"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, March 22, 2017

Culture Break: Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way

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

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


It's from the Millennium album.

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

About Diversity

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

Oh, yeah -- and English.

Where but America?

Words Fail Me

You really can't make this stuff up:

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

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

Seriously?

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


OK, This Is Funny

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

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

Trans.: The propaganda mill isn't working.

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

Notes Digby:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 20, 2017

As If You Didn't Have Enough to Worry About

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

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

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

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

It's much worse than that:

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

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

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

Via Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It's Sunday at GMR

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

You really should check it out.

A Thought, Not Stray

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

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

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

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

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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

Oh, but that means paying attention to facts.



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

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

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

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

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

Today's Must-Read: Follow the Money

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

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

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

One Wonders

One truly does:

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

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

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


Playing Both Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We live in interesting times.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Oh, By the Way

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Wrigleyville should be a scream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art? Culture? History? Who Needs 'Em?

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

I found this telling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today in Compassionate Conservatism

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

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

Via commenter Badgerite at AmericaBlog, the riposte:



And in the real world:

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

AmericaBlog has more on the "compassion" part:

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

The rationale:

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

Reporter: To cut programs to help the elderly?

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

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

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


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

Is this fucked up, or what?

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Culture Break: Moby: A Case for Shame

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


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

Monday, March 13, 2017

About Coverage Under Trumpcare: Compare and Contrast

Although I'm just as comfortable calling it "Ryancare," since he's the innumerate genius who's taken ownership:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Sunday that he can't say how many people will lose health coverage under the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as it's "up to people" to acquire coverage "if they want it."

"The one thing I'm certain will happen is CBO will say, well, gosh, not as many people will get coverage. You know why? Because this isn't a government mandate," Ryan told ABC's John Dickerson. "You get it if you want it. That's freedom."

"How many people are going to lose coverage?" Dickerson asked.

"I can't answer that question. It's up to people," Ryan said. "People are going to do what they want to do with their lives."

This is the set-up for blaming the people who are going to get shafted: "Well, you had your choice -- spend half your income on insurance or do without."

And then, when you compare it to what the Republican-in-Chief has promised:


Via TPM.

Today's Must-Read: A Twofer

There. I'm being very up front about it this time.

Two posts in my morning reading started building links between themselves. (Well, OK, I did it, but it's just the way my mind works: it's right-brain thinking, in which your mind makes connections that are not obvious to rational -- i.e., left-brain -- thinking. It's the way an artist thinks.)

At any rate, the first is Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo on the "Deep State," President Bannon's chief bugaboo:

The deep state is the latest "fifth column" narrative of betrayal from within. Conservative radio host Mark Levin alleges Obama and the Democrats have “squirreled their appointees into the bureaucracy” to engage in a "silent coup" against Trump. But for the Trump administration the narrative functions rather neatly as a preemptive explanation for his administration's own failures. Andrew Sullivan sees Trump's unsupported accusations of wiretapping against President Obama and attacks against the press as "designed to erode the very notion of an empirical reality, independent of his own ideology and power." Peter Beinart believes that deep state rumors are a diversion that will allow Trump to dismiss as partisan hackery any findings by the Justice Department that his administration has ties to the Russian government.
(Emphasis added.)

The portion I emphasized ties in very neatly to this article by David Roberts at Vox, via Digby, which, in spite of the headline is not about climate change denial:

Indeed, the climate fight has long since moved past the stage when it was about the facts.

Allow me an analogy. Imagine you’re playing a basketball game. A member of the other team travels. The referee calls the travel, but the opposing player just shrugs and says, “I don’t care.” He refuses to surrender the ball and just keeps going. Then his team starts putting extra players on the court, fouling at will, and pelting your team with refuse. The referee continues calling violations, but the other team simply disregards him. They start appealing to their own referees, friends of theirs in the stands. “Bob says there was no foul.”

At that point, the dispute is no longer about what happened in this play or that play. The facts are not at issue. The dispute is over the authority of the referee. The question is whether both teams will honor the referee’s calls, and if not, how the game can be played at all and what “winning” means under the circumstances.

If it’s not obvious, the referee in this analogy is science.

Roberts does us the favor of extending that analogy:

But in a sense, climate denial is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.

Trumpism is just the flowering of a process that has been underway for a couple of generations, and which we're seeing in all sorts of contexts -- climate change denial, "fake news," "alternative facts," "Christians" rejecting the authority of the law, the press' "both sides do it" mantra, and on and on. Ascribing it to emerging fascism is almost too trite -- it's the erosion of the very foundations of civilization.

And we can thank "conservatism" when it all comes tumbling down.

Footnote: This is a prime example of the tactics conservatives use:

Aiming to erode public trust in the Congressional Budget Office ahead of its report this week expected to show that the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance, Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials are rewriting the history of the CBO's analysis of the Affordable Care Act.

"They were way, way off last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. "If you look at the number of people they projected would be on Obamacare, they were off by millions.
"


Sunday, March 12, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

As a respite from the news, which is uniformly depressing for those of us who treasure living in a free country, it's Sunday at Green Man Review, with lots of neat stuff. Head on over and see what's there. (By the way, I had a major role in putting this edition together, so treasure it.)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Working Together? What's That About?

Tom Sullivan has an interesting post at Hullabaloo that points up, more or less explicitly, how far over the edge the Republican party has gone.

He starts with a recollection of the war effort in the 1940s:

Baby Boomers are too young to remember victory gardens, bacon grease recycling, and Rosie the Riveter, the icon celebrating American women working in WWII factories to build tanks and ships and airplanes for the war effort. But that was over 70 years ago. Somewhere along the way, the Midas cult soured on Americans pulling together. That spirit is dead.

Just how dead is illustrated by Ill. GOP Rep. John Shimkus wondering why he should pay for women's prenatal care:

The Republican congressman voiced complaints about coverage mandated in the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) asked him to give specifics:

"What about men having to purchase prenatal care?" Shimkus replied. "I’m just ... is that not correct? And should they?"

Doyle reminded Shimkus there is no health care plan that covers only the personal medical choices of each person.

"There's no such thing as a la carte insurance, John," Doyle stated.

"That's the point, that's the point," Shimkus countered. "We want the consumer to be able to go to the insurance market and be able to negotiate on a plan."

"You tell me what insurance company will [negotiate a plan]," Doyle fired back. "There isn't a single insurance company in the world that does that, John. You're talking about something that doesn't exist."

Just think about one thing for a minute: if you could, in fact, negotiate a policy with an insurance company to include only those items you think you need, what kind of premium would you be paying?

And MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle explains to Shimkus why men should be paying for prenatal care. (Her comment is in the last 12 or so seconds, but Austan Goolsbee's explanation is worth hearing. Besides, he's cute, in a nerdy sort of way.)


I noted yesterday Paul Ryan's brilliant observation on how he thinks insurance is supposed to work, which is of a piece with Shimkus' idea.

The underlying concept here, and it's one that I think is fundamental to human society, morality, what have you that makes human sociality a viable characteristic, is just what Sullivan outlined in his opening paragraph, and it's one that pops out every time you look at our history, or any other history: human societies are the result of people working together toward a desired goal. And Sullivan notes one thing that seems to have become bedrock for contemporary "conservatism":

But what really churns my gut is this anti-American view among the likes of Ryan and Shimkus that it is somehow anti-American for Americans to pull together, to pool resources and have each other's backs. You know, all that "We Did It Before and We Can Do It Again" stuff. All that working together for the common good from before my time when America was supposed to be great or something. Now it's "American" to think I've got mine, screw you.
(Emphasis added.)

So now, according to the Ayn Rand fanatics who have taken over the government, it's anti-American to behave like a human being.

I wonder if we're going to survive until the midterms.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Quote du Jour: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

From the Republicans' Policy Genius and all-around knight in shining armor, as relayed by Charles Pierce:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.
(Emphasis in original.)

And of course, that is how insurance works. That is how it's designed to work. That's the whole theory behind insurance.

Yeah, I believe he said that. Remember, this is the man who drew up a federal budget in which the numbers didn't add up. Amd now you know why the Republican "replacement" for the ACA is such a pile of doodoo. (I mean, aside from the fact that the Party of the Rich and Greedy drafted it.)

Via Digby.

For a fairly succinct summary of the mess, see this post at Mahablog.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Snap!

The perfect reaction:

The former president "is much more concerned by President Trump kicking people off their health insurance, not staffing the government, not being prepared for a crisis, rolling back regulations so that corporations can pollute the air and water and letting mentally unstable people buy guns with no problems whatsoever."

Obama "cares about all those things much more than what President Trump tweets at the TV each morning," NBC reports.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Culture Break: Kodo: O-Daiko

Kodo is a fascinating group -- basically a group of drummers (although in recent years they've started adding singing and flute to their repertoire) who live on a small island in Japan and periodically go on tour. I've seen them live both times they came to Chicago, and each time they were amazing. Here's my take on their last stop here.


Who Cares What It Costs

The general consensus is the the Republican "replacement" for the ACA stinks. Tom Sullivan discusses the whole mess at Hullabaloo:

House Republicans last night unveiled their first pass at a replacement for Obamacare. It comes in two parts. You can read the American Health Care Act here and here. There is a summary of changes here. The Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored the costs of the proposal. Moments after its release, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) dubbed it Obamacare 2.0.

Basically, it's pretty much what we figured: it knocks a few million people off of Medicaid, a few million more lose their exchange policies because they get priced out of the market, it gives the wealthy a bunch of goodies, and makes a lot of money for the insurance companies -- or it would if so many people weren't unable to afford policies at all.

The most interesting aspect of this, to me, is the rush to get it to the floor for a vote.

Klein is incredulous:

After literally years of complaining Obamacare was jammed down the American people’s throats with insufficient information or consideration, the GOP intends to hold committee votes on their bill two days after releasing it, and without a Congressional Budget Office report estimating either coverage or fiscal effects. It’s breathtaking.

I don't know why everyone is surprised at the rush -- it's garbage, the Republican leadership knows it's garbage, they don't care about costs or the deficit unless they're debating a Democratic budget, it screws poor and middle-income people as well as older people, and it is a step toward erasing the last eight years (which is the major plus, as far as they're concerned).

They're seriously trying to rush it through before the opposition gets organized; they figure they can sneak it through while the press is focused on Trump's paranoid fantasies about being bugged. And they know Trump will sign it, because he'll sign anything anyone puts in front of him, and once that happens, mission accomplished.


Oh, Yeah, That Will Fix the Problem

I see something like this and I wonder -- once again -- if anyone in the Trump regime thinks past the next fifteen seconds.

The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO — a move that lawmakers and security experts say defies logic if the White House is serious about defending against terrorism and keeping out undocumented foreigners.

The Office of Management and Budget is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard's $9.1 billion budget, the draft documents show, even as it proposes major increases to other Department of Homeland Security agencies to hire more border agents and immigration officers and construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Any normal human being would see in a second that this is nonsense, but Trump and his handlers are so fixated on immigrants (and can we surmise that there's more than a little racism involved in that obsession?) that they can't see past his stupid wall.

Image du Jour

For those who think Pence couldn't be worse:


Monday, March 06, 2017

Today's Must-Read: It's Not Just Trump

It's the entire Republican party, and it's an insanity we've seen developing since Reagan. This article in The Guardian lays it out. This is via Digby, so I'll start with her introduction:

I don't think we can underestimate how important it is that Trump came along when the GOP was at peak crazy. He probably couldn't have made it if that weren't true. They are, in a slightly different way, just as looney and dangerous as he is, and their lunacy enables his.

This article in the Guardian get[s] to that issue:

Sure, Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham vow to hold Trump to account. But the rest of them are profiles in moral weakness, prepared to turn two blind eyes to the actions of the president simply because he wears the right party colours. So Devin Nunes, chair of the House intelligence committee, which should be investigating all this, says “there’s nothing there”. His colleague Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House oversight committee, declined to look into the Flynn affair because “it’s taking care of itself”. Oversight, it seems, is precisely the right word. But please don’t get the impression that Chaffetz is lethargic in his supervisory duties. On the contrary, there’s one scandal he’s very keen to investigate even now: Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

We've seen it happening -- more and more it's been party before country, rule rather than govern, and the only goal is to obtain and maintain power. I think it's a combination of the natural tendency to oligarchy of the "party of business" and the authoritarian mind-set of the "Christian" right; add in a kind of situational morality -- that is, moral standards apply to everyone except the chosen -- and you have the Republican party, 2017.

So now we've ensconced the worst that America has to offer in the White House. I hope we survive it.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Image du Jour

This hits just the right tone. From commenter PickyPecker at Joe.My.God.

Thumbnail

It's Sunday at Green Man Review

Books, music, the usual potpourri, so scoot on over.

Today's Must-Read: First Amendment? What First Amendment?

You may have gotten the idea, from way too many reports, that the right believes the only freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment is religious freedom -- their religious freedom, because any other belief is a political philosophy, not a real religion. They tend to ignore things like freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly.

And now a number of states are starting to put that idea into practice:

Thom Hartmann reminds readers that the war on drugs arose as a Nixonian tactic for suppressing the antiwar left and black people. Half a century later, Nixon's heirs are using Arizona's RICO statutes to suppress dissent in Donald Trump's America. Arizona's version of North Carolina's "economic terrorism" bill, Hartmann writes, "would hyper-criminalize any sort of organized political dissent if any person involved with that dissent (including, presumably, agent provocateurs) were to engage in even minor 'violence,' so long as that violence harms the 'property,' regardless of value, of any person (including a corporation)." Attend a street protest and you might go to jail and lose everything. Riot is helpfully redefined under the proposed Arizona law to include, "A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which EITHER disturbs the public peace OR RESULTS IN DAMAGE TO THE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON." (Caps in the original.)

Stifle dissent and protect money. These guys never do anything that's not at least a twofer.

Read the whole thing, but I'm warning you -- it's pretty sickening.


Today in Disgusting People

Another "Christian" pretending to be a human being. This one's even worse: he used to be a doctor before he became a congressman.

In an interview with STAT, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) says he doesn’t support Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion because he believes some poor people just don’t want health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’” Marshall, a doctor and first-term congressman, said. “There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

The author of the STAT piece, Lev Facher, writes that he “pressed” Marshall on that point. But the congressman “shrugged.”

“The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are,” Marshall said.

I'd love to see what he considers "judging."

In point of fact, he's wrong.

Two years after Medicaid coverage was expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in their states, low-income adults in Kentucky and Arkansas received more primary and preventive care, made fewer emergency departments visits, and reported higher quality care and improved health compared with low-income adults in Texas, which did not expand Medicaid, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,” a summary of the study says.

Oh, and he got the Bible reference wrong, too:

"Well, this is a form of heresy," Dr. Barber said. "It is what the so-called religious evangelicals put out there."

Barber explained that the passage Jesus mentioned there reaches back to one in Deuteronomy, where Jews were admonished to take care of the poor, sick, and aliens in their land.


And I'd like to point out to Rep. Marshall something that Jesus actually did say (Matthew 25: 41-45):

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

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

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

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

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

Major FAIL, Congressman.

And this is one of the people who are going to be crafting the ACA "replacement"? Yipes.



Friday, March 03, 2017

About That Recusal

Now that AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has recused himself from the investigation of Trump/Russia contacts during the campaign, all should be smooth sailing, right?

Well, maybe not:

The Democratic ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that the FBI had not been cooperative with the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Emerging after a three-hour meeting with FBI Director James Comey, and speaking after committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) midday, Schiff told reporters that the committee knew “less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” and said he “absolutely” learned of intelligence on Thursday that he had not been made aware of as a member of the “gang of eight” – that is, the leaders of both parties in both the House and Senate and of both chambers' intelligence committees.

“I don’t think at all that we’ve gotten the kind of quarterly briefings that we should have been getting. Not now, not in the summer, not in the fall and not even to this day,” he said
.

This is the James Comey, you'll remember, who practically peed in his pants he was in such a rush to announce, eleven days before the election, that they had discovered more E-Mails!!1!.

Now, just think about one thing: Sessions has recused himself from the FBI's investigation -- which, since he's one of those being investigated, only makes sense, and it's really the least he could do. Literally, the least -- but the FBI is still not cooperating with Congress.

Let me restate that: Sessions has no official role in the investigation. Official.

Have you noticed a tendency on the part of this regime to operate through official channels? Neither have I.

Today's Must-Read: The Speech: Digging Deeper

Digby again, who starts off with the press reaction to "The Speech":

In the hours leading up to President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night the news networks were giddy with excitement. They had been told by a “senior White House official” in a private luncheon with news anchors that the president was now in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. This seemed to signal a major reset in the administration’s agenda and the media outlets couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Nobody knew whether that proposal would be part of the big speech but there was a lot of feverish speculation that Trump was planning to surprise the country with a long-awaited “pivot.” As we all know now, he didn’t mention any such possibility in the speech. It looks like the whole thing was just a ruse to fool the media into giving Trump big props in the run-up to the event.

CNN’s Sara Murray reported yesterday that the administration basically told the news anchors what they wanted to hear, what Trump officials believed “would give them positive press coverage for the next few hours.” She added that a “senior administration official” had admitted it was “a misdirection play.” Said John King:

It does make you wonder; so we’re not supposed to believe what the senior-most official at the lunch says — who then they allowed it to be the president’s name says — we’re not supposed to believe what they say? Maybe we shouldn’t believe what they say.

I don't have a lot of confidence left in the press, especially the Washington press corps: they've been so desperate for "access" since Reagan that they'll swallow anything the administration feeds them and spew it back out as "news." I think they should do what one commentator suggested when Sean Spicer barred major outlets from his "gaggle": Get off their butts and go out and do some digging for their stories. You know -- like real journalists.

Digby goes on to examine an element that has been part of Trump's campaign from the very beginning and, in spite of what you may have heard, is still central to his "vision". This image pretty much says it:


Read her piece. It's chilling.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Trump's "Presidential" Speech

Everyone (well, most everyone) is falling all over themselves giving The Hairpiece credit for his speech to the Houses of Congress, even given the travesty of his treatment of Carryn Owens, widow of Navy SEAL William Owens who was killed in that pointless raid in Yemen. Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice actually looks at the substance:

Earlier this week, before he bowled over shallow pundits by delivering a speech that would have been panned if delivered by literally any other president, Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to hold forth on a favorite topic:
Well, look, you know, it just seems the other side, whenever they are losing badly, they always pull out the race card. And I’ve watched it for years. I’ve watched it against Ronald Reagan. I’ve watched it against so many other people. And they always like pulling out the race card.
This was pure projection. Trump plays the race card constantly, and has all of his public life. He has fomented racial hatred and profited from racist business practices for decades. In the 1980s, Trump famously took out a full-page ad in the NYT to call for the execution of the innocent nonwhite teenagers in the “Central Park jogger” case — and doubled down on that during the campaign, even though the teenagers in question were exonerated years ago.

She elaborates, and she's right -- racism in its various forms has been the basis of Trump's whole campaign and his presidency to date.

Read the whole thing.

(And please note: Betty Cracker is one of my favorite bloggers anywhere, no matter what she's writing on. She reminds me of me.)

Coda: Also, this.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Culture Break: Colter Wall: Sleeping on the Blacktop

This is from the movie Hell or High Water, which I confess I'd never heard of until a friend sent me the soundtrack. This one grabbed me right away. Colter Wall's voice is pretty amazing -- someone said he sounds about 90 and looks 17. Magic.


I think I'm about to become a fan.

Here's a trailer for the film.