Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Personal Notes

It's gotten a bit hectic in the Real World for me. There was a sudden resignation at work last month, and that job's duties ended up getting sorted out to the remaining full-time staffers to handle until a new library director can be hired.

As such, I'm really really distracted and the political ranting is kinda taking a back seat for me. I can barely correct fools on Twitter right now as is.

I am working on a blog entry for the midterm voting for Florida, especially the always-popular Ballot previews, but until further notice I am not going to...

what the hell...?

What's all this about Mario Kart?

(reads up on it)

OH SWEET JESUS CHRIST ON A BIKE WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR WORLD.

It's a good thing I never got into Nintendo games...

Friday, September 14, 2018

The First Rule of trump's Lying

Always consider this rule whenever reading a tweet or statement from donald trump:

trump will change his story at any given moment - even after making a statement he will immediate contradict himself with the next - just so the narrative of what he's talking about makes himself appear smart, informed, rich, powerful, and winning at everything. As an aside: this is why trump's lawyers are terrified of him taking the stand in Mueller's grand jury investigations: even *if* trump is actually innocent (insert author's eyeroll here), trump's inability to stick to a story would make him seem guilty. trying to cover up for something, and/or mentally unfit (in trump's case, it's honestly all three, but I digress).

In short: trump will ALWAYS lie when it makes himself look better than everybody else.

This is an issue now because of his recent lashing out over criticisms about his administration's failures to respond to Puerto Rico's need for disaster relief after Hurricane Maria.

trump had made statements earlier - during the buildup towards evacuating and securing the Carolina coast for incoming Hurricane Florence - where he bragged about getting "an A+ grade" for his handling of previous hurricane relief efforts (this is including Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida, both of which haven't been completely recovered).

Apparently there were followups by the media pointing out that the massive death toll in Puerto Rico - more than 2900 lost - doesn't necessarily equal an A+ grade, so trump got on Twitter to blast a conspiracy-addled excuse (via Steve M. at Crooks and Liars):

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

No one had even suggested before this that the investigation had been faked or staged. trump's excuse came across as similar to the Sandy Hook narrative of "staged event" and "crisis actors".

And now, rather than argue about the size of the tragedy being overwhelming, rather than admit even in part that "things could have been handled better," trump would argue the whole thing is a partisan lie.

It doesn't help one damn bit that the Republican Congress refuses to open hearings into Puerto Rico's situation and the relief efforts. Back in 2005, when Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Republican-led Congress did hold investigations into what went wrong (because God help us we don't want those disasters happening again). This year's model? These Republicans know damn well they have to play along to trump's lies, otherwise their whole house of cards collapses on itself.

Because this is the Second Rule of trump's Lying: trump lies to force his underlings to prove their loyalty to him. They have to accept and defend his lies, at which point he owns them as co-conspirators in those lies. (Rule 2B: Once you become trump's bitch, you will ALWAYS be trump's bitch)

The first thing - LITERALLY the first thing - that happened with trump's administration is that he sent Sean Spicer to exaggerate the inauguration turnout as "the biggest ever" when photographic and video evidence proved it was less than half the turnout for Obama's in 2009. This was for two reasons: 1) trump's Id had to be satiated with the belief he is more beloved than his enemies, 2) trump wanted to test Spicer's loyalty. That Spicer didn't do a good job of it was why trump soured on him and forced him out. It didn't matter that reality refused to conform to trump's will because most of the media and the nation either ignored or mocked him on this grandstanding: All that mattered was trump's bubble remained happily closed.

For all the Republican grousing in the shadows - the disdain the long-standing membership has for him has already been well-documented, it's just NONE OF THEM WILL OWN IT PUBLICLY - that "nothing sticks" to trump, the only reason that shit doesn't stick to trump is because NOBODY who can hold him accountable will. Too many of those grousing Republicans profit from trump's misrule and so they won't do anything to disrupt that.

The sad truth about lies, however, is that no matter the lie it will never fit into the reality of the world around us. trump can say 1000 lies a year and none of it will change the fact that thousands died in Puerto Rico. trump can lie about tariffs, and the economic reality of price increases will eventually force businesses to lose profits and close. trump can lie about immigrants, but it doesn't change the fact that many coming to our shores and borders are doing so to find better lives for themselves and are willing to be law-abiding citizens. trump can lie about the dangers of foreign powers, but invading them isn't going to make the United States stronger or safer (we've learned THAT lesson from the lies that led us into Iraq in 2003).

Lies eventually defeat themselves. You can't lie about the waters flooding your home as the hurricane hits. You can't lie about the failures of high tariffs when too many nations oppose them and starve your own businesses out. You can't lie about separating families at the border and shoving 5-year-olds into baby jails and call yourself honorable. You can't lie about war and walk away with clean hands.

The First Rule of Lying: Sooner or later the bill for that lie comes due.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Storms of September Stay With Us

Right about now, the outer bands of Hurricane Florence are covering the coastline of North Carolina.

If there's any good news at the moment, it's that the storm weakened on approach down from a Category 4 to a Cat 2.

The rest of the situation, of course, is a disaster for the East Coast.

It's not that Florence will be a monster storm with deadly winds, deadly floods, and deadly power outages.

It's that Florence is predicted to overstay its visit. Most times, these storms move past within a day, no more than two days, and pulls itself away from its source of energy - the oceans - to where it disappears over the land.

Florence will be different. The weather models are all predicting the hurricane will get stuck hovering over the middle of North Carolina - right along the South Carolina border, soaking both states - for three straight days. It could still feed off the Atlantic coast to retain its shape and strength as a Tropical Storm, meaning high winds preventing any repair jobs to downed electrical wires... and especially meaning constant rainfall that will get measured in feet not inches.

The context is last year's Harvey: a standard hurricane that slammed into Houston TX but then stayed put for days unleashing so much rain the entire city flooded. What had happened: Both the city and the state failed to observe natural flood zones, overdeveloping neighborhoods into places that would turn into rivers and lakes. A lot of these places built into wetlands or riversides, ignoring the need for water to flow away in case of massive rains. We paved over a lot of places with concrete and asphalt, preventing the ground from absorbing rain and forcing the water to flow in ways we didn't expect.

This is a horrifying reality of the last 30 years or so where the suburban expanse of metro areas did not plan well or outright ignored warnings. Developers are gonna develop, and state legislators across the country are usually more than happy to let rich developers build fancy big neighborhoods in the most scenic of places...

New Orleans was the first big warning. With Katrina in 2005, it wasn't the hurricane itself that was the killer, it was the aftermath of aged out levees breaking and flooding half the city that no longer had wetlands or canals to manage the overflow. They built into areas they shouldn't have built.

Harvey last year was the reminder: The city failed to build highways away from flood zones, allowing roads to turn into rivers trapping residents and delaying recovery efforts.

Florida is a constant threat to collapse. We're dealing with coastal cities facing flooding issues even without hurricanes blowing in. All it will take is one powerful hurricane to wash this all into the sea...

And yet, we're still not learning. We're still at the mercy of developers who want to keep putting up condos along our beaches, shopping malls in our wetlands, and highways connecting everything without care of how roads become rivers in a hurricane.

September is usually the worst month for hurricanes: while June-November is the schedule, September is where all the conditions for Atlantic-based storms are just right to cause these types of nerve-wracking nightmares. This is fast becoming a month of dread for the East Coast anymore.

Well, when the levee breaks...

P.S. and things might be tolerable if we had a government that knew what it was doing when handling these crises. But it's clear from trump's mismanagement of Puerto Rico relief - DEAR GOD what the HELL happened here? - that we're in for Katrina-style disasters for now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Whither Now the Withered Nation

A personal note: I am running into high school students born after 9/11. An entire generation that has grown up in the shadow of the War on Terror. They're writing term papers on what happened this day 17 years ago. (Poorly researched term papers... /headdesk)

A War on Terror that has devolved into an ongoing and seemingly unending siege in Afghanistan.

A War on Terror that has failed to resolve even half of the conflicts that bedevil the Middle East and does nothing for the painful refugee crisis surrounding Syria, Yemen, North Africa. A crisis now spilling into Europe fueling a harsh rise of Far Right anti-immigrant sentiment that may have been a key factor in Brexit (a separate nightmarish issue of its own right now).

A War on Terror that put the United States on its own path of Far Right paranoia against immigrants - not just illegals but also legal immigrants suddenly getting punished - to the point where the United States is separating kids from families and shoving babies into jails.

An argument can be made that the attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon using passenger aircraft is a direct link between Osama Bin Laden and donald j. trump. That Bin Laden's attacks were so traumatizing that a large portion of the citizenry is willing to lash out in anger at everything they fear, eagerly accepting the leadership of any conman offering salvation through brutal repression of the dread Other.

If only one could hop into a time machine and go back to 1999, to find Bin Laden, and let him know that the results of his planned attacks would lead to a donald trump presidency.

Would Bin Laden recoil at the horror of even THAT level of madness?

...nah, probably not. Bin Laden was a dick just like trump.

We are so royally screwed.

Remember your loved ones, America.

Also, for the peeps I know in the Carolinas and Coastal Virginia. Stay dry and get out of the flood zones, Hurricane Florence is going to be a drencher.




Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Crooks Or Cowards? In the Age of trump for Republicans It Is Both

There was a bombshell today when the New York Times - still the "official paper" of record despite their many sins against journalism - issued an Op-Ed written by "A Senior Official within trump's White House," arguably someone within the inner circle (or on the Orient Express train during a snowstorm, if you want the list of suspects figured out) venting about the damage control the "sane" Republicans have had to do since Day One of the Shitgibbon Era.

To refer to the sanity patrol like Cheryl Rofer over at Balloon-Juice:

While I take a measure of relief that we now appear to be closer to the beginning of the end than to the end of the beginning, I have some big concerns about that New York Times op-ed by “a senior administration official.”
My concerns are very much like David Frum’s...
But the author is trying to preserve his/her reputation: I am being a good Republican, helping to execute good Republican policies. I am keeping the country safe from a dangerous president.
That’s a lot of responsibility to take on. The president is elected; the author has been appointed by that president and tells us that he is undermining that president. In the telling, the president is further undermined.
What did the author expect to be the next step? Donald Trump is reported to have freaked out over the Woodward revelations and have started searching for the leakers. This will turbocharge that search. James Jesus Angleton became convinced that there was a Russian mole in the CIA and practically destroyed the agency. Can the author of the op-ed protect us from a storm a couple of categories stronger..?
I'm with Cheryl on this regarding the Cover-Your-Ass aspect of this article: The person writing it is not doing so out of concern for the nation's well-being, it's a signal to other Republicans that there are people in trump's White House making sure the madman doesn't go on a Nuke Tirade. This isn't serving the Republic: This is protecting the Republicans.

While the Handlers in the West Wing keep trump under control (barely), the Republicans in Congress can happily continue their own agendas of tax cuts, filling judicial seats with arch-conservatives who can serve for another 30-40 years, and suppressing voters rights to ensure gerrymandered control of the House for another decade. Neither the House nor the Senate ever have to fear facing the political consequences of doing SOMETHING to investigate trump with their oversight powers.

This is where the cowardice of the Republicans hiding in the shadows become criminal. The Republicans indulge as crooks with unearned and unjustified political power they do not deserve to wield. Like all crooks, they're taking for themselves and leaving the suckers (U.S. voters) in the dust.

And in this cowardice they are committing the greatest crime of all: violating their Oaths of Office to serve the public trust and save us from unfit leaders.

Referring to Frum's article in The Atlantic:

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.
But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.
What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down the Mueller investigation? The author of the Times op-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart, and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own.
He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous...

There is an honest debate right now if that was the writer's intent: Force trump into a rash action, create a crisis beyond anyone's control...

What would be better?
Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections...

Until a Republican leader - one with genuine gravitas and political power that can withstand the ruthless attacks of the trump voter base that is bound to hit him - steps up like that and FINALLY calls out not just trump but every GODDAMN ENABLER responsible for the disaster we are now in, this is not going to help.

For all the times I dreaded a full meltdown and never really got one, I think this time... this is it.

GODS HELP US.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

First Day of September

It's also Labor Day weekend.

I got nothing to write about for the moment, except that trump's administration is still a black hole of awfulness, punishing Latinos for simply existing right now. Who the fuck dreams up banning people with documented proof of citizenship status? Oh, yeah. Assholes.

Punch every single fucking one of them this weekend.

And vote Democrat across the board this November.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Upon a trumpish Thief

(Update 9/6/18: Gaah, I never get the memo when Batocchio shares this to Crooks And Liars through Mike's Blog Round Up. Sigh. I'll go look for some punch and pie...)

With various articles now cropping up about how trump's misrule will end - I am stealing Eliot A Cohen's quote of The Scottish Play for this blog title - the question simply boils down to:

"How will the Shitgibbon survive?"

Thing is, I don't agree with Cohen's belief that at some point trump's base will abandon him, at least not willingly. The Far Right voter base - curdled in thought by decades of fearmongering and disinformation from Fox Not-News and the rest of the Far Right Noise Machine - is happily propping up trump's polling numbers and siding with him on nearly every single issue that trump mismanages. Whenever you see polling numbers that show 65 percent Americans disagreeing with trump and 35 percent siding with trump on an issue trump is clearly in the wrong, that 35 percent is the inflated 88-90 percent of Republicans ignoring the facts and inflaming the rage. Those pro-trump numbers will NEVER go down (which is why the cowards of the GOP leadership will never turn on trump: some of them are actively giving him handjobs even as the legal investigations are proving trump is doomed).

What is happening in the Real World outside of the Far Right Narrative is that trump is running out of actual support. That is, he may have the GOP in his pocket but that prize is shrinking by the day. The support trump had in 2016 among Independent voters - about 46 percent to Hillary's 42, which is one of the reasons why the Electoral College screwed Hillary in battleground states - is dropping. This doesn't affect the Presidency in a midterm... but it does affect the Congressional races where the polling pundits are seeing a Blue Wave form for November (which explains the desperation Republicans have to suppress the turnout even more).

The thing protecting trump right now - while the Executive agencies are ironically doing all the serious work digging into trump&Co. misdeeds - is that the Republican-led Congress refuses to investigate trump's criminal and unethical misdeeds in the White House. All it would take is one wing of Congress - likely the House - to go majority Democratic and trump will suddenly get hammered by series of legislative committee hearings. And given how incompetent trump and his cronies are failing to hide even a smidgen of their corruption, those committee investigations are going to find a lot of criminal nastiness within days not months, and ALL of it based on the Facts.

There's even a list floating out there now, composed by the Republicans themselves as a talking point, of what exactly the Democrats will investigate if they get even one-half control of Congress. As that Vox article summarizes: IT'S NOT A SHORT LIST. And even one of them would be enough to carve trump's crumbling empire even further into dust.

While trump is capable - and has tried earlier - of shutting down the FBI and Special Counsel investigations - the thing stopping him is that such a move would kill Republicans' midterms chances altogether, and nearly everybody around him that's sane are begging him not to cross that line - he cannot shut down Congress without breaking every laws and norms in our Constitution. Without that cover, he can't keep bullshitting his way out of his mess.

The problem is outside of trump's own Cabinet turning against him and invoking the 25th Amendment there's little a Democratic-controlled Congress could do. They could arguably keep the Special Counsel going, and arguably that office could continue to add indictments to every guilty SOB on trump's payroll, but direct removal of trump is still not a sure bet.

The only thing to be sure of that Mueller - or any follow-up Counsel - can do is whittle trump's support to tiny little pieces. I'm talking about the power circle trump's had around him for years if not decades keeping all his dirty con games running.

Right now, nearly every person who worked on trump's 2016 campaign is either fired, fled, indicted, plead guilty, or found guilty. I think Kellyanne Conway is one of the few left.

Right now, trump's personal handlers and hangers-on who surrounded him in the White House are gone, either betrayed by trump or caught betraying trump in some fashion.

Right now, trump's personal lawyers - especially the ones who handled all the dirt - are gone, pleading guilty and likely turning over every nasty secret they have regarding trump's decades-long misdeeds.

This all begs one serious question: WHO IS LEFT TO HANDLE trump?

There is an ongoing problem of the West Wing finding people to replace the ones leaving: staffing and morale are both at all-time lows.

Few people want to take a job serving trump: Having him on your resume seems to be a career killer because nobody wants to work with someone potentially untrustworthy (or facing jail time). To anyone looking past the upcoming 2020 campaign, who wants to cope with the potential chaos of that along with the reality that by 2021 you'll never get calls from law firms, think tanks or Far Right colleges again?

And if Mueller does indeed survive any wrathful attempt by trump to shut his Russia investigation down, a lot of evidence points to trump's closest allies - his own family especially junior and Jared - getting indicted on illegal interactions with a foreign power getting aid for the 2016 campaign. There may be a standing rule (but NOT a law, there is a likelihood the Justice Department might break precedent because Congress is too cowardly to act) that sitting Presidents aren't (not can't) indicted, but there's nothing in the rulebook that extends that courtesy to family and employees.

Mueller may have trump dead to rights on Obstruction, but may not touch him on it because of the "rule". However it will sit there until he's out, and the second that happens he'll get dragged away in handcuffs. Nobody will want to work for a Boss facing that fate even if it's two years away. And in the meantime trump will have NO ONE he can fully trust - not his kids, not his lawyers, not his corrupt business partners - anywhere near him. That lack of comfort will drive any man insane: what will it do for one already showing signs of dementia...?

This is the thing I believe is hurting trump and will continue to hurt him, even if he tries anything stupid like going Full Dictator. his justified reputation as a Bad Boss is going to scare away "the best people" meaning he is going to continue being a mess of a leader failing to get anything positive accomplished. The only ones he'll get to work for him are the grifters - not even the true believers, because they'll get disillusioned real quick - who know they can use their time in trump's White House to serve their own greed. Those are not the type of people who can be relied on to do good work. Those are the type of people who'll break more laws and make things worse.

Even if the Democrats take part or all of Congress, these problems will not go away. Not until 2020 at the least. And two more years of this nightmare is not worth enduring when families and lives are at stake.

This is all on the Republicans failing as a party to recognize the threat a corrupt trump would be, and on a Far Right news machine that lives for the drama but has no way of coping with the reality of the damage happening now and to come.

This train wreck is happening, will keep happening, until the entire momentum of trumpism comes to a halt.

That's usually when everything crashes into the jagged rocks below the cliffs we just derailed.

Gods help us.