"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

Monday, April 24, 2017

He Thought He Was Being Funny

A follow up to this story: AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on the blowback from his "island in the Pacific" comment:

“I think that was a perfectly correct statement,” Sessions defended his remarks on MSNBC Friday, and now, amidst laughter, he dismissed them entirely as “nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”

Apparently Sessions thinks the idea of an independent, co-equal judiciary is a joke.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Sentiments, Exactly


Via Balloon Juice.

What's New at Green Man Review

Mostly books and music, but interesting, nevertheless. Hit the link for goodies.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science, Earth Day, 2017

Everybody's getting into the act:

In honor of Earth Day and the March for Science, the Monterey Bay Aquarium held it's own mini Science March with several of its African penguins.

The aquarium dubbed its livestream the "March of the Penguins for Science," and it included their African penguins taking an "enrichment walk" through the Kelp Forest gallery.

Video at the link.

via Joe.My.God.

Friday, April 21, 2017

An Island in the Pacific

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III preparing to perjure himself before the Senate
I've made reference before to the notion that Trump's attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, seems stuck in the 1950s. He just nailed it, discussing Trump's disastrous immigration order:

"We've got cases moving in the very, very liberal Ninth Circuit, who, they've been hostile to the order," Sessions said. "We won a case in Virginia recently that was a nicely-written order that just demolished, I thought, all the arguments that some of the other people have been making. We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power."
Emphasis added.

The judge "sitting on an island in the Pacific" is Judge Derrick Watson, of the U.S. District Court of Hawaii; the island is Oahu.

Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959.

The breathtaking ignorance is deliberate, don't doubt it for a minute. The message, from this lifelong advocate of states' rights now that he's part of the federal apparatus is simply another attack on the judiciary, following in the footsteps of The Hairpiece.

Remember, this is a man who believes, from the bottom of his heart, that if you're accused of something, you must be guilty. He also believes, apparently, that the president gets to make the law, without challenge.

Which is just another demonstration of something I've maintained for a while now: not only do Republicans not believe in our foundational principles, they're vehemently opposed to them. If you doubt that:

In the interview on Tuesday, Sessions also added that judges shouldn't "psychoanalyze" Trump when he was asked about potential judges Trump would appoint.

"I think our President, having seen some of these really weird interpretations of the executive orders that he's put out, I think he's more understanding now that we need judges who follow the law, not make law," Sessions said.

"The judges don't get to psychoanalyze the President to see if the order he issues is lawful. It's either lawful or it's not. I think that it will be real important for America to have judges in the model of Judge (Neil) Gorsuch and (the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia, people who serve under the law, under the Constitution, not above it, and they are faithful to the law. They honor it and don't try to remake it as they'd like it to be."

This has become standard right-wing cant for any court decision they don't like. Remember the cries of "lawless" when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Obergefell? Aside from the obvious oxymoron, it's another way of avoiding the substance of the decision, especially when it rests on constitutional guarantees of individual rights. (And contrary to Sessions' assertion, legislative intent has always been an important factor in weighing the validity of laws.)

Via Digby, who notes:

He is an authoritarian monster, the worst of all possible world, the scariest member of the scariest administration in American history.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Giggle du Jour

Note the chyron:

Via Balloon Juice

Culture Break: Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto in F Major Opus 6 No. 2

I have an album of Corelli concerti grossi that's one of my favorite morning things. This particular piece isn't on it, although there are other works from Opus 6. At any rate, it's a nice break from the normal noise:

Strangely enough, I've not reviewed any Corelli, except as a "B side" to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Reefer Madness

Lord love a duck:

Two days after downplaying the role of marijuana in the nation's drug war, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly changed course Tuesday, calling it a "potentially dangerous gateway drug" and saying his agency would continue to arrest and investigate those who traded in it in violation of federal law.

"Let me be clear about marijuana: It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs," he said in his first major speech since being sworn in. "Its use and possession is against federal law and until that law is changed by the United States Congress, we at DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books."

Forget the science that says otherwise: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has spoken:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decried pot use and has advocated a crackdown. In a speech last month, Sessions said marijuana was only "slightly less awful" than heroin, and he declared at a Senate hearing last year that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

Kelly's remarks Tuesday seemed to be an effort to bring his position on marijuana more in keeping with Sessions', two days after he took a decidedly softer line. On Sunday, Kelly had said marijuana was "not a factor" in the war on drugs, and that the search for solutions to the drug problem in the U.S. should focus on addictive drugs and not "arresting a lot of users."

Sessions likes putting lots of people in jail, especially if they're not white. Makes him look really butch. He thinks. I guess Kelly got the word: pot is an existential threat.

You think someone's stuck in the 1950s?

(I wonder where all those states' rights advocates are hiding on this.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Today's Must-Watch

several of the Superbowl winning New England Patriots are declining an invitation to the White House.

Several members of the 2016-2017 NFL Champion New England Patriots will boycott their team’s customary trip to the White House later this year. DT Alan Branch, DE Chris Long, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Martellus Bennett and LB Dont’a Hightower all decided to skip the opportunity to meet with President Trump.

And there's a video. Watch it -- it's a good one:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Small People in High Office

I found this to be quite telling:

'Nuff said?

Another WTF? Moment

Words fail me:

A three-month old baby was summoned to the US embassy in London for an interview after his grandfather mistakenly identified him as a terrorist.

Harvey Kenyon-Cairns had been due to fly to Orlando in Florida for his first overseas holiday, until his grandfather Paul Kenyon made the error on a visa waiver form.

On the part of the Esta form which reads “Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?” Kenyon ticked yes instead of no.

He only learned of his error when his grandson’s travel was refused. “I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t see it was a genuine mistake and that a three-month-old baby would be no harm to anyone,” said the 62-year-old.

I can't help but wonder what genius thought of putting that question on the form to begin with. Do you suppose they thought an actual terrorist is going to check "yes"?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Sunday

And you know that that means -- new stuff at GMR. A special edition today, on "classical" music. Note the byline.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Antidote: Easters Past

For sheer, everyday incompetence, nothing can beat the Trump regime. (I refuse to call it an "admimistration.") From Digby:

Trump's well oiled machine is supposed to make the government run like a business.

And they can't even get the easter egg roll together:

The only thing more ridiculous than the White House Easter Egg Roll is the inability to plan a White House Easter Egg Roll. But as with health care, nobody in the Trump administration knew it could be so complicated to plan this festive spring event that has been going off relatively hitch-free since the Hayes administration. For someone who promised to never allow the blasphemous tidings “happy holidays” to emerge from our irreligious lips again, President Trump is remarkably lax about this Christian-lite rite.

Makes you yearn for the good old days -- like, last year:

Can you imagine Trump doing something like that?

And as for the First Lady:

There's just no comparison. I'm reminded of a poem by Constantine Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians" -- except that the barbarians are here and have taken over.

Today in Disgusting People

This speaks for itself:

Via Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What's Wrong With Congress (Updated)

This is mostly a story about another Republican congresscritter dodging a face-to-face with constituents, but this really struck me:

In an April 10 town hall, Mullin engaged in another difficult meeting. His constituents repeatedly told him that he worked for them as a public servant but Mullin believes it is a service he provides to the constituents.

“One, you say you pay for me to do this, that’s bull crap, I pay for myself to do this,” Mullin claimed. “This is a service.”

Do you think that maybe too many of our representatives think they're doing us a favor by being in office? Here's the video of that exchange.

I found an embeddable version of the video:

Update: The attitude doesn't seem to be limited to the House. Some reactions to a town hall with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ):

This kind of bald-faced -- I honestly don't know what to call it: is Flake really that clueless? Or is he just a liar?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Trump White House: How It Works

This, I think, is symptomatic:

In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that he was able to convince Trump to slash the Appalachian Regional Commission and similar programs in his proposed budget because he had no idea what the program did.

“My guess is he probably didn’t know what the Appalachian Regional Commission did,” Mulvaney said of Trump. “I was able to convince him, ‘Mr. President, this is not an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars. This is not the best way to help the people in West Virginia.’ He goes, ‘Okay, that’s great. Is there a way to get those folks the money in a more efficient way?’ And the answer is yes. And that’s what’s we’re going focus on doing.”

Harwood then asked Mulvaney if Trump was aware that his budget cuts might hurt his own voters — and Mulvaney responded that the best way to help all voters was to spur higher economic growth.

“I think what the president will tell you is, ‘The best thing I can do for those folks, whether or not they voted for me, is to figure out a way to get 3.5 percent economic growth,'” he said.

That's it -- combine a president who has no idea what he's doing with a budget director who seems to believe his own bullshit, and you get another attempt to spur economic growth by taking money out of the economy. And that worked so well last time. (Remember the Republican Great Recession of 2008-2009? Yeah, that one.)

Head, Meet Brick Wall

They just keep trying:

A bill filed Tuesday by four N.C. House Republicans would direct state government to defy a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and restore the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage.

House Bill 780 is titled “Uphold Historical Marriage Act,” and is sponsored by some of the House’s most conservative legislators. They frequently file bills that don’t get a hearing because House GOP leaders don’t support the proposals.

The bill says that the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the country “is null and void in the State of North Carolina.” The sponsors argue in the bill language that it’s “clear that laws concerning marriage are for each state to establish and maintain severally and independently.”

The bill quotes the Christian Bible and says the ruling “exceeds the authority of the court relative to the decree of Almighty God that ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24, ESV) and abrogates the clear meaning and understanding of marriage in all societies throughout prior history.”

The bill would order state government to return to the constitutional amendment known as Amendment One, which was approved in a 2012 voter referendum. It also says that same-sex marriages performed in other states wouldn’t be recognized in North Carolina.

The comments at the article are not kind.

This is nothing more than posturing, unless these sponsors are too stupid to walk and breathe at the same time. There's this little thing called "The Supremacy Clause":

Article VI, Clause 2:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing [sic] in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Via Joe.My.God.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Catching Up: What's New at Green Man Review

Pretty interesting mix of things this week. You know what to do.

Today's Must-Read: The Perennial Target (Update)

Trump wants to do away with Social Security. He's not coming right out and saying it, but he's setting it up, if his "tax reform" proposals, sketchy as they are, are any indication. Michael Hiltzik lays it out:

President Trump’s tax reform agenda is in trouble. That’s not news, but one proposal that his team has floated as a way, ostensibly, to cut taxes on the middle class is. According to the Associated Press, they’re toying with the idea of eliminating the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and part of Medicare, or cutting it drastically.

This is an absolutely terrible idea, partially because it smells like a back-door way of cutting Social Security benefits. It needs to be nipped in the bud.

“This proposal is a Trojan horse,” the veteran Social Security advocate Nancy J. Altman told me. “It appears to be a gift in the form of middle-class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans' fundamental economic security.”

To understand why, one needs to examine the history and mechanics of Social Security, something the Trump team hasn’t tried or doesn’t care to do. But we can.

And he does. Read the whole thing. Via Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars, who is worth a read as well.

Update: Digby has more on this.

Why Did This Take So Long?

In fact, why does it have to happen at all?

What is “lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.

In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments.

On Thursday, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, which directs schools to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance and puts an end to practices meant to embarrass children. It applies to public, private and religious schools that receive federal subsidies for students’ breakfasts and lunches.

This is the richest country the world has ever seen, and yet we allow things like throwing kids' lunches in the garbage if they can't pay -- which is simply and literally unbelievable -- and military veterans living on the streets -- or, for that matter, anyone living on the streets.

I'm glad New Mexico has taken this step, but other states need to follow suit asap -- maybe some of those states with "Christians" in control of the legislatures could lead the way, like it says in Matthew 25:35-40.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Footnote: Yeah, I've been out of commission for a few days. I'll spend today catching up.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Culture Break: Maurice Ravel: Bolero

In a rather informal setting:

And what else is there to say?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Shell Game du Jour

So, NCAA buys into the scam.

Story here.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep -- it's that time of the week again, and there's more good stuff at GMR, so pop on over and take a look. And do keep an eye on the introductory narratives -- sometimes there are links to reviews of really nifty things there.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Remind You of Someone?

Offered without comment:

Via Balloon Juice.

Today in Disgusting People

Another cafeteria "Christian":

Republican U.S. Congressman Jodey Arrington of Texas this week decided a House hearing debating the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was the perfect time to pick and choose a Bible verse to deny the poor food stamps.

After listening to several anti-hunger experts testify on the crisis of food insecurity across the country, including one from a state food bank, a human services agency, and a budget and policy think tank, Rep. Arrington announced he would take five minutes to deliver his own remarks.

"The Scripture tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3-10, he says, 'For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: If a man will not work he shall not eat.' And then he goes on to say, 'We hear that some among you are idle,'" the Texas Congressman preached.

It's called "cherry-picking" and it crops up frequently among evangelicals, especially those who are in it for the money.

Aside from the sheer inappropriateness of using the Christian Bible to support a position on legislation, as I recall, Thessalonians was Paul, not Jesus -- and in fact, Paul never met Jesus and never heard him preach first-hand. Paul was also a piece of work himself: he's the one who lived with a courtesan for a number of years, had a son with her, then left her to marry a rich widow -- and then started preaching against sex.

There's also the fact that he's full of bull-pucky: as the article points out, a minority of those needing food assistance are not working although able: most are children, the elderly, handicapped -- and the working poor. And I have to wonder how many of those able to work can't find jobs because of Republican economic policies -- like giving the "job creators" huge tax breaks so they can create jobs in Mexico, China, Vietnam. . . .

Congressman Arrington might do well to consider the words of the Christ he claims to follow:

From Matthew 25:

41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink;

43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45 “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’

46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

And we have a First Runner-Up:

Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who signed the state’s anti-trans bathroom bill, has celebrated a “deal” to repeal the law as a loss for the LGBT+ community. . . .

But former Governor McCrory, who signed the bill last year, and one of its most vocal supporters, has now spoken out to celebrate the “deal”.

Taking aim at the Human Rights Campaign, which described the deal to repeal the bill as a “disaster”, McCrory said: “The good news is this: the HRC lost the battle… With their resources and power and money, and their trying to get some other corporations to help support them in the battle…[The] fact of the matter is, they did not get a full repeal of HB2.”

Aside from being vicious and petty, McCrory seems to be fairly stupid: you're not supposed to admit things like that, you're supposed to pretend that the new bill repealed HB2 -- which it didn't.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I suppose it had to happen:

Connecticut lawmakers are considering whether the state should become the first in the country to allow police to use drones outfitted with deadly weapons.

The proposal was immediately met with concern by civil rights and liberties advocates.

The state legislature’s Judiciary Committee approved the bill Wednesday and sent it to the House of Representatives. It would ban the use of weaponized drones but exempt police. The state Police Officer Standards and Training Council would have to approve new rules and train officers before they could use weaponized drones.

Because the police in this country always follow procedures and are superbly trained.

Via Joe.My.God.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Behind the Smoke and Chaos

This article from Salon, on one of Trump's policies that is very quietly being implemented full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-torpedoes:
With all the hoopla over the current administration’s relationship with Russia and the health care Dumpster fire, we haven’t been paying as much attention to the Trump policy that seems to be going great guns: the deportation and detention of foreign nationals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For all of President Trump’s failures on other matters, this one is succeeding briskly. That is, if you define success as ICE striking terror in immigrant communities all over the country.

On Monday Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced that the Trump administration is implementing its plan to use federal funds to crack down on “sanctuary cities” and states that choose to not comply with federal immigration laws. The Justice Department believes that local officials should be required to determine the immigration status of anyone they detain (or interact with), and if that person cannot provide proof of citizenship, he or she should be turned over to ICE. The plan calls for the federal government to withhold certain funds from any of the 200 different municipalities that have been designated as sanctuary cities.

Trump and Sessions are both hard-core demagogues on the issue of immigration, spreading fear and paranoia that undocumented immigrants are dangerous people who have contributed to a crime wave, despite lots of evidence to the contrary. Local officials in most of these cities, including the police, understand that this actually makes their jobs harder and their communities less safe, as many people will simply refuse to report crimes or bear witness for fear of being turned over to federal agents. Essentially, the federal government now has policies that threaten to turn America’s cities into the frightening dystopias that Trump already says they are. People, unsurprisingly, would prefer to have their communities prosperous and safe.

It's pretty depressing, in a TSA Unchained sort of way. This illustrates what I mean by that:
The New York Times reported last month that new orders from the Trump administration have granted ICE and the border patrol much more freedom to detain and deport people. These officials apparently felt very restrained by the rules in force during the Obama administration, which required them to focus their attention on undocumented immigrants with a record of serious felonies. Today they have the mandate to deport people even with minor infractions: As press secretary Sean Spicer put it, agents have been told to “take the shackles off.” A spokesman for ICE’s union told the Times that “morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders.” The Times further noted:
Two officials in Washington said that the shift — and the new enthusiasm that has come with it — seems to have encouraged pro-Trump political comments and banter that struck the officials as brazen or gung-ho, like remarks about their jobs becoming “fun.” Those who take less of a hard line on unauthorized immigrants feel silenced, the officials said.
(Emphasis added.)

If that makes you wonder what kind of people are eager to become ICE agents -- well, it should.

Read it all.

(Via Digby, who, as it happens, is the author of the piece.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Culture Break: Bajirao Mastani: Malhari

You've got to hand it to Bollywood -- nobody does big production number bigger.

I have no idea what this movie is about, but I love it.

Trump Tackles the Environment

Nice water supply you've got there. . . .:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an order to undo Obama-era climate change regulations, keeping a campaign promise to support the coal industry and calling into question U.S. support for an international deal to fight global warming.

Flanked by coal miners and coal company executives, Trump proclaimed his "Energy Independence" executive order at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The move drew swift backlash from a coalition of 23 states and local governments, as well as environmental groups, which called the decree a threat to public health and vowed to fight it in court.

The order's main target is former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants - a key factor in the United States' ability to meet its commitments under a climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.

Trump's decree also reverses a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undoes rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production and reduces the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure permitting decisions. Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the main greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for heating the earth.

"I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations," Trump said at the EPA.

Energy independence? If we wanted energy independence, we'd be throwing major resources into developing wind and solar power. But Trump has just as much imagination as his pals in the oil and coal industries.

Oh, and about those "job-killing regulations":

Throughout the presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump courted miners and promised improved job prospects. He has continued to tout the future of the coal industry as president—but a top coal executive has slammed the brakes on the idea that mining jobs could come back.

Robert Murray, founder and chief executive of Murray Energy—the nation's largest privately held coal mining company—told the Guardian that many mining jobs were lost to technology and competition, rather than regulation.

Trump can't really change that, Murray said.

"I suggested that he temper his expectations. Those are my exact words," Murray said. "He can’t bring them back."

And if you're not familiar with Murray, there's this little tidbit:

"I would not say it's a good time in the coal industry. It's a better time," Murray told the Guardian. "Politically it's much better. Barack Obama and his Democrat supporters were the greatest destroyers the United States of America has ever seen in its history. He destroyed reliable electric power in America, he destroyed low-cost electric power in America, and he attempted to totally destroy the United States coal industry."

If that's not enough to clue you into his attitude, check out this article in the New York Times. Bottom line: if you've lost Robert Murray, there's no hope.

As for the consequences of Trump's attack on the environment -- he's just taking us back to the good old days:

Welcome to Trump's America

I'm seeing more and more reports like this. From Gothamist:

Mahsa Mehrdad and Masih Rahmati, an Iranian couple residing in NYC, were riding the subway through Manhattan on Saturday night when a man threatened to kill them and told them to "go back to your own country." In a video of the incident, the man can be heard declaring that "Donald Trump is in the house," before telling the couple, "I'll kill all three of you at one time." (Mehrdad speculates that a third man sitting nearby was lumped into the threat.)

OK, this guy could very well be a nutcase, but nevertheless, things like this are becoming way too common -- and not all the perpetrators are crazy:

Mehrdad did elect to share the video on Facebook, accompanied by a series of questions, including "What should we do in a situation like this?" and "What is a proper action to shut down racist comments while not escalating the situation?"

The responses, more than 50 so far, offer a window into a community of people, many of them Middle Eastern, who are also wrestling with these non-hypothetical questions. Citing similar experiences in San Francisco, Minnesota, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in New York, some commenters suggested that it's best to immediately seek out a police officer, while others warned against taping these incidents for fear of further enraging the attackers. "I don't know the right answer here," said one commenter, "I always just try and distance myself from the threat."

The racist threat fits within a citywide trend of rising hate incidents, particularly on the subway, since President Trump's election. Data from the first two months of 2017 show a 55 percent jump in hate crimes across the five boroughs, as well as a 340 percent increase in reported hate crimes on the subway, with 22 reported incidents compared to just five over the same period last year.

I know -- it's a strain that's always been with us, the racist, nativist "real Americans" who conveniently forget their own history of usurpation and genocide (or justify it on the grounds that they are "superior"), but it stopped being socially acceptable a while ago.

Welcome to Trump's America.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Today in Forensic Science: The Coldest Cold Case Ever

Thanks again to Aksarbent. This is fascinating:

BOLZANO, Italy — When the head of a small Italian museum called Detective Inspector Alexander Horn of the Munich Police, she asked him if he investigated cold cases.

“Yes I do,” Inspector Horn said, recalling their conversation.

“Well, I have the coldest case of all for you,” said Angelika Fleckinger, director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, in Bolzano, Italy.

The unknown victim, nicknamed Ötzi, has literally been in cold storage in her museum for a quarter-century. Often called the Iceman, he is the world’s most perfectly preserved mummy, a Copper Age fellow who had been frozen inside a glacier along the northern Italian border with Austria until warming global temperatures melted the ice and two hikers discovered him in 1991.

The cause of death remained uncertain until 10 years later, when an X-ray of the mummy pointed to foul play in the form of a flint arrowhead embedded in his back, just under his shoulder. But now, armed with a wealth of new scientific information that researchers have compiled, Inspector Horn has managed to piece together a remarkably detailed picture of what befell the Iceman on that fateful day around 3300 B.C., near the crest of the Ötztal Alps.

Today's Must-Read: More Than You Wanted to Know About Keystone XL

Aksarbent has very kindly pulled it all together:

Donald Trump has given TransCanada a permit denied it by President Obama for its Keystone XL pipeline, an extension to Keystone 1, which leaked 12-14 times in its first year of operation. The pipeline, touted as a guarantee of energy independence for the U.S., will actually raise oil prices in the Midwest, according to TransCanada's own internal documents.

It goes on. And gets worse. Much worse: Basically, everything we've been told by TransCanada and the Trump regime is bullshit.

Lost in the Noise

As in, the white noise from the White House. What's been overlooked somewhat in the tweet-storm from the Loser in Chief is Paul Ryan's role in the "repeal and replace" debacle. Aside from offering a bill that was up to his usual standard (i.e., disastrous), let's not forget that he's still in love with Ayn Rand (who could very easily become the type specimen for hypocritical freeloaders*):

From commenter The Leftist
MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid reminded her viewers that House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed cuts to Medicaid services for children were something that he truly believes in and not just a concession to far-right Republicans. . . .

"I disagree with you that he was rolled on that," the MSNBC host told Ross. "Because Paul Ryan's ideology, this sort of Ayn Rand ideology, suggests to me that that's something he was fine with doing to get his tax cut."

In point of fact, Ryan has done very little to hide that fact, recently reminding Rich Lowry that they "dreamed" of depriving the working poor of the dignity to have access to healthcare back in their college kegger days.

It really seems to have gotten to the point where you have to be a sociopath to be elected to Congress.

* And Ryan is following in her footsteps: from the article linked in the quote:

And don't forget, as he surely has: Ryan's college days were funded by his Social Security survivors benefits since his father had passed away.

This man is second in line for the presidency.

OMFG (Update)

Just ran across this story, stemming from The Hairpiece's disastrous meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

President Donald Trump presented a made-up invoice for $375 billion to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting in Washington this month.

Trump alleges that Germany has not been paying its fair share of NATO expenses, but numerous experts have pointed out that his claim is based on a misunderstanding of how the military alliance works.

This goes way beyond idiocy. I'm sure his good buddy Vlad is loving it.

Update: The White House, of course, is denying it. The problem there is, given the Trump/Putin attitude toward our allies, NATO in particular, and Trump's tendency to treat real life, including the presidency, like reality TV, who are we going to believe? The Times of London, or the compulsive liar in the Oval Office?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

At the Risk of Dating Myself

I'm old enough to remember when something like this just wouldn't happen. From The Guardian:

In the spring of 2016, Elijah Fischer called his insurance company to ask if his plan would cover a double mastectomy. A 27-year old Floridian and trans man, Elijah had mostly completed his gender transition, except he still had feminine breasts.
‘Move fast and break things’: Trump’s Obamacare failure and the backlash ahead
Read more

“I look down, and it’s not me,” Elijah recalled feeling. He felt foreign to himself. With summer approaching, he dreaded another season of avoiding the beach and kayaking with his wife, Brianna.

So it was a relief when his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, approved the surgery right away.

“Oh wow,” the couple said to each other, Brianna recalled. “That was easy. That was fantastic.”

In reality, it was just the start of a battle with Anthem that would stretch for more than nine months. The company backtracked, and revealed that Elijah’s policy specifically excluded “services and supplies related to sex transformation”. There were fraught phone calls and fine print before finally, Elijah contacted the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about filing a discrimination claim.

It's not that the story is marked by a lack of sensationalism, or anything like that. It's that it was published at all. When I was a young man (I still am, actually, according to everything but the calendar), you would have had to pick up your local version of The Advocate or Windy City Times to read a story like that. We -- and by "we" I mean the whole LGBT complex -- weren't "mainstream." I've noticed more and more coverage of "gay news" in mainstream outlets -- Crooks and Liars, TPM, even Hullabaloo, and Hullabaloo's focus is politics, period.

We've come a long way, baby.

Today's Must-Read: A Case Study

The case study, in this instance, is the press and its coverage of politics.

Paul Krugman leads into this by disassembling Paul Ryan very neatly in this column:

Many people are horrified, and rightly so, by what passes for leadership in today’s Washington. And it’s important to keep the horror of our political situation up front, to keep highlighting the lies, the cruelty, the bad judgment. We must never normalize the state we’re in.

At the same time, however, we should be asking ourselves how the people running our government came to wield such power. How, in particular, did a man whose fraudulence, lack of concern for those he claims to care about and lack of policy coherence should have been obvious to everyone nonetheless manage to win over so many gullible souls?

No, this isn’t a column about whatshisname, the guy on Twitter, who’s getting plenty of attention. It’s about Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.

I’m writing this column without knowing the legislative fate of the American Health Care Act, Mr. Ryan’s proposed Obamacare replacement. Whatever happens in the House and the Senate, however, there’s no question that the A.H.C.A. is one of the worst bills ever presented to Congress.

And if you're asking yourself how such an empty suit got to be Speaker of the House, Krugman has an answer:

You see, until very recently both news coverage and political punditry were dominated by the convention of “balance.” This meant, in particular, that when it came to policy debates one was always supposed to present both sides as having equally well-founded arguments. And this in turn meant that it was necessary to point to serious, honest, knowledgeable proponents of conservative positions.

Enter Mr. Ryan, who isn’t actually a serious, honest policy expert, but plays one on TV. He rolls up his sleeves! He uses PowerPoint! He must be the real deal! So that became the media’s narrative. And media adulation, more than anything else, propelled him to his current position.

It's fairly short. Read it.

Via RawStory.

What's New At Green Man Review

Yep, it's Sunday again (funny how that keeps happening). Some interesting, out of the ordinary stuff at Green Man Review this week, so check it out.

This Week's Giggle

Let's hear it for TrumpCare, insurance for everybody!

Via Digby.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

No Surprises Here (Update, Update 2)

Somebody looks a little stressed.
Well, Trumpcare, a/k/a "Repeal and Replace," is dead in the water, at least for the next fifteen minutes, which is how long it will take Trump's base to forget about it. Trump, of course, is blaming everyone else, but mostly the Democrats:

Trump accused Democrats of not being "civilized" but said when they become civilized and decided to work with Republicans to come up with a new health care plan he will be open to it.

Click through to check out all the lies in his statement -- it comes out to about one per sentence

Digby nails it:

The upshot is that the great negotiator couldn't even get his own party to agree to a bill they all ran on. He made the ultimate miscalculation by backing the Freedom Caucus, notorious nihilist back-stabbers whose seats are entirely safe instead of the moderates who would be primaried from the right for voting against the bill and opening up the seat to a Democrat. They were the ones who needed his protection but he's too dumb to know that.

The White House finally realized that a vote on this bill was worse than no vote at all and they defaulted to Trump's preferred strategy which is to just keep ragging on the hated black guy which he knows his voters love more than anything.

The man has no business being in government at any level.

Update: The headline at Crooks and Liars says it all:

Trump Blames Democrats For Not Repealing Their Own Healthcare Bill

Update 2: Looks like someone was a little overconfident:

A thought: Y'know, if Trump and the Republicans (sounds like a garage band for losers) hadn't made such a circus out of this, it wouldn't have been such a major black eye.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A-Hole of the Week

The Hairpiece's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, back for a reprise after his stellar showing as a disgusting person. He's trying to outdo himself:

Co-host Alex Wagner asked Mulvaney about people who do not live in a state that requires maternity coverage.

"Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in," Mulvaney replied.

Wagner asked if Mulvaney meant that people should move.

"No, they can try to change their own state legislatures and their state laws," he responded. "Why do we look to the federal government to try and fix our local problems?"

Of course, he's just vomiting up standard-issue right-wing, states' rights bullshit, but that remark is noteworthy in a couple of respects. First off, the federal government has a long history of fixing local problems. (Remember the Civil Rights Act of 1964?) And of course, there is a basic principle of American law and governance: individual rights supersede states' rights.

And, for seconds, we should just take Mulvaney at his word: get busy and weed out all those teabaggers who are infesting state legislatures and governors' mansions.

Sounds like a plan.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Culture Break: Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way

I almost forgot to do a Culture Break post today, and when I remembered and sat down to do it, this song popped into my head. Yes, I like the Backstreet Boys.

So here's their somewhat weird video for "I Want It That Way":

It's from the Millennium album.

And now I think I'll listen to some Backstreet Boys.

About Diversity

The sort of fun thing (well, I think it's fun) that we may soon lose: I just got a notice from Medicare for a claim that was submitted last year. The fun part is that they include a notice about calling for information if you have questions. The notice is printed in (alphabetical order): Arabic, Armenian, Farsi, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Oh, yeah -- and English.

Where but America?

Words Fail Me

You really can't make this stuff up:

A 17-year-old is the target of legal attention by President Donald Trump’s general counsel over a site where kitten paws bat around images of President Trump’s face, according to a report from the New York Observer.

As the Observer reports, the site’s creator, named only as Lucy, initially made the site as a way to practice her coding skills. But after a few weeks, the site received a cease and desist letter from President Trump’s general counsel in New York. The cease and desist letter, which the Observer confirmed, mentions that “as I’m sure you’re aware, the Trump name is internationally known and famous.”


The site is KittenFeed.com. Give her a couple of hits.

OK, This Is Funny

Trust Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to pinpoint the problems with Trump/RyanCare:

"But members also are having problems with people back home, and that's the problem. It's the people back home who are being very vocal, who are in a lot of these conservative groups that do not understand the bill because it has not been sold properly to them. That's the real problem. Not the President. Not whether they do or don't want to vote," Sessions said. "The people back home are not sold on what we're doing yet, and that's partially my fault also. I’ve tried to take the time to explain to the American people why we're doing this, but we recognize it's back home voter, not Washington, D.C. voter."

Trans.: The propaganda mill isn't working.

Gee, for some reason people don't believe Trump or Ryan. I wonder why.

Today's Must-Read: Beyond Trump: A Twofer

No, not what happens when The Hairpiece finally implodes, but digging deeper into how he got where he is. First, from Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, the Russian reaction to the hacking hearings:

The Los Angeles Times indicates it is not only Trump knocked back on his heels. Russian hackers have been surprised by the blowback. “The story has magnified more than the Russians expected,” said William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the Rand Corp:
Traditionally, former Soviet governments were reluctant to get involved in the internal politics of America because of the risk of possible retaliation. “But Putin has been willing to do that and to take extra risks,” said Courtney, a former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and onetime presidential special assistant for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.


“The fact that they were willing to do it openly suggests Putin is trying to fire a shot across the bow, in a political sense, to show that Russia has the capacity to make it look like the integrity to the U.S. elections is not as strong as Americans think it is and to undermine confidence … that the democratic process is honest,” Courtney said.
The L.A. Times report notes that Kremlin loyalists claimed Monday's congressional hearings are meant to undermine Moscow's ties with Trump:
The aim of this week’s hearings in Washington “is not to allow Trump to improve ties with Russia,” said Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based political analyst and a former lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party. “Very serious circles in the U.S. think that they can’t let Russia become a great power, that Russia should be pressed, pressed, pressed.”

Sullivan thoughtfully provides this lead-in to Digby's analysis of the Republican strategy (if we can call it that):

Just now, encouragement from Moscow cannot be helpful to a Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress hoping to make this investigation go away quickly if not quietly.

Notes Digby:

Republicans on the committee followed Trump’s lead as best they could. Despite having backed the Patriot Act and NSA mass surveillance to the hilt in the past, nearly all of them are now born-again civil libertarians, overwhelmed with concerns for the privacy rights of average citizens as long as they are named Michael Flynn.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., did everything but beg Comey to say he was investigating newspapers and would promise to prosecute journalists. Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., went on and on about the Clinton Foundation. It was almost as if these GOP congressmen wanted to talk about anything but the Russian hacking of the election campaign.

As Politico’s Michael Crowley told Brian Williams on MSNBC last night:

There’s just an unwillingness [among Republicans] to hear the fundamental facts of what happened in this election. It’s a desire to tell a different story, to have a narrative that this is about leaks. And sure, that’s a valid point to raise and it’s a serious question. But relative to the idea that a foreign government interfered in our election, tried to distort our democracy, it just doesn’t compare. And I just saw so little concern about that on the part of he Republicans on that committee today. I just found it very strange.
(Emphasis added.)

Of course they want to talk about anything else -- Benghazi!!1, E-Mails!!1!, the Clinton Foundation, anything but Russian interference in our election. Digby hits a key fact that's been lost in the twitter storm:

Maybe Republicans have other motives for trying to downplay this growing scandal aside from partisan loyalty to a president most of them barely know. As I noted here on Salon a few weeks back, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta were not the only hacks. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was hacked as well and the information was professionally curated and disseminated by none other than the same Guccifer 2.0. The release of that information targeted close campaigns where the information could be most effectively used against the Democrats.

The New York Times published a long exposé about this last December showing exactly how the hacks were done, but amid the Trump furor it’s never been followed up. One can imagine why Republican Intelligence Committee members would prefer it never is. After all, the Russians apparently didn’t just interfere on behalf of Donald Trump. They interfered on behalf of House Republicans. Somebody might begin to wonder what they expected in return.

I'm not sure that whether the Russians expect something in return is quite the right question: My own take is that Putin is most interested in destabilizing the West as much as possible to pave the way for further territorial grabs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Exploiting divisions in the EU and NATO goes hand in hand with tampering with elections -- not only ours, but in France, Germany, even the UK. (I wonder if anyone thought to check and see if Russia had any involvement in the publicity in the run-up to the Brexit vote.)

As far as the Trump/USA arm of this strategy, aside from the hacking and leaks of Democratic e-mails, etc. (with the willing, even eager collusion of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, and if you believe differently, you've been hiding in a cave), there are Trump's business dealings. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to release his tax returns, not because of whether or not he paid income taxes, but because of where the money came from. It's widely rumored that he's up to his tiny little nuts in debt to Russian banks and oligarchs, and I think it would be foolish to discount those rumors completely. Oh, and let's not forget Trump's appointment of the CEO of Exxon/Mobil, Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State, someone who's worked on deals with the Russians before -- and who also happens to be skipping his first meeting of NATO foreign ministers but will be traveling to Russia soon. The reasons for that are painfully obvious:

Tillerson, whose relationship with the Kremlin dates back to the early 1990s, has struck several major deals with the Russian state-run corporation Rosneft and received the prestigious Order of Friendship award from Putin in 2013.

In 2014, Exxon was on the brink of signing a lucrative deal with Rosneft to drill for oil in the Russian Arctic when the US leveled sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration sanctioned Russia again late last month for its meddling in the presidential election.

Tillerson's close relationship with Russia and Putin, however, has led to speculation that as secretary of state, he could push for sanctions on Russia to be lifted — allowing Exxon's Arctic agreement with Rosneft, reported to be worth $500 billion, to proceed.

I'm willing to bet the substance is just as awful as the optics.

OK, there's more here than just a twofer, but these things just seem to flow together, you know?

Monday, March 20, 2017

As If You Didn't Have Enough to Worry About

How about Neil Gorsuch, Trump's prime suspect for elevation to the Supreme Court? Some of his opinions sound like he got his degree from the Southern Baptist Convention Seminary. As Dahlia Lithwick points out in identifying a "toehold" for Democrats to oppose the nomination:

But there’s another, almost more consequential issue at play when it comes to talking about Judge Gorsuch. It’s a problem that has to do with faith, and the many ways in which it has become the third rail of judicial confirmation politics. This has nothing to do with the prospective justice’s personal faith as an Episcopalian and everything to do with his willingness to let people of faith impose their views on others. The problem of religion in the courts centers on the alarming tendency to honor the claims of religious people that their suffering is the only relevant issue. If we cannot begin to have a conversation about why this is a problem, it will be all but impossible to talk about Gorsuch’s qualifications in a serious way.

Our current religious-liberty jurisprudence, as laid out by the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby opinion, is extremely deferential toward religious believers. What believers assert about their faith must not be questioned or even assessed. Religious dissenters who seek to be exempted from neutral and generally applicable laws are given the benefit of the doubt, even when others are harmed. Sometimes those harms are not even taken into account.

Gorsuch agrees with all of this and then some. His record reflects a pattern of systematically privileging the rights of religious believers over those of religious minorities and nonbelievers. It is, of course, vital and important to protect religious dissenters; the First Amendment could not be clearer. But the First Amendment is equally anxious about state establishment of religion, an anxiety Gorsuch is less inclined to share.

It's much worse than that:

It’s not just the great deference Gorsuch shows religious adherents that is worrisome. He also believes that the views of religious adherents are beyond factual debate. Again in the Hobby Lobby case, he wrote that companies must pay for “drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.” That claim is simply false, even with regard to Plan B. It is a religious conclusion, not a medical or legal one. Whether that view is his or he simply declines to probe whether the religious conclusion is accurate, the effect is the same: He has written into a legal opinion a religious “fact” not supported by medical science.

This kind of thinking matters especially when the tremendous respect for religious dissenters is not balanced against the harms incurred by nonadherents. Gorsuch sometimes minimizes or outright rejects the third-party harms of religious accommodations. As Yuvraj Joshi points out at NBC, “while the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby considered the impact of the case on women, Judge Gorsuch’s opinion does not even acknowledge the harmful effects of denying access to reproductive health care on female employees and dependents. Instead, his sole concern is for religious objectors who feel complicit in the allegedly sinful conduct of others.”

The thrust of all those cases involving florists, bakers, photographers, etc. with regard to marriage equality has been to hold a certain group of "Christians" as above the law. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch may very well cement that into our jurisprudence, in effect gutting the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

Via Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It's Sunday at GMR

Interesting mix this week -- as the heading puts it, " Spring festivals, wise fools, outlaw heroes, an English country house mystery, chocolate!, and more."

You really should check it out.

A Thought, Not Stray

Just reading through the news, the thought pieces, the analyses, it occurs to me, once again, that Trump is a piece of shit. And so is (are?) his "administration."

I would hope that he would resign, but he doesn't have that much class.

As a footnote to that, see this article rebutting budget director Mick Mulvaney's justification for cutting funding to PBS:

Mulvaney was likely parroting the long-held conservative belief that PBS – with cultural programming like Masterpiece Theater and Antiques Roadshow – is too highbrow, and geared solely towards “coastal elites.”  Yet he may have seemed woefully out of touch with the needs and desires of economically struggling families to Vicenta Medina, an immigrant mother from Mexico. While she and her husband Gilbert struggled to raise their family on the South Side of Chicago forty years ago, she says Sesame Street helped teach English to their young son David. They watched him go on to collect degrees from both Harvard and the University of Chicago, and then work in the Obama White House—where I first heard his story from a mutual friend.

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

David Medina's story is not unique. And there is a mountain of evidence to back up the contention that PBS, especially PBS KIDS, is a valuable resource for all families, especially those on the lower end of the economic spectrum.

Oh, but that means paying attention to facts.

Wishful Thinking? Or, I'm Not Holding My Breath

This seems to me to be more than a little wishful thinking:

Senate Judiciary Committee co-chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) held an impromptu question-and-answer session on Friday with protesters who gathered outside a fundraiser she held in Los Angeles.

According to Mediaite.com, when a protester asked Feinstein how to get Trump out of office, Feinstein replied, “I think he’s going to get himself out” — hinting that Trump might resign in the months ahead.

He's making too much money and he's in the limelight, which he needs more than the money.

Today's Must-Read: Follow the Money

Which is how Josh Marshall titles this post on the Trump/Russia connection(s), based in large part on this report from Bloomberg:

Trump’s soft spot for Russia is an ongoing mystery, and the large number of condominium sales he made to people with ties to former Soviet republics may offer clues. “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” says Debra Stotts, a sales agent who filled up the tower. The very top floors went unsold for years, but a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states, a Bloomberg investigation shows.

It gets pretty convoluted, but the Bloomberg report is illuminating, and Marshall has some pertinent comments as well: It's not as simple as Trump being Putin's puppet.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

One Wonders

One truly does:

The Trump White House sends a daily email touting its successes, the President's upcoming schedule, and other items of note. Included in today's edition of "1600 Daily" is a Washington Post article titled, "Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why." The article is satire. The "why" includes observations like Trump's budget will "punch the impoverished in the face."

The article is pretty heavy-handed, in your face satire, and the general consensus is that no one read past the headline before including it in the list.

But, given what's inhabiting this regime, I can't quite shake the feeling that someone did read it and sat there nodding their head and thinking "Finally! Someone gets it!"

Playing Both Ends

against the middle. And it starts to be more and more likely that the player is Putin.

A lot of people are taking it as a given that Trump is a Russian puppet; I don't know that I'd go that far, as to figure he's being actively manipulated from Moscow, but he's sensitive to where the money comes from, and a lot of it is coming from Russia. From Reuters, via Joe.My.God.:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump downplayed his business ties with Russia. And since taking office as president, he has been even more emphatic. “I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” President Trump said at a news conference last month. “I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings. A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.

The buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that works on military and intelligence facilities, the founder of a St. Petersburg investment bank and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.

As far as Trump having no deals in Russia, no loans in Russia -- let's see the tax returns, Hairpiece.

I'm not the only one to have noted that one of Putin's goals is to destabilize the West, hence Trump's jabs at NATO and the EU. (An aside: I think it might prove very interesting to investigate possible ties between Russian interests and Nigel Farage -- and maybe Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, among others.)

But now it seems that Putin may be playing both ends:

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — This provincial Russian city, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow, is about as unlikely a place as any to find the leader of one of the more unlikely political causes to arise in opposition to President Trump. But Louis J. Marinelli, the 30-year-old English teacher who is the president of the Yes California movement, which seeks independence for the state, has decided to call it home.

Word of “Calexit,” a quixotic idea that has floated around California for years, spread on social media after the election of Mr. Trump in November. Even though it has virtually no chance of succeeding — it would require an amendment to the Constitution — it has gained some traction in the state. Several technology industry leaders have voiced their support, and a ballot measure is in the works for the 2018 election.

Now with renewed attention on the movement, Mr. Marinelli is under scrutiny for living in a country that many in the United States see as an adversarial power.

Russians who meet Mr. Marinelli sometimes mistake him for a political refugee from the United States, assuming he would be repressed for his antigovernment positions at home.

And back in California, he is on the defensive for accepting travel expenses and office space from a Kremlin-linked nationalist group. That acceptance has raised the prospect that Russia, after meddling in the election to try to tip the vote to Mr. Trump, as United States intelligence agencies have said, is now gleefully stoking divisions in America by backing a radical liberal movement.

I think it would be a mistake to credit Putin - or Trump, for that matter -- with any particular ideology, aside from personal gain. (Yes, I think that can be an ideology -- just look at Wall Street and the banking industry. We call them "right wing", but that's really beside the point.) They're spouting nationalism in public, and Trump is on record as trashing globalism in the political sphere, and then sending Trump, Jr. off to cut deals around the world.

We live in interesting times.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Oh, By the Way

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Wrigleyville should be a scream.

(For those not familiar with Chicago, "Wrigleyville" is the area around Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs (2016 World Series Champions, and don't you forget it!). It's two intersecting lines of sports bars, give or take the construction sites, mostly on Clark Street. And so on holidays of whatever stripe, it's full of millennials, drinking.)

Today in Disgusting People: How "Christian" Can You Get?

OK, I grant you, there are too many contenders for our "disgusting people" mention today, but here's one of our perennial favorites: Tony Perkins is just hugging himself over The Hairpiece's proposed budget. Via Joe.My.God.:

For now, conservatives should be more than pleased with the overall direction of Trump’s government. While we’re still digging into the details, the fact that Trump is trying to cut spending and defund the germinators of taxpayer-funded liberalism is very encouraging.

I daresay, "conservatives" of Perkins' stripe are wetting themselves over Trump's budget -- the one that defunds Meals on Wheels, after-school assistance programs for poor kids, help with heating bills for the poor, that sort of thing.

Hey, Perkins -- a little reminder: Matthew 25:31-46. Maybe you should read it.

Art? Culture? History? Who Needs 'Em?

Interesting article from TPM on the threat to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It's another budget cut that will impact smaller towns and rural communities the most, of course -- another kick in the teeth to The Hairpiece's base.

I found this telling:

Advocates feel they have a good chance of lobbying Congress to save funding for the endowments, which they say fund programs that offer crucial support to the public education system, help veterans readjust to civilian life and bring arts and culture to small communities.

“What we have here is an attack upon global citizenship and national civic culture," Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, told TPM of the potential elimination of the NEH.
(Emphasis added.)

That's the point. Digby pointed out that Trump's proposed budget is authoritarian. I'll go a step further: it's a dictator's budget. The devil's in the details, as they say, and that comment about global citizenship and civic culture underscores it: that's the point.

Dictators start off by controlling the media, or trying to, and Trump's got the media chasing its tail 24/7.

And next they rewrite history. And the best way to accomplish that is to be sure that there are no other sources available, no other viewpoints to be had.

I wonder how successful he's going to be. He makes a big deal about how social media enables him to go directly to his supporters, but, as we've seen, that cuts both ways. And the cuts can be really sharp.

Today in Compassionate Conservatism

I ran across this story yesterday and didn't quite believe it. First, from WaPo via Joe.My.God.:

At a news conference Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, defended proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food aid to needy senior citizens, by saying the program is one of many that is “just not showing any results.”

Via commenter Badgerite at AmericaBlog, the riposte:

And in the real world:

If that doesn’t clear the bar for “results,” as Mulvaney put it, there’s also been a fair amount of peer-reviewed research on the efficacy of the program. A 2013 review of studies, for instance, found that home-delivered meal programs for seniors “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.”

AmericaBlog has more on the "compassion" part:

Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney defended Trump’s proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels by arguing that such cuts were actually “compassionate” because it saves money for people who pay for Meals on Wheels out of their taxes.

The rationale:

Trump budget director Mulvaney: I don’t think so. It’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do to…

Reporter: To cut programs to help the elderly?

Mulvaney: You’re only focus on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, look, we’re not gonna ask you for your hard-earned money anymore, single mom of two in Detroit, give us your money. We’re not gonna do that anymore, unless we can guarantee to you that that money’s actually being used in a proper function. That is about as compassionate as you can get.

How about some focus on the folks who don't give us the money -- like the 1%? Because this is really to offset yet more tax breaks for the rich.

Digby has more on the budget as a whole. It's -- well, "appalling" doesn't really go far enough. A concise summary:

She also has a summary of the effects of the ACA "replacement." It ain't pretty.

Is this fucked up, or what?

I can hardly wait until Paul Ryan gets his dirty little fingers on it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Culture Break: Moby: A Case for Shame

A live studio version. And of course, no musician credits. Oh, well.

This song was on the Innocents album, which I reviewed here.