends race, ideology, but, tellingly, not gender.

It would be a stretch to suggest that tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of business have anything in common with abuse of women by men in power, or is it? What we take for granted in our free-market-centric capitalist society is that picking winners and losers through regulation is anathema. How about Donald Trump's "If you're a star, they let you do anything" declaration?

It's hard to see the difference between what the rich get away with in a world fraught with income inequality, where the middle and working classes demean themselves for a scant piece of the pie, and the world of male dominance over objectified women. Winners and losers indeed.

I've spent a lifetime feeling that we in the West were always slogging away, two steps forward, one step back, but inevitably moving towards a better world. The bizarre ascendance of Donald Trump -- where a crude, narcissistic prick brutishly rose to the top of the pack -- has crushed any notion of where the arc of justice ends. If, however, it bends toward justice, it certainly won't be apparent in my lifetime.

Reading an op-ed in the Washington Post of how fundamentally endless male sexual abuse of women has been throughout time literally rips at the liberal heart. May I add that Harvey Weinstein's ostensibly liberal ideology is a cudgel conservatives grasp to cloak their own near-criminal bashing of egalitarian longings, but it's only a feint: Finding a pony while digging through Hollywood trash doesn't justify the economic brutality of free markets unrestrained.

Money and power, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, and endless exploitation of the huddled masses. Where does it end? Not where we thought it did, according to Irin Carmon in her eye-opening, heart-rending WaPo op-ed:
These days, though, you hear less of the term “sex positive,” bandied about proudly into the new millennium. It now implicitly requires a follow-up: Sex on whose terms? Positive for whom? Listening to the accounts of heterosexual women working and dating today, the older feminist critiques of male power and the sexual revolution seem as relevant as ever. In a 1982 essay, “Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution ,” feminist critic Ellen Willis observed that the supposed sexual liberation movement of Hugh Hefner was actually a “sexual libertarian movement,” and that “liberation involves not only the abolition of restrictions but the positive presence of social and psychological conditions that foster satisfying sexual relations.” Thirty-five years later, the British feminist Laurie Penney wrote, in an essay that predated the Weinstein revelations, “Today’s sexual freedom is rather like today’s market freedom, in that what it practically entails is freedom for people with power to dictate terms and freedom for everyone else to shut up and smile.” Less had changed than advocates once hoped, or perhaps than young women once assumed.
Less has changed indeed. Currently, American heads are turning, in fact twisting to the breaking point, as we attempt to follow how Donald Trump rampages through decades of progress the West has struggled to make. It's as if he's grabbing an entire culture by the pussy. It's a disgustingly crude but apt metaphor for what his brand of dominance demonstrates. Power allows crude defiling on so many levels. What's the difference between a starlet giving it up on a couch and a struggling McDonald's worker on minimum wage limping through life without a fixed working schedule and a shrinking amount of food stamps while Paul Ryan decries welfare, picking winners and losers, and hammocks of complacency?

Not much difference: Someone is getting screwed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Trump's Let's-Make-a-Deal Gambits Are a Recipe for Catastrophe -- and Losing

"If I destroy it, they will deal" is Donald Trump's idea of the art of politics. Because of his erratic, wanton behavior, no one wants to deal. Why? You can't trust him to be honest, fair, or even aware of what he's doing.

With Trump, there's nothing behind the doors except baloney.

All of Donald Trump's early dealing has led to an utter failure of an administration, he knows it, and he's bursting with rage. Now, to assert himself, he's lashing out, destroying the establishment, most of what Obama accomplished, and denigrating both allies and enemies.Why? He thinks he'll make people "deal" and then he'll get the credit he deserves. The gambit is brain-dead, and the Republican Party knows it.
  1. He wants to decertify the Iran deal, because of non-compliance, to force our European allies and Iran to the table. (Psst, Iran is complying with the deal.) Our allies won't budge, driving a wedge between the U.S. and the world. He will toss the deal to a GOP-dominated Congress, who'll likely support the deal. Winner? Not Trump, but the U.S. may squeak by, while our allies again think WTF? If Congress agrees with Trump's decertification and reinstitutes sanctions, Iran bolts from the deal and goes back to building a bomb. Yay, more bombs and now two adversaries spitting in our eye.
  2. Trump is blowing up Obamacare with his incessant executive orders. Result? He and the GOP now own the American healthcare system, which is in danger of falling apart because of the fix Trump has put it in. Result? With a gun to its head, the GOP will likely have less bargaining power with the Dems, leading to an Alexander/Murray bill to save Obamacare that will be far from what the Repubs had hoped for. Expect Trump to call it a win just to be a "winner." And yet, if the GOP leaders don't allow a vote, the GOP establishment will partly own Trump's mess.
  3. On DACA, he's reneged on a deal with "Chuck and Nancy," thus alienating the Dems from dealing with him. What will or can he do? Nothing. He's in a corner and has already hinted that he'll extend DACA when it expires March 5th because, well, no one will deal.
  4. He alternately insults and praises the Puerto Ricans, claiming that the feds can't stay in Puerto Rico "forever." Result? He looks like an asshole who this morning in a tweet said, "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H's. I will always be with them!" See? He insults them with "how bad things were before" and praises them as "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico." Why believe anything he says?
  5. Almost forgot NAFTA. He is "dealing" so hard with Mexico and Canada that he'll likely find no agreement. Result? In a fit of pique he'll ditch the whole deal, which has ramifications for the whole world.
  6. Almost forgot North Korea. He keeps calling Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man" (as opposed to "Liddle Bob Corker") and Kim keeps calling his bluff. The Art of the Deal, my ass. (My ass, all our asses.)
No one believes anything he says, unless it's his base. And, when he has to say "never mind!" to all his misdealing, he'll look like a patsy, which will throw him into a rage, which will lead to? Sen. Bob Corker thinks World War III. What if he's right? Holy crap.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mike Pence, Fully Trained as Trump's Puppy, Would Make a Great President!

Mike Pence is reliable as the 51st vote on any tie that might occur as the Republican Party wobbles through its failed support of Trump's "agenda." And he can be counted on to move about the country supporting every knuckledheaded idea Trump tweets puts forth. Presidential timber for sure!

So, how about this angle?  What if I raise my chin and squint? Is that presidential?

If practice makes perfect, Mike Pence isn't honing a presidential look. He's honing a Trump's chump look. But, hey, that's his job! Presidential? Uhhh...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A WaPo Op-Ed Opposing Gun Control and Josh Marshall's Response Perfectly Frame the Debate.

Unsurprisingly, I'm impressed with Josh's response. Seldom have I heard such a compelling argument made so clear, unmuddying a debate that relies on muddy waters. Good work.

I had already read Leah Libresco's piece in the Washington Post, so I knew the background, and I've already written in recent days -- and even hours! -- pieces refuting the "we can never control guns" arguments. But Josh Marshall, as usually, sums things up with near-perfect clarity. In response to Libresco, Josh writes:
The real problem is Libresco’s premise. Does anyone think that closing the gun show loophole or mandating trigger locks will lead to a major reduction in gun fatalities? Nobody seriously thinks this. But it’s also not the way we approach really any other public health, safety or liability question. All sorts of public policy questions and decisions involve incremental reductions of harm or threat. Most regulated chemicals wouldn’t have people dropping dead right and left if not controlled. The numbers are usually relatively small. Even with known carcinogens, it is seldom possible to determine who became sick due to a certain kind of exposure. We just know, or science tells us, that a certain number of people will become sick and die due to exposure. We have safety seals on virtually every over-the-counter medication you can buy to guard against the extremely low possibility that someone could put poison in your aspirin. We have safety regulations on children’s toys to reduce the risk of a tiny number of children who choke or could choke on tiny toy parts. Whether this level of risk aversion is wise or paranoid is an interesting question. But there’s no question that we think about risk and remediation in a radically different way when it comes to firearms.
Yes, exactly. I don't think that any one thing will do it on gun control, though I believe that every little thing will likely do it, and we owe it to our increasingly gun-violent nation to do so. Because, as Marshall makes clear, this mass carnage is relatively new and requires a new approach.
Hardware and the prevalence of guns can’t be separated from culture. The two underpin and catalyze each other. Guns have been embedded in American culture, particularly though not exclusively rural culture, for centuries. But what we might call extreme gun ownership – individuals owning large numbers of often quasi-military firearms – is quite new. The mass casualty shooting is no longer a random freak out by a troubled person: it’s an established American idiom of violence, a way certain people choose to make a statement to the society at large.
Comments on social media, as popular and prevalent as they have become, doesn't quite have the bang for the buck that military-assault weapons taking out ever-increasing numbers of people at an ever-expanding number of mass shootings have. This is new, and our response has to be new and enduring.


Pay No Attention to GOP Willingness to Ban Bump Stocks. It's Their "Get Out of Jail Free" Card. And It Still Might Not Happen.

The Republican openness to consider banning the bump stock -- something unknown to nearly all of us until Vegas -- is a contemptible head feint. Yeah, we'll ban something!! And then leave all other gun "rights" in place, including the "right" to have lots of military rifles with up to 100-round magazines. Horrifying still.

Yes, the bump stock turns this semi-automatic military-style rifle into an
automatic. But without it, this rifle is horrifically lethal and can still be
altered to kill plenty of people. (It's what it was designed to do.)

We're going to hear the litany of reasons why we can never and should never limit guns and their availability, and, yes, it's Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California who's offered the bill to eliminate bump stocks, but she's only attempting to seize the moment in the aftermath of the Las Vegas horror.

But realize that, one, she may not succeed (watch that, folks), and, two, it throws a bone to the gun control people, a bone without any meat on it.

We will still remain a horror in the eyes of civilized nations. We will still be in the thrall of the NRA and its Republican stooges. We will still be left counting the dead and turning the page.

GOP's Culture of Death, Part Three: Congress Is Yet to Re-Fund CHIP, Healthcare for Children

It's clear from the many ways the Republican Party has tried to limit Americans' ability to afford health insurance and receive healthcare -- though they've tried three times and failed to diminish Obamacare -- that it's their chosen occupation to trash healthcare affordability. Now they're after the kids.

Yes, we have no CHIP funding, and states' healthcare programs are folding.

CHIP, which is basically Medicaid for children and has been in place since the Clinton years (1997), has brought healthcare to nearly 9 million kids. It's a tremendously successful program and has been thought, until very recently, to have bipartisan support. Everyone loves CHIP, and reauthorizing funding for it should be a no-brainer. That is, until the Age of Trump.

Last Sunday, routine renewal of CHIP didn't happen, simply got swallowed up in the other business of Congress, you know, like the desperate last-minute drive to destroy Obamacare. Thank goodness that failed -- although the Trump administration continues to undermine it any way it can in the background -- but a casualty of that insanity has been CHIP reauthorization. CHIP has expired.

Now, the Republican Party wants to hold other funding hostage in order to fund CHIP. A current proposal in the House ties Puerto Rico hurricane aid to the CHIP funding, along with Medicare cuts, cuts to a key ACA prevention program, and a shortening of a grace period for enrollees who fall behind in their premiums.

Fortunately, it appears that Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) over in the Senate want refunding and have advanced it out of committee. But even their plan phases out over two years the 23 percent funding bump provided by the ACA.

Mind you, this program is limited to children in families below 200 percent of the poverty level, which is $24,600 for a family of four. So if a family makes more than $49,200, it gets nothing. Get that? And Republicans demand cuts?

Who knows what will happen as this battle drags on, but soon funding will begin to dry up. Some states say they're already feeling the pinch.

So, over the past week, the Trump administration had Nikki Haley vote no on a resolution limiting the death penalty for, among others, members of the LBGTQ community, refused again to adopt sensible (or any) gun control, and left children's health twisting in the wind among attempts to cut funding to CHIP. Nice party you got there, GOP. Yours indeed is a Culture of Death.

No, that's not hyperbole.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The GOP Is So Pro-Guns that Even Gun Victim Steve Scalise Toes the Exact Party Line

The GOP is indeed the Party of Death. Its pro-NRA, pro-guns stance proves this over and over.

Steve Scalise adheres to the party line: guns good, gun control bad, no matter
the horror we experience day after day, month after month, year after year.

Sheesh. Steve Scalise channels the GOP talking points, despite the horror he himself experienced. He now knows what each gun victim experiences -- the ones who survive -- and yet he must stand with his brethren in the Party of Death.
“I think [Las Vegas has] fortified it,” Scalise said. “Because first of all, you’ve got to recognize that when there’s a tragedy like this, the first thing we should be thinking about is praying for the people who were injured and doing whatever we can to help them, to help law enforcement. We shouldn’t first be thinking of promoting our political agenda.”
Got to admire him for grit.

Note. Saying, in defense of guns, gun deaths are the price we pay for our 2nd Amendment rights, and, hey, we tolerate auto deaths at nearly the same clip, is nonsense.

Saying, hey, we gotta drive is not like saying, hey, we gotta shoot people defend ourselves.

U.S. Votes No on U.N. Resolution Banning the Use of the Death Penalty for LGBTQers, Then Lies about It

Let's admit it. Republicans are the Party of Death.

WTF, WTF, WTF, Nikki Haley.

There is no reason to deny it anymore. The Republicans support the Culture of Death in America and around the world.
The U.S. State Department responded Tuesday to questions as to why it opposed a United Nations resolution that condemns the discriminatory use of the death penalty, such as in cases of adultery and same-sex relations. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. had “broader concerns” about the resolutions language regarding the death penalty.
“As our representative to the Human Rights Council said last Friday, the United States is disappointed to have voted against that resolution,” Hauert said at a press briefing Tuesday. “We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether. We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully as the United States does.”
In other words, the U.S. voted no because the U.N. resolution contains language that expresses hope that the world will eventually turn away from the use of the death penalty, but that kind of sentiment is abhorrent to the U.S. The fact that a section containing a recommendation that homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates be free from the death penalty was added this year was not relevant.

Then through a State Department tweet and a couple by Nikki Haley, the U.S. lies openly about its history with this vote, which has been taken routinely since 2007.

 Both tweets are lies. The first inverts the meaning of the vote: a failure to vote against a resolution that condemns the use of the death penalty is a vote FOR the death penalty. And clearly the Trump administration has a record, along with the Republican Party, of general hostility to LBGTQ rights.

The second tweet fails to point out that the LBGTQ language was added for the first time this year and that the Obama administration didtn't vote no, it abstained on a vote only about the death penalty, which continues to be legal in most of the U.S.

Do check the threads for each tweet, and read about this vote and the lies about it here, here, and here. And, by the way, the only other countries to vote no were Saudi Arabia and Iraq. As Trump might say, Great Allies!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Former GOP Deficit Hawk Says We Need (Yugely) Bigger Deficits to Lower Taxes (on the Rich). Huh?!?

In pure WTF territory, Trump's OMB director -- a former screaming mimi of a deficit hawk -- now says we need more deficits to give tax cuts to the rich in order to have "more growth." This is beyond wack.

Mulvaney: If we raise deficits this much, the rich get tax cuts and the poor win!

Crazy in the age of Trump is CRAZY. Or, to put it another way, there is no limit to the bullshit the GOP will throw around to try to get more money to their donor class.
Over the weekend on CNN, Mulvaney said the country needs “new deficits.”
Mulvaney said: “I’ve been very candid about this. We need to have new deficits because of that. We need to have the growth. If we simply look at this as being deficit-neutral, you’re never going to get the type of tax reform and tax reductions that you need to get to sustain 3 percent economic growth.”
Here's an established fact: If you allow deficits to grow -- without some offset like infrastructure spending or some other fiscal stimulus -- you risk raising interest rates on U.S. Treasuries to finance the increased deficit, which forces interest rates up generally, raising the cost of business investment, which will put a chill on economic growth. Plus, cutting tax revenue stifles government spending, which is another piece of economic activity, further dampening GDP, and that causes recessions.

But, hey, tax cuts for the rich! I've been very candid about this: we're fucked.

There is some hope. On Fox News, Chris Wallace took on Mulvaney's fuzzy math.

How Have Other Countries Stopped Gun Violence? They've Banned Guns. So Should We.

The success of Japan, Australia, and the UK in rooting out gun violence by banning virtually all guns shows that it's workable, and it's been successful. In many U.S. states, it has been, as well.

Vox.com found this data showing states with higher gun ownership have higher numbers of gun deaths. That's called correlation.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has a Washington Post op-ed expressing how much Americans support common-sense gun-control measures and how successful his home state has been -- long before Sandy Hook -- in reducing gun violence.

Murphy's general plea for reducing gun violence makes sense, too. And it's doable, despite what common wisdom says about how impossible it is to stand up against the N.R.A. and the gun lobby.

Back to Vox.com. Here's a comparison of the U.S.'s gun homicides with our European counterparts:

There's no comparison.

I advocate a total ban on guns (or those not associated with hunting). But even just the basic controls of background checks, effective licensing, training requirements, and retail and private sales controls -- along with a total ban on so-called assault and military-style weapons -- would put an end to much of the carnage that, in this day and age, is the province of only the U.S.

How many charts do we need to see? Come on, America. It's time. It's past time.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dozens Dead, Hundreds Wounded in Las Vegas, and Nothing Will Change

Let's stop kidding ourselves. We are a violent country with a love of the guns that serve our violence. We're stuck in that reality. All that's left is, from time to time, to count the dead...and move on.

Run for your life, duck and cover. A permanent reality in America? I guess so.

Early this morning I happened on Josh Marshall's take on last night's deadly shooting. The Talking Points Memo founder and editor is one of the clearest voices in American politics and culture today, and he certainly says anything I would have to say about the horror in Las Vegas.

He hits it on the head, and his sequence -- was it a Muslim, was it a black, oh-my-god it's a white man, thank goodness -- crystallizes our unique, tragic place in world culture.
If the shooter is a Muslim or even more a Muslim immigrant, the attack is “terrorism” and even more than that it becomes enrolled into the catalog of threats to justify immigrant bans, surveilling or expulsion of Muslim immigrants, various military actions in the Middle East, new wars, scraping the Iran nuclear deal.
If it’s a black man it’s only slightly less political. It’s part of the rising tide of crime (statistically slightly true though greatly exaggerated) Jeff Sessions and President Trump use to inflame racial division and reignite the drug war and 80s era policing. It’s a violent turn for the rising tide of African-American protest ranging from taking a knee to protests in Ferguson and other cities.
If it is a white man, seemingly without religious views of any particular relevance to the crime or targeting people of a particular race, it’s just … a thing that happened and not something we can do anything about. It’s original sin. A troubled, distraught person. Just a crazed individual, someone who seemed normal and then went horribly wrong. Critically, it’s an individual story, isolated and untouchable by anything we can do as a society.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: when the shooter isn’t white the violence is often ‘terrorism’ and almost always political. That tells us a lot about racism and xenophobia in America. But fundamentally these are diversions. The problem is that America is the only country which is wealthy and not roiled by endemic civil conflict or war which regularly has mass gun massacres.
Pretty much it, Josh. Read his whole piece, called "My Mass Shooting Ritual." The thing is, my thoughts proceeded in the same way: Was it a Muslim, was it a black man, thank god it was a white man. How many of you did the same thing?

Next thought: This is horrible. Next thought: Better make coffee, and get on with the day.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Bedminster Dotard Attacks to Cover His Failings.

Trump golfed while Puerto Ricans suffered and died. For the Bedminster Dotard, it's all in a day's work.

Trump is pictured here golfing for the 23rd time in his first 19 weeks in office.

The Bedminster Dotard -- a name I discovered in a comments section in the WaPo -- has a well-worn M.O. Attack to cover up his failings, which beyond mere incompetence includes a stunning lack of empathy. But, oh well, what's a narcissist to do?

He was so busy golfing -- and tweeting about NFL players taking a knee -- while Puerto Rico was being devastated that he managed to stall the aid to an American territory. Why? We all know why.

But give this a look to see the power of his thin-skinned outrage at being criticized, however obliquely. This is grotesque, and people will die because of his purposeful dysfunction. How long do we survive this? How long must we?