"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 31, 2017

A Nation of Idiots

Trump supporters. Read it and weep.

This may have finished me off for the day, if not the week:

Bill also disagreed with the notion that the Constitution gives Americans the right to worship the god of their choice.

“That is something I believe that has come along with political correctness and all this other garbage,” he insisted.

I'm wordless.

Quote du Jour (Update)

From White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, defending this:

Also among the protesters was Shohreh Rahnama, of Bethesda, Md., whose 5-year-old son was detained for several hours at Dulles Airport after a flight from Istanbul on Saturday night.

Artiman Jalali was born in the United States and has dual citizenship with Iran. He was traveling back from visiting relatives with his cousin, 25-year-old Aida Mohammadi, a University of Maryland student and a green-card holder.

Rahnama said she waited for hours at the airport with friends and family and a growing crowd of strangers who came to support them and others whose loved ones were detained. Artiman and Mohammadi were finally released around midnight. “He was hungry and he was thirsty, and I could not see him,” she said.

“How can a 5-year-old be banned? Just because his parents are Iranian? We are American, too,” she said. “I almost died in that airport. I can say it was the worst day of my life.”

Spicer's reaction?

Asked on Monday whether Trump’s order — which critics have called a “Muslim ban” — should apply to 5-year-old children, White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave a clear answer: yes.

“That’s why we slow [the process] down a little,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing. “To make sure that if they are a 5-year-old, that maybe they’re with their parents and they don’t pose a threat. But to assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.”

WTF? Five-year-old terrorists?

I'm reminded of a story from several years ago, an incident that happened at O'Hare: a disabled boy on crutches was forced to crawl through the security check point by the TSA agent -- no crutches, and his mother was not allowed to help him.

This is what happens when small people get their hands on some power.

Via the New Civil Rights Movement, which makes a point for those who think this is all about making Americans safe:

And remember, Jalali is a U.S. citizen. Apparently his citizenship does not protect him in the eyes of the Trump administration.

Wonderful. The White House is now stocked with bigots. Can we hear again about "the party of Lincoln"?

Update: I guess that applies to little old ladies in wheelchairs, too. Can't be too careful.

It seems that Trump is determined to remake this country in his own image: whiny cowards.

Cue Wailing and Rending of Garments

The Boy Scouts of America have announced a new policy regarding transgender boys: they're in:

The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it is lifting its ban on transgender boys joining the organization, saying that it would abandon a policy that determined eligibility by using the the sex listed on birth certificates.

“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” Effie Delimarkos, a spokesperson for the scouting group with more than 2 million members, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

This was a pretty quick response, considering how long it took them to accept gay boys and scout leaders. Maybe the threat of a lawsuit had something to do with it. And maybe they've figured out that we're not still in the nineteenth century.

Tony Perkins is going to hemorrhage.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Today in Disgusting People: Making a President-for-Life (Update)

Kellyanne Conway has a permanent place in the "disgusting people" category, partly because she's such an unregenerate liar, and partly because she's working overtime to browbeat the press. Now she wants every reporter and commentator who criticizes Trump fired.

Conway went on to complain that last week, she went on three Sunday news shows to discuss Trump's policy proposals, but the only thing that got reported was her now-infamous statement about "alternative facts," and "not the fact that I ripped a new one to some of those hosts for not covering the facts that matter."

"Who’s cleaning house?" Conway said. "Which one is going to be the first one to get rid of these people that said things that just aren’t true?

By that criterion, she should be the first to go. And "the facts that matter" -- that would be your "alternative facts," right?

It's an interesting strategy -- pretend that you actually have the standing to demand that the press cater to your bullshit, demand firings of journalists who show signs of independence, discredit the press at every opportunity.

Hey, it worked for Franco, Peron, Mussolini, Hitler, and every tin-pot strong man on the African continent.

Her boss, of course, is weighing in on this as well, specifically targeting the New York Times:

Click through to see the responses on Twitter. They're not positive. (And do note that since The Hairpiece started his anti-NYT campaign, subscriptions are up.)

This says what needs to be said:

The sad part is that the American press has set itself up for this. "As ye sow. . . ."

Update: On to Phase Two: siccing the Secret Service on the journalists.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wha's New at Green Man Review

It's that time of week again, and there's some interesting stuff, mostly centered on London -- as it is, was, or might have been. Click through to see what I mean.

Oh, and there was a story this week, too.

What's Most Offensive Is the Sheer Incompetence

Aside from the absolute moral bankruptcy, I mean. It's more Keystone Kops than the Keystone Kops:

The policy team at the White House developed the executive order on refugees and visas, and largely avoided the traditional interagency process that would have allowed the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, according to numerous officials who spoke to CNN on Saturday.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said.

Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen -- did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President's inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US. . . .

Before the President issued the order, the White House did not seek the legal guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that interprets the law for the executive branch. A source said the executive order did not follow the standard agency review process that's typically overseen by the National Security Council, though the source couldn't specifically say if that included the decision to not have the order go through the Office of Legal Counsel.

Separately, a person familiar with the matter said career officials in charge of enforcing the executive order were not fully briefed on the specifics until Friday. The officials were caught off guard by some of the specifics and raised questions about how to handle the new banned passengers on US-bound planes. . . .

Administration officials also defended the process Saturday. They said the people who needed to be briefed ahead of time on the plane were briefed and that people at the State Department and DHS who were involved in the process were able to make decisions about who to talk and inform about this.

Bannon and Miller were running point on this order and giving directives regarding green cards, according to a Republican close to the White House.

But even after the Friday afternoon announcement, administration officials at the White House took several hours to produce text of the action until several hours after it was signed. Adviser Kellyanne Conway even said at one point it was not going to be released before eventually it did get sent out.

Administration officials also seemed unsure at first who was covered in the action, and a list of impacted countries was only produced later on Friday night, hours after the President signed the document at the Pentagon.

And what does Trump think about all of this?

Asked during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office Saturday afternoon about the rollout, Trump said his government was "totally prepared."

"It's working out very nicely," Trump told reporters. "You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It's working out very nicely and we're going to have a very, very strict ban, and we're going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years."

Moron. Oh, and by the way: we have had a very tight vetting process in place for years now, sometimes taking as long as three years to OK refugees for entry.

Via Balloon Juice.

State of Emergency, As Republicans See It

For example, if the voters pass a ballot measure to create an independent government ethics commission, well, that's certainly a "state of emergency":

Just 10 weeks ago, South Dakota voters passed a slate of ethics reforms and campaign finance law overhauls by a slim majority. By the end of the day on Thursday, state Republican lawmakers will have canceled the whole package. . . .

If voters’ decision were allowed to stand, South Dakotans would have an independent ethics board with subpoena power. Given a pair of recent high-profile corruption scandals in which former public officials in South Dakota had bilked taxpayers for years and then killed themselves after investigators caught on, the state had reason to seek a watchdog with sharper teeth and a longer leash. . . .

Republicans lost that battle in November. Now they’re using extraordinary measures to override the voters.

The emergency package passed the House on Tuesday and is moving through a Senate committee on Wednesday, with a full floor vote in the upper chamber expected on Thursday. Once the GOP supermajorities finish up, state employees and lawmakers will be safe once again from independent investigations of public corruption in state government.

I don't really need to add anything, do I?

Via C&L, which has more background.

Beyond Outrage

I was so infuriated yesterday by the news about Trump's Muslim ban that I literally couldn't write. We already knew the man was a walking, talking piece of shit, but that just drew it in high relief.

There are stories all over the place about the chaos at airports, the people who were returning home -- legal residents, mind you -- who were detained at airports or told they could not board their flights. The Age has a good summary, and points out one salient fact:

The new President is cravenly political in the countries he decided to put on a refugee and migrant blacklist. And his inclusions and exclusions don't make sense – unless your name is Donald Trump.

Trump claims to be motivated by the horrific September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but the countries of which the 19 aircraft hijackers were citizens are not on the list – most came from Saudi Arabia and the rest from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.

Also absurdly absent are Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan – all of them hotbeds of terror. In excluding them, Trump is grovelling to their leaders, not making a gesture to their people. . . .

In the 40 years to 2015, not a single American was killed on US soil by citizens from any of the seven countries targeted - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - according to research by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.

But the same research shows that in the same period nearly 3000 Americans were killed by citizens of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey — most victims of the September 11 attacks.

And oops, wouldn't you know it, Trump has multimillion-dollar business operations in all those countries.

In 2015, he registered eight hotel-related companies in Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post; in Turkey, two luxury towers in Istanbul are licensed to use his name; in Egypt, he has two companies; and in the UAE, he has naming and management deals for two golf courses.
(Emphasis added.)

Source:  Bloomberg

I doubt that anyone will be surprised by that little tidbit, and I'm sure it will just roll of his supporters' backs, like every other bit of reality they come in contact with.

For what it's worth, MoveOn has a petition, which you can sign here.

The American Civil Liberties Union is leading the fight. You can donate here.

The Age article via Nick's Place.

Footnote: NCRM has the complete text of the executive order.

Footnote 2: And it seems to have been as carefully planned as everything else these yahoos have come up with: nobody bothered to tell INS how to implement it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

So, Is This a Surprise? (Update)

You want the White House's real attitude toward a free and independent press? New York Times, via Joe.My.God.:

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist, laced into the American press during an interview on Wednesday evening, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by an election outcome few anticipated, and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call. “I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Let me start off by noting that the press is supposed to be the opposition. If anyone doesn't understand this country, it's Trump and his advisors. Or, let me say it this way: it doesn't matter whether they understand it or not, because they have no respect and no sympathy for our basic principles and values.

And frankly, if the press were to really examine the way Trump became president, they'd have to admit their own complicity. Here's just one example:

I don't think we get to pretend anymore that there is a functioning media in this country. The nation's 'paper of record' is showing that they are fearful (not timid, damn it, but out-and-out cowardly) of publishing stories about our newly sworn-in president who entered office with a plethora of conflicts of interest and scandals, none of which the Times took all that seriously in their reporting prior to the election. But they will rationalize their inadequate reporting away as 'doing their job correctly' while democracy is being stolen from us by Putin.

Digby has a more detailed discussion.

This is interesting. It posits that in order to achieve Trump's foreign policy aims, the media and the intelligence community both have to be thoroughly discredited.  I'm guess that would be Bannon.

Her "this" is a very interesting article from The Atlantic on why Trump is taking on the press and the intelligence community. Worth a read.

Update: It's already started: journalists arrested for "felony rioting." And note the mainstream press' reaction:

While foreign and new media outlets such as The Guardian, Buzzfeed, City Lab, Daily Beast, and Huffington Post have reported specifically on the arrests of journalists (as has traditional outlet US News) most major media outlets in the United States have remained surprisingly silent. The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and MSNBC have not reported on the arrests at all. Washington Post’s report on the episode was framed in a decidedly pro-police terms–complete with an apocalyptic burning limo (that, it should be noted, was set on fire after the arrests in question) and the ominous, conspiratorial headline: “Protesters who destroyed property on Inauguration Day were part of well-organized group”

It was a nice country while it lasted.

Stray Thought

Actually, not so stray, considering the concern about rollbacks to gay rights, especially marriage, engendered by Trump's choice for Attorney General, an unregenerate racist and homophobe, and probable choice for the Supreme Court.

I pass, on my daily or near-daily wanderings, one: medical offices located on the ground floor of a newish building, with large street-level windows, and two: a former senior apartment building newly rehabbed and now leasing apartments. In both cases, one of the large street-level windows, both facing major traffic arteries, portray gay couples as happy clients/residents.

Now, granted, this is the North Side of Chicago and not Nowhere, Alabama, but it seems to me that there is a degree of acceptance revealed by this that gives a good indication of what the Tony Perkinses of the country are up against if they try to roll back the advances we've made in the past couple of decades. We're an integral part of the fabric of this country now.

They shouldn't get too cocky.

(This is aside from the number of gay and lesbian couples I see walking through the Zoo arm in arm or holding hands -- where there are cheeldrun! -- and no one bats an eyelash. It's at the point where, if I see two men with strollers or small children, it's hard to tell if they're a family or just two guys giving their wives a day off.)

The First Week

I was going to post yesterday on the horrors coming out of the White House, but there was just too much -- input overload. However, Politico has done the work for me: here's a summary of Trump's executive orders so far, which are pretty much as bad as you thought.

One that strikes me as odd, since it seems to me to be the one positive thing that Trump has done, is number 4 on the list:

4. Scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trump’s next executive action withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which former President Barack Obama negotiated with 11 other pacific nations. The deal was never ratified by the Senate, so it had not gone into effect. Instead, the Trump administration says it plans on negotiating bilateral deals with individual nations.

Comments I've seen are all on the order to "Oh, no! We're going to be left out and China will fill the gap!" When Obama was pushing the deal, one thing that made it an absolute no go for me and a lot of other commentators was the provision that took adjudication of conflicts involving worker's rights laws out of the jurisdiction of national courts and put it under the control of a special panel composed of corporate stooges. Aside from issues of national sovereignty, the idea of having safety and health standards under the jurisdiction of people who don't give a flying flip about worker's safety and health was pretty repellent.

And now that Trump is pulling us out of it, that's a terrible thing.

(Via Towleroad.)

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Culture Break: Billy Collins on What Dogs Think

I realized I've been focusing almost exclusively on music here, and there's a lot more to culture than that. Here's Billy Collins with a couple of poems on what dogs think:

I reviewed his collection Questions About Angels some years ago at Epinions, and happily, it's still there.

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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What's New At Green Man Review: Nordicpalooza!

Yep -- it's a special edition on Nordic music, everything from hard-core traditional to not so hard-core to there's traditional in there somewhere. Check it out -- it'll help wash the taste of the news out of your mouth.

Today in Disgusting People: Lifetime Achievement Award

I'm sure that, as the government collapses, I'll be handing out more of these, but the latest stunt by today's recipient is simply jaw-dropping and certainly merits the first such award. Via Digby:

House Republicans have found a subject for their opening review of conflicts of interest under Donald Trump: the federal official in charge of investigating conflicts of interest.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, criticized the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics on Thursday over his criticism of Donald Trump’s plan to address conflicts of interest. And he threatened to subpoena the official, Walter Shaub, if he refuses to participate in an official interview.

Here's more detail/backstory from C&L.

This is what happens when you give a small rodent a great deal of power.

Today's Must-Read: The Slide Toward Autocracy: A Checklist

Via Digby, this list from Amy Siskind of "Trump atrocities" of the week.

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you'll remember. Here's my list for week 9[.]

Digby just shows this week's list, but has links to the previous eight.

I found this one possibly the most worrisome:

35. Human Rights Watch issued it's annual report of threats to human rights around the world. For the first time in 27 years, the US is listed as a top threat because of the rise of Trump.

Here's Human Rights Watch's article on the 2017 World Report. Just one salient section:

Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will.

“The rise of populism poses a profound threat to human rights,” Roth said. “Trump and various politicians in Europe seek power through appeals to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism. They all claim that the public accepts violations of human rights as supposedly necessary to secure jobs, avoid cultural change, or prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, disregard for human rights offers the likeliest route to tyranny.”

Roth cited Trump’s presidential campaign in the US as a vivid illustration of the politics of intolerance. He said that Trump responded to those discontented with their economic situation and an increasingly multicultural society with rhetoric that rejected basic principles of dignity and equality. His campaign floated proposals that would harm millions of people, including plans to engage in massive deportations of immigrants, to curtail women’s rights and media freedoms, and to use torture. Unless Trump repudiates these proposals, his administration risks committing massive rights violations in the US and shirking a longstanding, bipartisan belief, however imperfectly applied, in a rights-based foreign policy agenda.

I'm wondering again whether New Zealand is far enough away.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Science: A New Fish in Town

Well, not actually new -- researchers have known about it for several years, but only from collected specimens. Now they've found live ones and filmed them: Ladies and Gentlemen, may we present the Ruby Sea Dragon:

Researchers at Scripps Oceanography and the Western Australian Museum capture on video the first-ever field sighting of the newly discovered third species of seadragon. As they observed two Ruby Seadragons on video for nearly 30 minutes, the scientists uncovered new details about their anatomy, habitat, and behavior.

Here's more from National Geographic.

Via Towleroad.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The "Press Conference", Part II

Digby highlights some deadly accurate comments from Deadspin:

Ethical guidelines exist for a reason. Norms exist for a reason.

The reason is not “Jerks who think they’re smarter than us trying to control our lives from on high.” The reason is that human history is long, and all of the mistakes that could possibly be made have been made, and at a certain point people figured out that following some common sense rules could prevent us from making the same dire mistakes over and over again. Mistakes that come from human nature. Mistakes like: allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to make money for themselves, or allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to squelch legitimate dissent, or allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to flout the very ethical guidelines and norms that prior people in powerful positions established to keep people in powerful positions in check.

Read the whole thing. And then go on to this open letter from a Russian reporter, Alexey Kovalev, to his American colleagues:

“Congratulations, US media!” Kovalev wrote at Medium.com. “You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear.”

“We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now  — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader  — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang my bells. Not just mine, in fact  — read this excellent round-up in The Moscow Times,” he went on.

Putin’s press conferences, Kovalev said, are annual media spectacles at which “Putin always comes off as an omniscient and benevolent leader tending to a flock of unruly but adoring children.”

President-elect Donald Trump’s circus-like press conference on Wednesday, he said, showed that the former reality TV star is “apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook.”

I'd be more sanguine about this if it weren't for the for the fact that the American media have spent a few decades rolling over for those in power -- if they're on the right.

Maybe our "journalists" will finally wake up?

It's Called a "Freudian Slip"

Ben Carson strikes again:

At Carson’s confirmation hearing for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Warren noted that President-elect Donald Trump will be uniquely positioned to benefit from HUD contracts due to his real estate business. During a press conference a day earlier, Trump had revealed a controversial plan to allow his sons to run his business instead of putting his assets in a blind trust as other presidents have done.

“My concern is that among the billions of dollars that you will be responsible for handing out in grants in loans,” Warren said to Carson. “Can you just assure us that not one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family?”

“It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American,” Carson declared boldly. “It’s for all Americans.”

Sounds like the Trump administration in a nutshell.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The "Press Conference"

Also known as "The Daily Hissy Fit" with an invited audience. Charles P. Pierce's take (via Bark Bark Woof Woof):

What was beaming in from New York was nothing less than a genuine aspiring American dictator having what amounted to a very public tantrum. By the way, you knew it was a bag job when you saw that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago had brought in his own personal claque of hecklers and cheerleaders. (It should be noted for the record that the "fake news" chant is merely lugenpresse for the digital age.) And the first thing he did on Wednesday morning was intimate that it's the American intelligence community that is a bunch of fascists.

It gets better -- or, in this case, worse, I guess. Needless to say, read the whole thing.

And about the "revelations" that prompted the latest series of tantrums, it turns out they're old news. From Digby:

For the record, the intelligence agencies didn't leak this. It's been in the hands of the media for months, apparently. They just decided to eport on it because they found out that the intel bosses had briefed the president and Trump himself on it last Friday.

Now, knowing that, think about the media's treatment of Trump during the campaign knowing that they were aware of these rumors and probably snickering like schoolgirls over it.

And then recall their handwringing over Hillary Clinton failing to properly tell them the full details of her doctor's visits.

And here's an update, from Tom Sullivan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Culture Break: Lúnasa: Ryestraw

I've been doing a Lúnasa marathon this morning, partly as a break from my usual desperately mordant rock/pop menu, and partly to check out some of the music I've not listened to recently.

I actually have a fair amount of "traditional" Irish/Scottish/British/Appalachian/Nordic music in my library, and I like Lúnasa (I reviewed one of their albums, The Story So Far, a retrospective album.)

From the YouTube description: Called "the hottest Irish acoustic band on the planet" by the Irish Times, Lúnasa performs live from the intimate confines of The Burren Irish Pub in Somerville, Massachusetts. This is the opening song of the night, "Ryestraw". Named for an ancient Celtic harvest festival in honor of the Irish god Lugh, patron of the arts, Lúnasa is made up of some of the top musical talents in Ireland.

That should get your toe tapping.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

No, No, Look Over There!

You've undoubtedly heard about Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes, if you haven't seen it:

Which, of course, got the expected reaction from The Hairpiece (even though his name was not mentioned, and how's that for being self-centered?):

And he's lying about mocking the reporter -- click through for a really disgusting gif.

Booman has an interesting take on this:

I think this is how Trump managed to pull off his miracle election. People can’t focus on the important things. There’s always something new to obsess over instead of staying on message. Do you care more about angry Trump voters who call the National Football League (NFL) the Black Lives Matter Football League (BLMFL), or are you more concerned with the idea of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III running the Department of Justice?

Donald Trump didn’t nominate Meryl Streep as his Director of Central Intelligence or his Secretary of Treasury. He nominated a full-on wingnut and a Goldman Sachs veteran foreclosure specialist for those jobs. So, every second wasted on Meryl Streep is a benefit to Trump and the prospects for his nominees to sail through the confirmation process with little fuss.

Of course Trump wants to talk about the Golden Globes. He wants you to talk about him talking about the Golden Globes.
(Thanks to Mustang Bobby)

Want to guess why he's scheduling his first press conference in six months for the same day as Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing?

Monday, January 09, 2017

You Start to Go Numb

And then something like this pops up. From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

In addition to the House ethics fiasco and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve. King's attempt to encroach on the Supreme Court's turf, on Tuesday a House Republican introduced a rule to make it easier for the United States to rid itself of public lands We the People own. Think Progress reported:
A new rule, written by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), establishes as fact that any legislation to dispose of public lands and natural resources would cost taxpayers exactly $0. This paves the way for the new Congress to get rid of vast swaths of public lands — all at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Some detail on the mechanics from Brody Levesque at NCRM:

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules change this past week by a vote of 234 to 193, that would allow Congress the ability to essentially give away federal lands and buildings for free. The new rule, authored by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop of Utah, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, codifies that any legislation to dispose of federal land and natural resources would have a net sum zero cost to taxpayers. As the rule applies only to the House legislative rules, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature and is effective immediately. . . .

Since the House is required to account for any cost associated with any legislation it considers under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules and guidelines, legislation put forward now shall skip several steps in the normal legislative process, coming up for a vote without any discussion of the costs and benefits. This means that the House does not need to render an assessment or cost analysis of estimated financial losses resulting in legislation giving away public lands or buildings.

They're not wasting any time. The Bundys must be wetting their paints in glee. Wait until they find out that it's not for them:

The Wilderness Society said "this move paves the way for a wholesale giveaway of our American hunting, fishing and camping lands that belong to us all. Make no mistake, the giveaway is for the benefit of the drilling and mining interests that have a lock-grip on Congress and the rest of Washington."

(And just in case there's any doubt in your mind as to who the intended beneficiaries are:

According to the advocacy and activist group Oil Change International which tracks campaign contribution monies from fossil fuel corporations and the coal industry via the group's Dirty Energy Money web project, since 1999 Congressman Bishop has accepted campaign funds and contributions of more than $452,610 dollars from oil, gas and coal interests. Figures collected by Oil Change International show that greater than ten percent of that figure has come from the coal-friendly National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which has led the fight against the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Oil giants Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and Tesoro are also listed among Bishop's top campaign contributors.

When I was a kid, every summer we'd load up the car with our tent and camping gear and head west. One year, when my dad and mom were both between jobs, we did a grand tour: through the Badlands on our way west, then down to visit my uncle in Colorado, then up through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way to Yellowstone (you get no sense of how huge bison are from pictures -- you have to be standing a dozen yards away to really feel the kind of presence they have), then up to Glacier (looking across a mile-wide gorge and just being able to spot a little dot of white -- a Rocky Mountain goat picking its way across a mountainside), with a dip into Canada (just like Kansas, only flatter -- miles of wheat), then across the Idaho panhandle to Olympic National Park -- both
parts (I've never experienced such profound silence as in the mountain section, and the coast, foggy and all grays, was pure mystery). Down through Oregon to Nevada, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon (a mile deep, and sort of a reverse Glacier: distances were down and across, instead of up and across, and equally vast). There were also times spent camping in the Everglades (which is mostly walkways -- there's not that much dry land -- and a boat ride through the mangroves, being paced by dolphins), and Smoky Mountains National Park (beautiful, old, worn-down mountains, not so far from my ancestral home, covered in forest, comfortable and reassuring).

So now some teabagger from Utah with no soul wants to give it away so his donors can make more money. Yeah, go ahead -- start fracking in Yellowstone and watch the whole West just go up in one huge eruption.


Sunday, January 08, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Something old, something new. . . .

As seems usually to be the case there. Hop on over and take a look at what we've got today.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Trump vs. US

Reading through the news this morning, I had a thought: what could make Putin happier than crippling the U.S. intelligence establishment?

Let's start with Trump dismissing intelligence reports that he apparently, from all evidence, has not seen. He'd rather put his confidence in Julian Assange (which position he's now furiously backing away from). My reading is that he wants to sweep Russian involvement in throwing the election as far under the carpet as possible, despite the fact that US intelligence has caught high Russian officials high-fiving each other over Trump's win.

So now he's developed this relationship with the American intelligence community that can only be described as "adversarial." This sort of sums it up, if a bit snarkily:

Priess says the intelligence community will continue to try to adapt to the new president, and suggests “at one extreme that could mean producing the President’s Daily Brief in the form of tweet-length analysis. If the president prefers to have judgments expressed in easy-to-digest short form, that’s doable, and there is precedent for that.”

But then, someone has to get him to read them, and we know that doesn't necessarily happen (especially if the president is preoccupied with making a deal for a new resort development in say, the Crimea). Remember 9/11? There was ample warning of that.

And it seems that mere public criticism isn't enough:

"President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said," The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night. "The move is prompted by his belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized, these people said."

The Journal added, "One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world."

And under the heading "Lame Excuses":

The president-elect, who has been nervously tweeting more frequently in the past days, Thursday morning posted tweets claiming he has only been posting statements from Julian Assange to help "the people" decide what's the truth – a ridiculous and irresponsible excuse akin to a climate change denier or evolution denier insisting there are two sides to the already scientifically settled arguments.

I never thought I'd be one to defend the CIA, but much as I distrust them, we need them.

This is not going unnoticed or unremarked, even in the Senate (even though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing his best to keep the lid on it):

Senator McCaskill, who thankfully won her seat in 2012, is up for reelection in a very red state, so her voice is something we cannot take for granted. Unless, however, Democrats get off their butts and mobilize like the Tea Party did in 2010, 2018 could mean a 4th Reich for America. McCaskill wants answers, as do most people who prefer the facts.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Who actually is the benefactor of someone who is about to become commander-in-chief trashing the intelligence community?

I assume that the biggest benefactors of the American people having less confidence in the intelligence community fact that the actors you have named today: Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and ISIS. . . .

The notion that the soon elected leader of this country would put Julian Assange on a pedestal compared to the men and women of the intelligence community and the military that is so deeply embedded in the intelligence community, I think it should bring about a hue and cry no matter whether you're Republican or a Democrat. There should be howls! And mark my word if the roles were reversed their would be HOWLS from the Republican side.

Others are not being so gentle:

Malcolm Nance✔

We must finally admit Trump is openly giving aid & comfort to a foreign intelligence agency & a cybercriminal. He is 1 step away fm treason.
1:27 PM - 4 Jan 2017

2,816 2,816 Retweets

I may update this as I run across more info.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Antidote: There Are Decent People in the World

From the CBC:

It's barely noticeable to passersby, but a piece of paper taped to the door of Marché Ferdous, a small Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Montreal, has caught the attention of some Montrealers.

The sign, written in both English and French, reads, "People with no money welcome to eat for free."

That goodwill gesture has won the restaurant, located at the corner of Ste-Catherine Street West and Mackay Street, a lot of praise online.

The restaurant's co-owner, Yahya Hashemi, said they've been giving free meals to the hungry for about five months now. He added that they consider it as a business expense.

"We don't think about how much it will cost us," said Hashemi.

They serve free meals to about four or five people a day, and staff do not ask questions or judge anyone who asks for a free meal, he said.

Oh, and a note to all the "Christians" out there busy trying to legislate people's rights away:

Originally from Iran, Hashemi said it is part of his faith to help those in need and he wanted to give back to Canada since he says it has given him so much.

And the Facebook post that went viral, via Crooks and Liars:

Corner of Mackay and st catherine you find this place. They are offering people food that have no money for free. Curious enough I walked in and pretend I had no money and asked for food. She didn't ask anything, but said we welcome you and pick whatever you like, including anything I wanted to drink.

Made me smile and warm inside I paid for my food and told them they were awesome for doing this. They said it wasn't for the holiday season, but all the time they want to encourage helping each other through tough times. Absolutely incredible.

Share the fuck out of this. Maybe someone you know may need help to eat tonight. Spread the love

Hypocrisy, or Chutzpah?

Not only have the GOP turned into a party of sociopaths, they've gotten quite brazen about it:

Mitch McConnell, who suffered no political penalty for his cynical block of a middle-of-the-road Supreme Court nominee spoke out today on Senator Schumer's promise to block any nominee extreme enough to pass Republican inspection.

"Apparently there's a new standard now which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," McConnell groused. "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate and will be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it."

This is where I remind everyone that just several days before the election, Senate Republicans were promising to block any nominee Hillary Clinton might put forward for consideration.

I'm of the opinion that the Democrats should stop playing nice -- use the Republicans' tactics against them until we get what we want ("we" in this case being people who are not Wall street billionaires or Russian dictators).

Especially considering the Hairpiece's list of potential Supreme Court nominees.

McConnell's invocation of the "Biden rule" is 99 and 44/100 percent bullshit. Maybe a little more. Here's what Biden actually said at the time and the context in which those remarks occurred.

Jeff Sessions

I don't usually tout petitions, but it's time I started. This one's to ask your senators to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. If there's anyone less qualified, I can't think of them offhand -- remember, Sessions was rejected for the federal bench because he's such a blatant and unrepentant racist.

You can sign Move-On's petition here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Obamacare Repeal, Episode 432 (?)

The Republicans are sure generating a lot of enthusiasm for taking away people's health coverage.

Gutting OCE, Part Two

In spite of what you're hearing from the "mainstream media" (and how ever did it get that tag?), it wasn't Trump's tweet that stopped the House from neutering the ethics committee:

Democrats and other watchdog groups were also critical of the Monday night vote. A coalition of more than a dozen organizations and activists expressed their frustration in a Tuesday morning letter to House Democratic and Republican leadership. Members also faced a barrage of angry phone calls from constituents.

“I can tell you the calls we’ve gotten in my district office and here in Washington surprised me, meaning the numbers of calls. People are just sick and tired,” Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) said of the simmering outrage over the proposed change. “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.”
(Emphasis added.)

And our congresscritters are way surprised at that.

It's interesting that WaPo devoted the first third of the story to Trump's tweet before getting around to the operative factor: calls from angry constituents are not something that Congress tends to ignore.

This is pretty entertaining:

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) pushed for the weakening of the OCE on Monday. His office said it would have provided “protections against any disclosures to the public or other government entities.”

A government official familiar with the internal operations of the OCE disputed Goodlatte’s assertion that the amendment would “strengthen” the office.

“Representative Goodlatte’s statement that this is an effort to strengthen ethics is a baldfaced lie,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This will do nothing but weaken the office and weaken ethics in Congress.”

The official said the office was “blindsided” by the amendment, but noted that members of Congress have been trying to eviscerate the office since the day it was created in 2008 following the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The official said members of Congress were particularly incensed by the office’s investigation into an expense-paid trip that 10 lawmakers took to Azerbaijan in 2013.

(Even Abramoff is trashing the House GOP for this.)

Mostly via Balloon Juice.