"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Can You Say "Brazen"?

This is really almost beyond belief:

Lawmakers in South Dakota are invoking emergency powers to overturn an anti-corruption law that was passed by a ballot measure during the 2016 election.
The South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act makes it illegal for lawmakers to receive more than a total of $100 annually from lobbyists in the form of “any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, beverage, meal, food, or other thing of value made or given directly or indirectly.”

The law, which was passed by a majority of voters in November, immediately incited panic among state officials and lawmakers. Some resigned from their posts while others cancelled meetings with any groups represented by lobbyists.

Lawmakers who are found guilty of violating the act face $1,000 in fines and up to one year in prison.

According to a statement from the advocacy group Represent South Dakota, lawmakers are now trying to use their “emergency powers to bypass normal check and balances, and repeal America’s first statement Anti-Corruption Act.”

I say "almost" because South Dakota is one of those states with a legislature dominated by Republicans. (I remember when the Republican party had real policy positions and a real interest in governing for the benefit of the country. That changed sometime in the late 1970s, maybe 1980s, when the "religious" right started to have major influence and the GOP became the party of taking power, by whatever means necessary.)

Any guesses on how long it's going to take Congress to latch on to this idea? Or Trump?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rewriting History: Coda

Towleroad has a good summary of the Trump administration's "alternative facts" strategy, as I sketched out yesterday, with this analysis, which is right on the mark:

Everyone should read this post written by an alleged member of a former administration that was posted on a DC message board and has gone viral, because, despite the anonymity of its author, it is an important explanation of what’s going on here:

If you are puzzled by the bizarre “press conference” put on by the White House press secretary this evening (angrily claiming that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in history, accusing them of faking photos and lying about attendance), let me help explain it. This spectacle served three purposes:

1. Establishing a norm with the press: they will be told things that are obviously wrong and they will have no opportunity to ask questions. That way, they will be grateful if they get anything more at any press conference. This is the PR equivalent of “negging,” the odious pick-up practice of a particular kind of horrible person (e.g., Donald Trump).

2. Increasing the separation between Trump’s base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong—that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong—they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here—likely to pay off—is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as “fake news” (because otherwise they’d be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)

3. Creating a sense of uncertainty about whether facts are knowable, among a certain chunk of the population (which is a taking a page from the Kremlin, for whom this is their preferred disinformation tactic). A third of the population will say “clearly the White House is lying,” a third will say “if Trump says it, it must be true,” and the remaining third will say “gosh, I guess this is unknowable.” The idea isn’t to convince these people of untrue things, it’s to fatigue them, so that they will stay out of the political process entirely, regarding the truth as just too difficult to determine.

This is laying important groundwork for the months ahead. If Trump’s White House is willing to lie about something as obviously, unquestionably fake as this, just imagine what else they’ll lie about. In particular, things that the public cannot possibly verify the truth of. It’s gonna get real bad.

Welcome to Kremlin Lite.

Footnote: The next step is to control access to data:

During a discussion about the future of the Affordable Care Act, MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid pointed out that Trump's White House was already lying about how the GOP's plan to "replace" Obamacare would leave millions without insurance.

"People are being hurt by their coverage being diminished, by their opportunities to get insurance being diminished," Reid explained. "And [White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer comes out and says, 'No, they're not. Nobody is suffering.' And then you try to find the data on people's insurance and HHS just doesn't give it to you."

"That's where we are," MSNBC analyst Joan Walsh agreed. "I think we're really in a place where they're going to scrub the data. They're scrubbing websites now.

And this:

The mind boggles.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Yes, it's Sunday, and that means reviews. Lots of interesting stuff, if I do say so myself, so scoot on over.

Rewriting History (Update)

It's best if you can do it right away. Let's start with Trump's official spokesbot, Sean Spicer:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday accused the media of misrepresenting the crowd at Donald Trump's inauguration in order to dampen enthusiasm for the event, getting some numbers wrong himself in the process.

“This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said with emphasis. “Both in person and around the globe.”

He accused the media of "deliberately false reporting" both with regard to photos of the crowd that were published as well as crowd estimates.

And then, there's the Hairpiece-in-Chief, who was in theory mending fences with the CIA:

Addressing about 300 CIA employees, Trump blasted the media for allegedly lying about the crowd size at his inauguration, calling reporters "among the most dishonest human beings on earth." He went on to claim that as many as 1.5 million people attended the inauguration, while independent estimates put the crowd size at only 250,000.

"We had a massive field of people, packed," Trump said. "I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I said wait a minute, I made a speech, I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people. They showed a field and there was practically no one standing there."

Judge for yourself:

Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, right, appeared to draw a smaller crowd than Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, left. (Reuters)

And for the ultimate in readjusting reality, there's always good ol' Kellyanne:

Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet The Press this morning where she battled Chuck Todd in her defense of Sean Spicer’s ridiculous lies about the crowds at Friday’s inauguration.

Conway: “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You’re saying it’s a falsehood. Our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that.”

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Update: They're piling on. From Reince Priebus:

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went after the press Sunday for trying to “delegitimize” President Donald Trump, a man who spent years telling the country that Barack Obama was not constitutionally eligible to be president.

“I’m saying there’s an obsession by the media to delegitimize this president, and we are not going to sit around and let it happen,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We are going to fight back tooth and nail every day, and twice on Sunday.”

Priebus was upset that the press focused so much on the small crowd size at Trump’s inauguration compared to the crowds at Obama’s gathering in 2009.

Why do you suppose the Trump camp is so sensitive about size?

(By the way, under the heading "Credit Where Credit is Due": All stories/links via Joe.My.God.)

I Was Worried

After seeing all the coverage of the Women's March from various cities -- RawStory has a slide show of marches in cities around the world if you can catch it -- Hah! Let's see if it will embed:


Anyway, I hadn't seen any mention of demonstrations in Chicago, and you may remember that Chicago has a long history of demonstrations, so I was a bit concerned that my hometown had pooped out. Well, Google is your friend (as I keep telling my barely computer literate sister). As it turned out:

An estimated quarter-million demonstrators poured into downtown on Saturday, so many that organizers of the Women's March on Chicago told the throngs that the event would only be a rally because there wasn't room to march. But people marched anyway.

"Michigan Avenue is flooded with marchers," event co-chairwoman Ann Scholhamer told the crowd at Jackson and Columbus drives a little before 11 a.m. "Wabash is flooded with marchers. State Street is flooded with marchers. People are still waiting for trains in Oak Park. We called, and you came."

So what was supposed to be a pre-march rally, with a lineup of more than 30 speakers, turned into the main event. City officials would echo organizers' decision a short while later, saying there would no longer be a "pedestrian component" to the march, and that Grant Park had reached capacity.

They marched anyway.

Grant Park, looking toward the Loop:

Photo;  Chicago Tribune

The turn out, by the way, was roughly three times what organizers had expected.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Well, It's Official

The Hairpiece, a/k/a Orangina, is now the president of the United States. If you haven't had a chance to read his inaugural address (which is all over the place), Digby has it in full.

I'm not going to post it, or quote from it. I just want to note that he started off by insulting his predecessors,most of whom were in the audience, and went downhill from there.

The reactions have not been positive, but I've noticed one consistent thread: they all talk about how the speech is a radical departure from "inauguration history". I think it's a radical departure from objective reality.

It's also worth noting that one of the first official acts of the new administration was to scrub the pages about climate change, civil rights, and LGBT rights from the official White House web page. But there's now a plug for Melania's jewelry line.

He also issued an executive order crippling the ACA.

It's not just that he's crazy and vindictive. He's tacky.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Giggle du Jour

From Trump's chief spokesviper:

“Donald Trump didn’t divide the country, but he has a wonderful opportunity to heal and unify the country,” she said.

After watching Tony Perkins for years, I shouldn't be surprised that anyone can tell such blatant lies with a straight face, but if anything, Conway's even better at it than Perkins, for which she gets the Tony Perkins Award.

Some Optimism

And it's sobering to think that the incoming administration not being prepared to fill crucial roles in the agencies and departments can be considered "optimistic." From BooMan:

If you think Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson are going to be guiding the pulse of their departments, you must not have watched any of their confirmation hearings. They know absolutely nothing about what their departments do. They’ll have a few big items on their get-done list, but they wouldn’t know how to shape legislation to name a post office.

Because the folks who will actually need to transform law and policy won’t be fully in place until late spring or early summer, the amount of damage the Trump administration can do in its first year will be reduced.

I suppose it’s possible that the reverse could happen in some select cases. In these cases, the skeleton crews might have been a moderating influence on a radical Congress if they had been staffed up and ready to engage. Overall, however, I think it will prevent the administration from translating The Leader’s will into action.

It's a measure of the sheer ineptitude of not only Trump but his entire team that they have managed to pull off the worst transition in history and will take office completely unprepared to deal with anything.

But then, that's probably what the Russians wanted. #PutinsPuppet

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Culture Break: Bill Withers: Ain't No Sunshine

This just popped into my head and I figured, why not?

Culture Break: Tim Clement and Kim Deschamps: Waterline

This is from the album Wolfsong Night, which I reviewed a number of years ago (one of the few that's still up at Epinions.

I generally try to use videos of live performances or an "official video", but this is not the kind of music that lends itself to that. Never mind -- just enjoy this track and if you're so inclined, pretty much the whole album is on YouTube.

Today's Must-Read: Looking in the Mirror

From John Judis at TPM. The headline says it:

Obama should not have had to commute Chelsea Manning's sentence

It's short. Read it.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Today's Must-Read: NATO, the EU, and the Rise of the Right

Excellent analysis by Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice on what NATO and the EU are really about and why they are now even more necessary than ever before. Key insight:

This is the real, tangible benefit of the EU and NATO. Its not a common market or a mutual defense pact. The real benefit is that the EU and NATO have broken the reality of over a thousand years of conflicts, capped off by World Wars I and II, in Europe and among the people of the nation-states that make up Europe.

One of my many minors in college was history, with an emphasis on modern European diplomatic history. And one of the ongoing themes there was the "balance of power." And one aspect of that was integrating Russia into the European community. Silverman points out the one big failure in the West's post-Cold War policy, which was excluding Russia from that community. And Russia is currently feeling the effects of that marginalization: faced with a newly robust and vital China on the one hand and a unified Europe and America on the other, Russia really has no choice to but try to break things up. China's out of the question. Europe, on the other hand, especially with the UK leaving the EU, is ripe for dismemberment, and Putin has a willing puppet in Trump's America.

Fasten your seat belts, etc., etc.