"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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I wonder who's pulling Trump's strings on this atrocity (via Joe.My.God.):

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender people in the United States military, saying American forces “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” and could not afford to accommodate them.

Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration in a series of posts on Twitter, saying he had come to the decision after talking to generals and military experts, whom he did not name.

“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? Like when the debate was going on about DADT repeal.

As for his "military experts," one candidate came to mind immediately:

Just in from hate group leader Tony Perkins:

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities – and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military. The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.

“President Trump recognizes what the nation’s military leadership and the American people realize, this Obama policy makes no sense.

“The last thing we should be doing is diverting billions of dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery. However, the cost to readiness, recruitment, retention, morale and cohesion would have been even greater under the Obama policy. As our nation faces serious national security threats, our troops shouldn’t be forced to endure hours of transgender ‘sensitivity’ classes and politically-correct distractions like this one.

After all, Perkins was a Marine -- an MP, which somehow seems to suit his personality -- so that makes him an expert. He's also an even more reflexive liar than Trump, if that's possible.

Antidote: The Kids Are Alright

As a counter to reports of 47,000 Boy Scouts booing Hillary Clinton at the behest of The Hairpiece, I offer this:

Photo:  Jenny Burnett
If there was any doubt that Kamden Houshan and Paul Burnett would be friends forever, there certainly is not anymore. . . .

Kamden became a paraplegic when he was born with a massive tumor embedded in his spine. Though doctors were able to remove the tumor in surgery, the 8-year-old boy was left paralyzed.

Kamden's last wheelchair was so heavy and bulky, it prevented the youth from being able to freely maneuver household doorways. Since it could not fit into the bathroom, Kamden's mother always had to carry him, which put excessive stress on her body.

Then in August, Kamden was able to test drive a lighter wheelchair model – and he was astounded by how much of a positive difference it made in his life. Unfortunately, insurance could not cover the cost of another wheelchair for another few years.

Maybe the Republicans should consider Paul's solution as part of their "destroy health insurance" drive:

Meanwhile, Paul had learned about GoFundMe from watching YouTube videos. Upon hearing about his friend's troubles, he asked his parents if he could start a campaign for his Kamden.

In a matter of weeks, Kamden's page had raised $5,500 – roughly $2,000 more than their original goal.

It's not all teabaggers and trumpanzees.

Giggle du Jour

Remember that story about Ark Encounter selling its land to its non-profit arm to avoid paying a "safety tax" to the city? And then losing its state tax incentives, because the sale violated its agreement with the state?

Well, it just sold itself back to itself:

Three days after state tourism officials suspended an $18 million tax incentive, officials at a Noah’s Ark theme park have sold their main parcel back to their for-profit entity for $10.

The issue started in late June after Ark Encounter LLC sold the parcel to its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon for $10. The deed continues to describe the property as worth $18 million even though the Grant County PVA has assessed the land for $48 million.

Ark Encounter officials have declined to say why they sold the property in the first place, but the move in June coincided with their refusal to pay a safety assessment tax levied by the city of Williamstown. City officials worried that the sale might be the first step in the ark park claiming non-profit status, which would exempt it from property taxes.

Dear Ken Ham: Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

(Via Joe.My.God., and thanks for the image.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The Shape of Things to Come?

Digby cites this incident at the end of a longish article on ICE and its badly misdirected enforcement agenda:

We don’t know if Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa realizes it. But no other event since the Duterte administration came to power has dealt a greater blow to the credibility of the police in the war on drugs than the treacherous killing last Sunday of anticrime crusader Zenaida Luz in Oriental Mindoro.

Ms. Luz’s killers drove by her house on a motorcycle wearing a bonnet and a mask. It was close to midnight. She was shot in cold blood while standing in front of her house, waiting for someone who had contacted her asking for help. It was clearly a ruse.

Responding to a distress call from village officials, a police patrol team caught up with the fleeing masked killers, who traded shots with them. Cornered and wounded, the gunmen desperately shouted “Tropa, tropa!” to signal that they were friendly troops. To their horror and shock, the police recognized the gunmen as indeed from their ranks. The assailants turned out to be Senior Insp. Magdaleno Pimentel Jr. and Insp. Markson Almeranez—out of their uniforms, moonlighting as vigilante killers.

Do remember that Trump really admired Duterte.

It's not as much an offside to an article about ICE as it might seem at first:

What he's seeing is a bunch of guys with guns and uniforms drunk with power believing hey have a free hand to go after a particular vulnerable population. I think

“I like predictability,” the agent said. “I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they’re going to do something that’s appropriate. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

And the Trump administration wants to hire thousands more, many of whom will not be vetted or properly trained.

Papers, please.

Image du Jour: Snakes on a Plane

With thanks to commenters Michael R and djcoastermark at Joe.My.God.:


Monday, July 24, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Voter Suppression, Coming Soon To a Precinct Near You

This piece, by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, is, to say the least, sobering:

Working inside the process, it is stunning how at odds with the fantastical, Republican rhetoric reality is. Safeguarding people's right to vote is a big deal for these volunteers. Ensuring people can vote and that the process is fair is a passion. Most (though not all) of our GOP counterparts here in this work respect the process. We who work elections know what a fraud "voter fraud" is, which makes us, I guess, both smarter than the president and/or smart enough to be president.

This morning, the New York Times again inveighs against this massive snipe hunt and national effort at voter intimidation:
It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square.

It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s.

Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Sullivan quotes Damon Linker on some of the deeply anti-American efforts coming from this administration and the Republicans -- aided, alas by a not negligible number of Democrats:

There is, to begin with, the bill that would make it a federal crime (a felony punishable by up to a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison) to support the international boycott against Israel for its occupation of the West Bank. That 14 Democratic senators have joined with 29 Republicans in backing this flagrant assault on the First Amendment is certainly shameful, but it does nothing to diminish the outrageousness of those who like to portray themselves as courageous defenders of free speech endorsing a bill that would drastically curtail it. (And no, I don't support the movement to boycott Israel, just the right of others to do so, which is exactly the way liberal democracy is supposed to work.)

It just gets worse and worse. What's more frightening is the number of people who support these efforts.

Welcome to Trump's America.

Party Like It's 1955

Here we go:

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant. . . .

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

They're not going to produce any evidence to support that assertion, because they're isn't any. They'll just keep repeating it, and enough people will believe it that they just might get away with it.

Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from Sessions, first obtained by Massroots.com and verified by The Washington Post.

States' rights! Yeah!!

Here comes the police state.

I just recently discovered that Illinois has legalized marijuana for medical use -- one of 21 states, along with another eight that have also legalized recreational use. Going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in Chicago. And it looks like Sessions may not have it all his way:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who publicly criticized Sessions for reversing Obama-era guidelines on criminal charges and sentencing in May, said he’s not in favor of the DOJ interfering with state policies regarding marijuana.

“I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy,” he told The Hill this week.

Paul is part of a bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation to allow patients to continue accessing medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution.

Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Paul introduced — known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act — would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.

In case you had any doubts about what a piece of work Sessions is, read the whole article -- there's a lot more.

Fasten your seatbelts, etc. . . .

Via the New Civil Rights Movement.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Continuing a Tradition

Granted, it's only six months old, but in this world, that's a long-standing tradition:

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Sunday said that President Trump does not have to pardon anyone in connection with the Russia investigation.

During an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Scaramucci was asked about Trump's tweet in which he said: "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us."

. . .

"He's basically saying he doesn't have to pardon anybody," Scaramucci said when asked who the president is thinking about pardoning.

"The president is thinking about pardoning nobody...The president is not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russia thing is a nonsensical thing."

Fake News!!1!

(Via Joe.My.God.)

A lot has been made of Scaramucci's previous criticisms of Trump. His accepting this position, I think, speaks to his -- well, call it "flexibility." If the money's right. . . .

As for Sean Spicer, I have no real opinion on him -- I've seen reports that he's a real scumbag, and it's worth noting that he was communications director for, I believe, the RNC for a number of years, which to me just indicates that he's made a career of being a liar for hire.

Footnote: It's all in the name:

Scaramuccia (literally "little skirmisher"), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell'arte. The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.

What's New at Green Man Review

Chock full o' goodies today -- Tolkien, baseball, early music, and more -- so scoot on over.

Image du Jour: Republican Economics

Doesn't really need a comment:

Via Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts

A couple of stories this morning that are sure to warm your cockles -- both, as it happens, from one of those bastions of "Christian" privilege, Kentucky.

First, remember Kim Davis? She's the county clerk who decided that the issuance of marriage licenses should be dependent on her definition of marriage, according to her Bible. Of course, she got sued, and, although she didn't actually lose -- the state changed the law to get her off the hook -- there are still bills to pay:

In a victory for same-sex couples denied marriage licenses by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, a federal judge Friday awarded $222,695 in fees to their attorneys. . . .

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered the state to pay the fees, rather than Davis or Rowan County.

He said Davis was protected because she was acting in her official capacity when she stopped issuing marriage licenses in 2015 on religious grounds after the Supreme Court held gay marriage is a fundamental right. He said the state rather than the county was liable because the state is primarily responsible for regulating marriage.

In a 50-page ruling, Bunning said he was awarding the fees under a federal law that allows them to be granted to the prevailing party in civil rights cases. He overruled a magistrate judge who had denied the money because he said the plaintiffs hadn’t really prevailed.

They prevailed enough to get their marriage licenses.

And, not all that far away, those good "Christians" at Ark Encounter got caught out in a dodge to avoid paying taxes. The story so far:

The Creationists behind Ark Encounter initially said they were building a for-profit attraction in order to get a lot of perks, including a tourism-related tax rebate from the state of Kentucky worth more than $18 million over ten years. But after the city of Williamstown said they would add a 50-cent surcharge to all tickets to pay for a safety fee, Ken Ham‘s team sold Ark Encounter to their own non-profit, Crosswater Canyon, because religious ministries are exempt from that kind of tax.

It's called "shooting yourself in the foot."

Earlier today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced that they had sent a letter to the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet notifying them that, because of the sale and new non-profit status, Ark Encounter is violating the terms of the tax rebate deal.

Guess what? They didn’t need to do that. Because three days ago, a lawyer for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to the lawyer for Ark Encounter saying the exact same thing.

It has come to our attention that your client, Ark Encounter, LLC, is in breach of its Tourism Development Agreement… with the Commonwealth. On July 10, 2017, the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet… became aware of a quit claim deed transferring the Ark Project land, with all the privileges and appurtenances to the same, from Ark Encounter, LLC, a for profit company, to Crosswater Canyon, Inc. a non-profit company.

And the icing on the cake is that the lawyer for the state quoted Ark Encounter's own website to point out that they knew what they were doing.

Both via Joe.My.God.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Culture Break: In Memoriam, Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, reportedly has committed suicide:

Law enforcement sources tell us the singer hanged himself at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates in L.A. County. His body was discovered Thursday just before 9 AM.

Chester was married with 6 children from 2 wives.

The singer struggled with drugs and alcohol for years. He had said in the past he had considered committing suicide because he had been abused as a child by an older male.

"Powerless," which I think is one of the band's most affecting songs:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can We Talk About Tax Returns?

The man has no self-awareness at all:

The president also questioned why certain states were refusing to cooperate fully with the commission’s requests for voter information, hinting that those states might be hiding something. “If any state does not want to share the information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said. “What are they worried about? There’s something, there always is.”

Do I really need to comment?

Well, This Is Depressing

I think the headline itself speaks volumes about the decline of America:

On second thought: 1 in 8 people who voted for Trump want to change their vote

Only 1 in 8?

You can read the whole thing if you want -- it doesn't get any better.

Law 'n' Order -- We Don't Need No Stinkin' Constitution

Running true to form, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III comes down on the side of the police state:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expanded the authority of law enforcement to seize criminal suspects' money and property, bucking a movement in Congress and many states to rein in a practice that critics said led to flagrant abuses and was unconstitutional.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it was restoring so-called adoptive forfeitures, where local or state authorities can seize valuable assets from suspects under federal law, circumventing more restrictive state laws.

Asset forfeitures are controversial because law enforcement agencies often take possession of cars, homes, jewelry and cash from suspects implicated in drug deals or other crimes without first obtaining convictions or, in some cases, indictments.

I wonder how many gun-totin' white supremacists are going to have their possessions seized? Oh, wait: It's all about the War on Drugs, and we know who's involved in that.

In the previous eight years, adoptive forfeitures — mostly by the Drug Enforcement Administration — had garnered about $880 million, according to a March report by the Justice Department's Inspector General.

The report found that many of the forfeiture cases were not linked to provable crimes. It cited a case in South Florida that led to seizures of $49 million but not one criminal indictment.

You know where that money goes? Into the budgets of the police departments.

And strangely enough, it's the police departments who are in favor:

"We heard loudly and clearly from local police agencies that they think this is a valuable tool," Rosenstein said.

It's painfully obvious that the arguments in favor of this policy are so much bullshit, and it's also obvious that it violates Constitutional requirements for due process.

They can't even get Republicans on board:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who sponsored legislation this year to more tightly regulate asset forfeiture, called the new policy "a troubling decision for the due process protections afforded to us" under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

"Criminals shouldn't be able to keep the proceeds of their crime but innocent Americans shouldn't lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen," Issa said in a statement.

Six members of the Senate urged Sessions in a May 31 letter to revise the asset forfeiture policies in light of increasing indications that the Supreme Court views the practice as unconstitutional.

"Instead of revising forfeiture practices in a manner to better protect Americans' due process rights, the (Justice Department) seems determined to lose in court before it changes its policies for the better," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the six, said in a statement Wednesday.

Welcome to Trump's America.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Republican Are Just the Nicest People

This, from Digby, pretty much nails it:

Republicans have been trying to destroy the American safety net for decades. They’ve been hostile to Medicare and Medicaid since the day they were passed. They’ve been running against Social Security for 82 years. (They just tried to privatize it in 2005!) They will never stop attacking the ACA either.

This isn’t just about profits or ” free markets.” Consider that this Senate bill was opposed by all the so-called stakeholders: the insurance companies, the hospitals, doctors and even big business. It still has 48 out of 52 votes in the Senate. Conservatives simply do not believe that people have a right to health care. They see it as a commodity like any other, something which you should not have if you cannot pay for it.

By way of crude illustration, recall when libertarian godhead Rep. Ron Paul ran for president in 2008. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked him during a debate what an uninsured man who became catastrophically ill and needed intensive care for six months should do. Paul replied, “What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody …” The audience then erupted into cheers, cutting off Paul’s sentence. Blitzer followed up by asking “Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Members of the audience clapped and shouted “Yeah!”

This sort of throws into sharp relief something that's been at the back of my arguments on the "Christian" idea of morality, and the lack of humanity in the Republicans' ideology, which has only gotten more extreme in the Age of Trump (although, if you look at it, he's a symptom more than anything else -- this extremism long predates him). As an illustration of what we're dealing with, this is instructive:

I'm a physician. If someone has a right, that means you take my skills and the fruits of my labor.

And this man's a doctor.

I've said it enough, but I'm going to repeat it: the right has no real concept of morality, other than following arbitrary rules cherry-picked from the 4,000 year old tribal taboos of a bunch of Middle Eastern nomads, because otherwise Daddy will spank you: morality based on fear. I suppose this is the more-or-less inevitable result of a group of religions based on servility and obedience.

In the real world, the more I study animal and human behavior, the more I'm convinced that our morality is pretty much hard-wired, and as social animals, there's one basic precept: we take care of each other, because there's a kind of synergy between the benefit of the individual and the benefit of the group: they seem to mutually reinforce each other.

Which leads me back to the contemporary Republican party, tainted as it is by libertarianism (and yes, I consider that a taint: I've long held that libertarianism is a morally bankrupt ideology). They've become the party of the aberrant. All the racism, anti-immigrant rhetoric, the "me first" attitude (disguised as patriotism, which is bullshit) -- all that simply represents a trend that draws the boundaries of "us" in ever narrower terms, which has been exploited by the demagogues on the right, who themselves have only one guiding principle: power, for power's sake.

America was predicated, if only subliminally, on the expansion of the idea of "us": the point was, we were no longer to consider ourselves as English, or Irish, or French, or German, but as Americans. The right has fractured that idea back into its component parts, playing to that minority that, sadly, has always been with us and that is incapable of taking that conceptual step.

(And, to pile irony on top of atrocity, note that so many of them profess a religion that was to be inclusive, that welcomed all: they've perverted that idea into just another little fragment of what should be an overriding "us".)

Add in the worship of unrestrained capitalism, and you have an oligarchical nightmare in the making.

And they call it "Taking back America" -- from other Americans.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This Is Seriously F***ed Up

Via Digby,this:

More detail, from another post:

The number of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who think that the Russians sought to influence the election, and that the Trump team intentionally helped them, has fallen from 18 percent in April to 9 percent now, indicating even stiffer GOP resistance to the idea. Among leaned Democrats it’s gone from 60 to 64 percent, not a significant shift.

The more Republicans hear about it, the less they believe it happened. And we aren’t just talking about Trump true believers. This is all Republicans, even ones who held their noses to voted for him. Considering the information we have, it would be fair to say “we don’t know what really happen,ed” but for Republicans to think there’s less evidence today than there was three months ago is bizarre.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quote du Jour

The summation of this post at Mahablog:

But it’s also the case that for the more fanatical Christians in the U.S., the Bible ceased to be a scripture a long time ago. It’s become more of a totem, a sacred symbol assumed to have spiritual power that represents the tribe of self-proclaimed conservative Christians. What it actually says about anything is irrelevant.
(Emphasis added.)

I'm sure you can all come up with examples of "Christians" who give no evidence of ever having read the Scriptures.

The article itself is about the Green family, of Hobby Lobby fame, and their looted biblical antiquities. It's a good example of what happens to your sense of morality when your sacred text becomes a mere totem, losing all real meaning.

Today's Must-Read: The Votes That Counted

They weren't real votes, actually -- just billions of dollars worth of free publicity. From Mahablog:

A righteously frustrated Colbert King writes,
The vaudeville show that’s running at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t book itself into the White House. Nearly 63 million Americans sent that burlesque comedy with headliner Donald Trump to Washington. That 66 million other voters thought otherwise is beside the point. Trump didn’t anoint himself president. Millions put him in office.
What does that tell us about the country?
I would ask, what does that tell us about U.S. elections and how people make voting decisions? Many mistakes were made last election by both parties; little went according to plan. But I think a lot of the blame has to go to news media and how elections are covered.

Just one example:
I was never to frustrated with television news as I was on March 15, 2016, when three cable networks ignored a speech being given by Bernie Sanders in favor of covering Trump’s empty podium. Ryan Grim wrote at the time,
Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all declined to carry Sanders’ speech, instead offering punditry about the evening, with the chyrons promising, “AWAITING TRUMP” and “STANDING BY FOR TRUMP.”

This is what happens when the news departments become profit centers -- they're no longer a public service, they are entertainment.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The Right's Moral Vacuum

Tom Sullivan has a good piece at Hullabaloo on the Republican's complete lack of moral foundation:

After decades of accusations from conservatives that the American left advances reprehensible moral relativism, this week we saw that the real sin was having morals of any kind. What the Trump family modeled for the world this week is what it looks like to have none. Watergate veteran John Dean warned during the Bush II administration of the rise of "Conservatives Without Conscience." The Trumps consider that lack a plus.

"What stood out most in the interview was the moral emptiness of the president’s son," Slate's William Saletan wrote after Donald Trump Jr. appeared with Sean Hannity to explain away his meeting last June with a Russian emissary offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. What looks to be a willingness to conspire with a hostile foreign power to undermine an American election, Trump Jr. dismissed as no big deal. “That’s what we do in business. If there’s information out there, you want it." He might have done things differently, but he'd done nothing wrong.

It's not just the Trumps, although more and more I think that they're an accurate reflection of their class -- the movers and shakers, the "job creators," the plutocrats who trade in congressmen and senators -- it's the right as a whole: they've demonstrated time and time again that they have no idea of what morality is about. (This is only one example.)

Sullivan digs deeper, noting this by WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin:

We have always had in our political culture narcissists, ideologues and flimflammers, but it took the 21st-century GOP to put one in the White House. It took elected leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican National Committee (not to mention its donors and activists) to wave off Trump’s racists attacks on a federal judge, blatant lies about everything from 9/11 to his own involvement in birtherism, replete evidence of disloyalty to America (i.e. Trump’s “Russia first” policies), misogyny, Islamophobia, ongoing potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause (along with a mass of conflicts of interests), firing of an FBI director, and now, evidence that the campaign was willing to enlist a foreign power to defeat Clinton in the presidential election.

Out of its collective sense of victimhood came the GOP’s disdain for not just intellectuals but also intellectualism, science, Economics 101, history and constitutional fidelity. If the Trump children became slaves to money and to their father’s unbridled ego, then the GOP became slaves to its own demons and false narratives. A party that has to deny climate change and insist illegal immigrants are creating a crime wave — because that is what “conservatives” must believe, since liberals do not — is a party that will deny Trump’s complicity in gross misconduct. It’s a party as unfit to govern as Trump is unfit to occupy the White House. It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any “external moral truth or ethical code.”

I'd take Rubin's final comment one step further: the Republican party and its adherents are completely lacking in any moral truth or ethical code whatsoever.

Read it and weep.

Pandering Squared

OK. This one stopped me cold:

An imprint for HarperCollins will publish The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography in 2018.

The book will “[draw] on unparalleled access to the White House to explore the rarely discussed, but deeply important, religious beliefs and worldview of Trump and his advisors,” the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) announced. The CBN’s Chief Political Correspondent David Brody will co-author the book with conservative columnist Scott Lamb.

The announcement follows two solid weeks of Donald Trump’s pandering to the evangelical community amidst increasing scrutiny of his administration’s ties to Russia, beginning with his decision to cost taxpayers at least $400,000 to headline the Celebrate Freedom Concert in Washington D.C. with anti-gay pastor Robert Jeffress.

If that's not enough for you, this is what CBN had to say:

“President Trump won over evangelicals not by pandering to them,” CBN wrote in their book announcement, ignoring that he’d pandered to their community since the campaign trail, “but by supporting them and all their most important issues without pretending to be something he’s not.”

The network continued by claiming that “President Trump has surrounded himself with believers who think he is the one guiding figure who can return us to traditional values—hard work, discipline, duty, respect, and faith—that have long been the foundation of American life and truly make America great again in all ways.”

The cynicism on both sides of this is off the scale.

What's New at Green Man Review

We start off this week with a quote from Chicago's "Saturday in the Park," which always reminds me of Sunday in the Park With George, maybe because Seurat's Sunday on the Grande Jatte is here at the Art Institute.

Be that as it may, check out the offerings this week at Green Man Review -- lots of books, music, even margaritas.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Today's Playlist

Just on a whim, I started off with Boiled in Lead's Silver, which was OK but not quite on point. Next came three albums from Brian Eno, and I'm finishing off with Corelli.

Looking at it, that's sort of a weird mix. But it worked.

Health Care Note

If you want some solid, detailed analysis of the impact of the Republicans' various attempts to strip health care coverage from the majority of Americans, check out David Anderson's posts at Balloon Juice.

Real policy wonk stuff, with real world relevance.

Antidote 2

Just remember: we're better than the gang in Washington wants us to believe:

The New York Daily News reports that 32-year-old Aaron Tucker was on a bus headed toward a job interview in Stanford, Connecticut, when he saw a car that had flipped over and had smoke pouring out of it just ahead of the bus.

Tucker, who had recently completed a 22-month sentence related to a weapons charge, asked the bus driver if he would wait for him if he got out of the bus to help people in the wreck — but the bus driver declined.

Tucker got out of the bus anyway and found the car’s driver strapped into his seat and hanging upside down in the car. After removing the driver from the car, Tucker noticed that the man was bleeding from his head — and so he took off his shirt and used it to slow down the bleeding.

Tucker kept the man alive and conscious before an ambulance could arrive to take him to a nearby hospital, and the Daily News says many in the man’s community are crediting Tucker with saving his life.

But it's not just him:

Even though Tucker lost his opportunity to interview for a job as a bus boy, he has since received job offers for jobs in construction and in a rubber factory.

What’s more, the community of Westboro, Connecticut has created a GoFundMe page on Tucker’s behalf that is looking to raise $25,000 for him to thank him for saving the driver’s life.

Like I said, we're better than Washington (and that includes the press) wants us to believe.


When life hands you a bag of lemons, make lemonade -- for those who don't have any:

An Indiana bride-to-be, who cancelled her wedding reception at a pricey hotel, is not going to let all of the food and cake go to waste. Instead, she is inviting local homeless families for dinner after failing to get her deposit back.

According to the Indy Star, Purdue student Sarah Cummins, 25, and her fiance. Logan Araujo, had a wedding planned at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Indiana with a budget of $30,000 to cover the whole thing. After canceling the wedding — for unspecified reasons — Cummins was unable to get her deposit back.

“It was really devastating to me. I called everyone, canceled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more, and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception,” Cummins explained, saying she has worked an event planner at Ritz to rework the evening.

According to Cummins, she has arranged for buses to picks up homeless families at local shelter for the dinner this weekend, where the attendees will dine on bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream. And, wedding cake, of course.

Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge

You may have run across stories about the speech Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III gave behind closed doors to recognized hate group Alliance Defending Freedom. Well, after the threat of a FOIA request from Right Wing Watch, a transcript magically appeared at The Federalist. An excerpt:

Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed. The federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths.

The protections enshrined in the Constitution and our laws protect all Americans, including when we work together, speak in the public square, and when we interact with our government. We don’t waive our constitutional rights when we participate fully in public life and civic society.

This administration, and the upcoming guidance, will be animated by that same American view that has led us for 241 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square. It has served this country well, and it has made us not only one of the tolerant countries in the world, it has also helped make us the freeist and most generous. Thank you.

Given Sessions' record, I think the title of this post is amply justified.

By the way -- ADF really doesn't like being called a hate group.

Welcome to the Bully State

The Trump White House has a way to deal with dissent:

Public comments on the voter fraud commission released by the White House late Thursday were overwhelmingly, and in many cases profanely, critical of the project.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity posted on its page on the White House website, without comment or explanation, 112 pages of emails received through July 11, commenting on the organization’s request for states to send them voter information. The posted material did not redact the email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of the authors.

“Please note that the Commission may post such written comments publicly on our website, including names and contact information that are submitted,” read a blog post published Thursday on the White House’s site.

Of course, the White House will claim no responsibility for any threats or retaliation on the commenters by the nutjobs who still support the president. Trump only claims responsibility for other people's accomplishments.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Give-Away Continues

Now you can get Russian propaganda right here at home -- if you live in D.C.:

Russian state-funded Sputnik Radio has started its first broadcasts in the Washington, D.C., area, in an effort to reach more Americans with what it calls "alternative news."

Sputnik, which says it gives voice to minority views outside mainstream media and supports an anti-establishment agenda, broadcasts on the 105.5 W288BS frequency.

Critics say Sputnik functions as part of a Kremlin propaganda machine aimed at undermining Western institutions.

Sputnik Radio staffers say its broadcasts into the Washington area will allow Americans in the nation's capital to listen to them and not just to what is being said about them.

A sample of Sputnik's "alternative news" (read "alternative reality"):

For instance, Sputnik's webpage this week showed a front-page column headlined "Trump, Putin Up Against US Deep State," which argued that "the US Deep State comprising the military-intelligence nexus and their political media machine in Washington does not want to normalize relations with Russia."

The same writer, Finian Cunningham, in June wrote, "US global power depends on its presumed economic prowess and military force. With its economy in long-term decline, precipitated by the teetering dollar, the US rulers are relying increasingly on militarism to project power. That tendency is pushing the world to war."

It went on to say, "Fortunately, Russia and China may have sufficient military power to deter the desperate, waning American empire from trying to incite catastrophic war."

And just when did "catastrophic war" become a possibility? Why, on January 21, 2017, when Putin's preferred candidate was formally sworn in.

One question occurs to me: how did a Russian state propaganda station get a license to operate in this country? I mean, you don't just set up an office and start broadcasting.

Grabbing It All

The push of evangelical "Christians" to take over the country knows no bounds. Here's one of the most radical, Jim Garlow, with his solution to the problem of health care:

Last month, right-wing pastor Jim Garlow was interviewed by Megan West of the organization My Faith Votes, where he claimed that “healthcare is God’s issue” and suggested that the government should impose a tax on citizens that could be given to churches so that they could provide healthcare to the poor.

According to Garlow, any government healthcare program is “doomed to fail” because the Constitution lists the “enumerated powers of what the government is allowed to do and can do, and one of them is not healthcare.” Instead, Garlow argued, the government ought to defer to the church on this issue because God “has already designed a format” for properly providing healthcare to a nation.

We're already subsidizing churches -- they don't pay taxes, so we have to make up the difference. And just a clue as to what Garlow thinks is providing healthcare to the poor:

Garlow insisted that “the best medical care and welfare benefits can be done by the church” and should be funded through a “once every three years, ten-percent taxation on people” that would allocate money to “the faith communities.” According to Garlow, allowing the church to provide healthcare would “get rid of the freeloaders that abuse welfare.”

How Republican of him. One can't help but wonder who is going to decide who those "freeloaders" are, given the alignment of so many "Christian" churches with right-wing extremists and out-and-out racists. And who's going to supervise these churches to make sure that they're meeting minimum requirements for adequate care?

There are already real problems with Catholic hospitals playing pick and choose with what services they will offer and who they will treat. Can you imagine the nightmare if all healthcare in this country were subject to religious doctrine?

I'm pretty much poleaxed by the sheer effrontery of Garlow's proposed money grab.

Via Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another Must-Read: But Who Gets To Be King?

Tom Sullivan, at Hullabaloo, with a summation of the urge toward -- not totalitarianism, exactly: he's casting it in terms of aristocracy:

There has always been a muted desire among some of our neighbors, as there was during the American Revolution, for rule by hereditary royalty and landed gentry. Holding onto our republic against that impulse has always been problematic, as Benjamin Franklin hinted it would be. A yearning for a return to the old ways never seems far from the surface. It has seemed a little bit closer lately.

I've written repeatedly of my theory that members of the fringe right, alt-right or whatever are simply acting out a traditional murder ballad with their country. Facing demographic and economic changes that threaten to upend the traditional political and cultural dominance of white Christians in America, extremists among them are pursuing the slow murder of their lover because if they can't have her, nobody can. Donald Trump is their hands around her throat. Those hands (insert your own joke here) got tighter last week at the G20 meeting.

But that frame applies more to the middle and working classes. For moneyed interests, what's happening could be the denouement of a decades-old effort to roll back the New Deal and Civil Rights era projects that strengthened and broadened the middle class, flattened American society, and brought the country closer to (although still far from) the ideal of a society in which all its citizens are not just created equal, but treated that way. For the Caledon Hockleys who see themselves as society's better or at least more productive half — 53 percent is surely not exclusive enough — that was never their ideal.

No matter what form it takes -- oligarchy, dictatorship, de facto monarchy -- this is the end goal of the ruling elite.

Again, a pretty thorough piece, and pretty sobering.

Survey du Jour

Via Digby, this little gem:

Digby's comment: "It's especially neat that the "populist" GOP trusts banks and Wall Street more than labor unions."

I don't find that surprising: along with churches, Wall Street is one of the most top-down sectors of our society, and Republicans love their authority figures.

Today's Must-Read: Behind Closed Doors

Have you noticed how the Republicans running our country want to do everything in secret? While we're all focused on Junior's e-mails (E-mails? Where have I heard that before?), this is going on:

President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations.

But the effort — a signature theme in Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts.

Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But ProPublica and The New York Times identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

I might point out that, contra the right-wing myth of "liberals" in government crushing our brave entrepreneurs with regulations, these rules were not formulated just to be nasty to the "job creators": they happened in response to abuses and problems that required government intervention. (For example, there's quite a bit in the article on pesticide manufacturers wanting to get rid of rules that require them to get approval from the EPA and the Interior Department before offering their products for sale, because of the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Who needs that kind of headache? After all, what could go wrong?)

It's kind of lengthy, and in places perhaps offers more than you wanted to know, but it's worth reading, just to give you an idea of what's going on while no one's looking -- and how the government is stonewalling those who are trying to find out what's going on.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's About Time

HRC joins the fray:

The nation's most influential LGBT rights advocacy group announced Tuesday that it will spend $26 million and hire at least 20 additional political staffers to deploy across all 50 states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The goal: replicate what happened in North Carolina in Senate, House and governor's races across the nation next year and make the LGBT vote one of the most forceful voting blocs in the progressive movement.

The impetus: Like so many fired-up left-leaning groups these days, it's President Trump.

“I think folks believed that after the Supreme Court ruled on marriage, that we were headed quickly toward a place of full equality in this country,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “And the president's attacks on our community — and so many minority communities — has served to be, in many ways, a great awakening of our democracy.”

Like many in the LGBT community, I've been more than a little ambivalent about HRC: they've been largely ineffective, and a few moves -- wanting to horn in on the Prop 8 case after spending years arguing against pursuing marriage equality, the focus on ENDA to the exclusion of everything else -- have given me a distinctly negative impression.


The Human Rights Campaign isn't a newcomer to politics. The group has been around since 1980 and has field and volunteer staff across the nation. But Griffin said until now, the group had the resources to drop into a political battle only for a couple of months, then leave when it was over.

Since Trump got elected, donations to the group are flooding in (most donations are under $10), LGBT people are stepping out alongside other progressive groups to protest and, for the first time, there will be a dedicated effort to keep this community politically activated.

The Human Rights Campaign will be investing in all 50 states but will put its North Carolina model to the test specifically in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada. They're all swing states, most of which Trump won, and all have big 2018 Senate races as well as some potentially competitive governor's races.

At this point, although I'm not from Missouri, show me.

Via Towleroad.

Antidote: A WTF? Moment

I really have nothing to say about this:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Idiot du Jour

I'm sure you've heard about Ivanka Trump keeping Daddy's seat warm (ahem) at the G-20 conference while he was off destroying out relationship with someone. The reactions have been less than positive -- except for Fox News' Harris Faulkner:

“It must be so frustrating for Democrats not to have any low hanging fruit. They’re grasping now. They’re really grasping,” she said. “She is there in a capacity of someone who has run a very successful corporation and her items are selling by the way, hot online.”

Words fail me.

Of course, this being Fox News, the discussion then turned to dissing Chelsea Clinton -- who, by the way,, has a PhD in International Relations.

Via Joe.My.God.

This Morning's Playlist

Coolish (relatively) rainy morning, feeling very low-key. Started off with the soundtrack to Hell or High Water by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (yes, that Warren Ellis), with a couple of additions from Chris Stapleton and Colter Wall, then on to Philip Glass' soundtrack to Dracula, Pole's second album, and just finished Terry Riley's Lisbon Concert. Next, I think, is a group of ragas performed by K. Sridhar.

And then, we'll see.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Trumponomics at Work

Great way to create jobs:

In the coming days, the Trump administration will take steps to delay and ultimately rescind an Obama administration rule allowing foreign entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. to start companies, sources familiar with the situation tell Axios.

In real terms, this doesn't make any difference in anyone's present visa status -- the rule hasn't taken effect yet.

But what it says about Trump is -- well, it would be troubling if there weren't so many other negatives clustered around the man. OK, so he hates foreigners. We knew that. He doesn't consider consequences -- we knew that, too. He has no common sense -- yeah, that, too. And he has no clue about how things work.

Via Mock Paper Scissors, which offers this insight:

Entrepreneurs are going to start their businesses somewhere. What if the next Facebook-level success is Russian instead of American? Or what if Elon Musk had gone to the UK instead of here?

But he's going to bring back those coal jobs, for sure.

Today's Must-Read: More on That Meeting

From the inimitable Charles P. Pierce:
Well, now we know what Rex Tillerson's job really is. He tells the administration's bedtime stories so we can all sleep peacefully because everything is under control, dammit. (Don't make him come upstairs again!) Friday's story was of the meeting between El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago and Vladimir Putin of the dead eyes and, according to Daddy Rex, everything went swimmingly. Pressed, old Vladimir was, on the subject of his having allegedly ratfcked the 2016 election on behalf of the president.

Pressed, I tell you. From NBC:
Tillerson said Trump opened the more than two hour meeting by questioning Moscow's cyber intrusions in America's political system. The two had a "very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject," Tillerson said. Putin continued to deny Russian involvement.
Pressed, by cracky!
Tillerson departed the briefing room after leaving unanswered questions about whether Trump accepted Putin's denial of election meddling.
That seems to be something of an omission, at least to this untrained observer.

On the issue of election meddling, the subhead seems to say it all:

According to Rex Tillerson, Putin will try to make sure Putin stops meddling in our elections.

If nothing else, this proves that The Art of the Deal was ghost-written. (And do keep in mind that one of Tillerson's last acts as CEO of Exxon-Mobil was to try to negotiate a deal to open up the Russian arctic to drilling. Just sayin'.)

Read it -- it's not that long, and it's deliciously snarky as only Pierce can be.

(Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Digby has more on that meeting, as well as the speech.

Another Sunday at Green Man Review

Our usual mix of books, music, what nots -- and beer! So click through and check out the particulars.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Another Must-Read: The Speech

There's a fair amount of buzz over Trump's speech in Poland on Thursday, mostly stemming from a tweet by Caribou Barbie:

If you haven't heard about the "fourteen words" thing, don't feel bad: I hadn't either, but then, I don't follow white supremacist sites. Nancy Goldstein's response:

Betty Cracker looks a little more deeply into Trump's speech:

But the speech’s content deserves attention because of the worldview it reveals — a Bannonite dystopia in which white Christian countries are besieged by hordes of brown heretics. That vision flew mostly under the radar because Trump used “the West” as shorthand for white folks, and people interpret the phrase in different ways. But the message was clear and chilling if you’ve paid attention to the garbage ideology white nationalists allied with Bannon have pushed with varying degrees of success worldwide.

It should be no secret -- although it seems to have been soft-pedaled by the press lately, who are more concerned with documenting Trump's daily atrocities -- that a big part of Trump's appeal was to the racist contingent in white America. Sadly, it's a strain that's always been with us. (I'm sure I've remarked on what seems to a a hard-wired tendency among social animals to see the world as "us/them" -- group identity is very important in sociality, and has value, but we're supposed to be smart enough to think our way past that -- or at least, expand our definition of "us".)

It's all about dog whistles -- "in group" rabble-rousing. It's no coincidence that hate crimes and racially/ethnically motivated confrontations have risen sharply since the advent of Trump.

Welcome to Trump's America.

Today's Must-Read: The Russia Thing

Trump's meeting with Putin looks to be, from the few reports available (the meeting was limited to six people -- Trump, Tillerson, Putin, Lavrov, and two interpreters -- at Trump's request) a big win for Putin and a big disaster for the U.S. The reaction (on Twitter, of course, the current medium of choice for political commentary) is -- well, "appalled" seems to fit. Anne Laurie has a rundown at Balloon Juice. A couple of highlights:

It gets better. The final tweet hits a key point, I think:

It's much more than the White House being aligned with Russia. It's the fact that the Republican party has spent the last decade or more trying to destroy the American system of elections -- voter suppression, gerrymandering, you name it. Putin's interference in the 2016 election is a Republican wet dream, and right in line with their attempts to destroy the federal judiciary and now the press: they don't like democracy.

Today in Disgusting People: Weapons-Grade Projection

There are almost too many to pick from today, but I thought this was worthy of note: Rush Limbaugh attacking Steven Hawking on climate change. Being Limbaugh, of course, it's not just Hawking, it's "the left":

He continued, "We're living in dangerous times. The left has so succeeded in dumbing down people that they've even dumbed down themselves. They've dumbed down their professoriat, they've dumbed down their commentariat, they have dumbed down practically everybody in their ranks. They have filled them with paranoia and fear."

And just who is it that's been peddling paranoia and fear for -- what, forty, fifty years?

Saturday Science: It's Not "Either/Or"

In this universe, I don't think anything is -- that's a fallacy derived from the central concept of the desert religions: there is a deity who is purely good; therefore, there must exist something that is purely evil.

Well, no.

However, rather than going into a universe-spanning examination of this question, let's just examine one area in which that fallacy has had severe repercussions: human gender and sexuality. Bill Nye to the rescue:

The infamous science guy gave the straightforward explanation about human emotion and hormones and the concept of gender on his new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World. . . .

Nye goes on to explain how gender is something that most people come to understand by the time they are young children, but how it isn’t always as straightforward as your gender matching up with the sex assigned at birth.

“When you throw in gender, it gets even more colourful. By three or four, most kids identify with a gender. It doesn’t always match the sex they were assigned at birth.

“A person’s gender identity may change over their lifetime.”

Sadly, I can't link to the Netflix episode (well, I could, I guess, but you'd have to sign in to watch it), but I've added his series to my list on Netflix. There's a brief clip at the link, just to whet your appetite.

Friday, July 07, 2017

I'm Tired of Crap Like This

The professionally outraged are at it again:

Uncredited, via Towleroad
Andrew Garfield inadvertently set off a controversy this week when he proclaimed himself to be a gay man "without the physical act." The comment came as Garfield, 33, was speaking Monday about his role in Angels in America, a 1993 play about the AIDS crisis and other LGBT issues being put on in London. Garfield plays the gay protagonist Prior Walter and was asked during a Q-and-A how he got ready for the role.

"As far as I know, I am not a gay man," Gay Times reported he said. "Maybe I’ll have an awakening later in my life, which I’m sure will be wonderful and I’ll get to explore that part of the garden, but right now I’m secluded to my area, which is wonderful as well. I adore it, but a big concern was what right do I have to play this wonderful gay role? ... It was as about doing honor, doing justice and knowing my herstory."

Garfield explained that he spent a lot of his free time preparing to become Prior. Then he brought up RuPaul's Drag Race, the reality TV contest that's been airing for nine seasons.

"My only time off during rehearsals—every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru. This is my life outside of this play," Garfield said. "I am a gay man right now just without the physical act—that's all."

So of course, the usual suspects have taken umbrage at an actor who a) is discussing how he has prepared for a role, b) trying to explain where his head is while he's in the role, and c) expressing solidarity with us.

Yeah, go ahead -- attack your friends and allies. That always works so well.

All I've got to say to Garfield's critics is, "Grow up and get over yourselves." Which, strangely enough, is my response to outraged "Christians." Think about that. (I've been convinced for years that the extreme right and the extreme left meet: they share an attitude, if not a particular ideology. But the methods and the end goals are the same: ideological purity. According to their criteria.)

(Sidebar: I'm reminded of nothing so much as those trans activists who start foaming at the mouth when a cisgender actor dares to take on a trans role. My response: "They're actors. They make their livings making us believe they're someone else." The end result of their reasoning, as far as I can see, is that no actor is allowed to take on a role outside their real life persona. Sure, I think trans actors and actresses deserve career opportunities -- but should they not be allowed to take on cisgender characters?)

Meanwhile, our real enemies are working hard to take away everything we've won.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Stray Thought For the Day

America has become socially backward in a couple of respects. That popped into my head while reading this article, specifically this:

Getty Images, Via PinkNews
Leo Varadkar, the first gay leader of Ireland, has met with LGBT-friendly Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – and they were so happy together.

Varadkar took office as Ireland’s Taoiseach last month, becoming one of just five openly gay heads of government in recent global history.

There are only two other openly gay leaders currently in office: Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.

(For an explanation of the socks thing, see the article.)

There have actually been, according to Wikipedia, fourteen gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or otherwise not straight heads of government.

And according to Time, there have been 70 women elected or appointed as heads of government or heads of state*, which puts the U.S. behind such bastions of male privilege as Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Chile, Liberia. . . .

Get my drift?

We elected an idiot with no experience in politics, a shady history in his business dealings, and no impulse control over a woman who was eminently qualified to be president.

Think about that.

* To clarify, in a parliamentary system, the prime minister is the head of government, i.e. Theresa May of the UK; in that case, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. In a parliamentary system with no monarch, the president is the head of state, which differs from a system such as ours, in which the president is both head of state and head of government.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Only in America

Trump's America, that is:

For 29 years, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” has celebrated the Fourth of July with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by hosts, reporters, newscasters and commentators.

This historically uncontroversial testament to the nation’s founding document proved uncontroversial-no-more in the year 2017.

After NPR tweeted the Declaration line by line, Donald Trump backers,seemingly unaware of the source document, accused the media organization of playing partisan politics.


Twitter goes bananas:

This one deserves some sort of prize:

This one's in a class by itself:

The upside is that the responses to these tweets are scathing, at their most gentle.

Happy (belated) Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Today's Must-Read: It's Not About Jobs

Thought-provoking and fairly depressing article on why Trump won as many votes as he did:

The story we’ve told ourselves — that working-class whites flocked to Trump due to job worries or free trade or economic populism — is basically wrong, the research papers released this week suggest.

They did flock to Trump. But the reason they did so in enough numbers for Trump to win wasn’t anxiety about the economy. It was anxiety about Mexicans, Muslims and blacks.

Here’s how they put it in academese: “What stands out most, however, is the attitudes that became more strongly related to the vote in 2016: attitudes about immigration, feelings toward black people, and feelings toward Muslims,” writes George Washington University professor John Sides. He notes that the media focused on less-educated whites, but negative racial attitudes fueled by Trump were a big motivator for college-educated whites, too.

A substantial share of Trump voters “appeared to embrace a conception of American identity predicated on birthplace and especially Christian faith,” Sides found.

I have to confess that racism/ethnocentrism is something I don't understand, except on an intellectual level. Partly, it's the way I was raised: although my parents held all the biases they were raised with, they were at pains not to pass them on -- we were taught to take people as people. So, when I left my lily-white, heavily Christian small town (there were two Jewish families in town; the first African-Americans moved in the year I went away to college) and started meeting and befriending all sorts of different people, my parents welcomed my Jewish girlfriend, my Cuban best friend, and my black friends.

And partly it's because I know too much about how we came to be what we are: given that we are all descended from a small group of women who lived in East Africa about 200,000 years ago (based on evidence from mitochondrial DNA), and given that the genetic difference between human races is too small to measure (hell, the difference between us and chimpanzees is less than 2%), and given that casual miscegenation has been an ongoing phenomenon throughout human history (and even before we were writing things down: non-African humans living today carry between 2-4% Neanderthal genes), that kind of racial attitude just isn't much of a motivator with me.

But those attitudes are ingrained in American society, it seems: racial prejudice, sadly, is not something we as a people are not going to put to rest anytime soon. It's gotten to be such a sensitive subject that we don't want to talk about it, which is not going to help solve the problem.

And so we have mountebanks like Donald Trump who use those attitudes, who play on them to get the support they need to win elections. It's not just Trump: although I'm generally reluctant to deal in broad generalizations, the Republican party has staked out that territory for itself -- the "party of Lincoln" hasn't been that since 1964. They've deliberately sought out the extreme Christianists (remember the "Moral Majority" and how Reagan thought he could use them to deliver his agenda? Tail wags dog.), the unregenerate Confederate apologists, and the out-and-out racists.

And of course, there are always new scary people: in recent years, it's been gays and Latinos, and now it's Muslims and trans folk. (It's gotten pretty extreme: have you noticed how American attitudes toward Europe have changed in the past twenty years?)

Yes, there is what seems to be an almost hard-wired "us/them" component to our psychology (that's something that goes way back, to the beginnings of sociality -- sociality and fiercely defended group territories go hand in hand) but given our much-touted intelligence, we ought to be able to work past that.

Apparently not.

At any rate, read the whole thing -- it's sobering, to say the least.

Via Digby, who sums it up nicely:

This is an inconvenient story and nobody wants to hear it because economic determinism does not explain it. And if there's any true state religion in America, on all sides of the political spectrum, it's economic determinism. Money explains everything.

Except it doesn't. Humans are complicated creatures motivated by many things and money is only one of them.

It's not even the best one.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Quote du Jour: Even Republicans Can Figure It Out

Well, some of them. Eventually.

(Read it -- it's not that long.)

But you came for the quote:

A lot of people read Ayn Rand in high school. Most of them grow up.

Seen From the Bus

There are still remnants of Pride around -- the rainbow flag is still flying on the Parade route and in the neighborhood in general, and a lot of businesses still have them up. One gesture of support that needs to be acknowledged:

This place is down on Clark at Wrightwood, and serves one of the two best cheeseburgers in town.