Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When A Sociopath Calls

As the nation's government collapses into chaos and despair, a brief pause to document how fucked up the whole thing has gotten (David A. Graham at The Atlantic):

Thirteen days after Sergeant La David Johnson was killed in Niger, and a day after Donald Trump boasted about his actions to console grieving families in contrast to his predecessors, the president called Johnson’s family Tuesday night.
It didn’t go well.
Representative Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, was with widow Myeshia Johnson when Trump called. “She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part,” Wilson told MSNBC.
“He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’—something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway.’ You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

I wrote this about the Republicans back in 2014:

The Republican voters - some of whom are genuinely nice in the real world, and hug puppies and feed unicorns whenever possible - have a problem: the Republican Party they're stuck with has the habit of talking and acting like assholes.  There's no other way to describe this behavior...
...How can the American electorate respect or even like a Republican Party that shows no respect to others?  How can there be any empathy or compassion for a political party that isn't even doing a good enough job faking compassion, or any emotions other than spite and hate?

trump's phone call to Johnson's widow echoes back to this problem: That the Republican leadership and the party as a whole simply lacks any empathy or emotional awareness at all...

In trump's case, it is as textbook a case of sociopathy you'll ever see in public. He obsesses over ensuring loyalty, attacks others for political points without even acknowledging his hypocrisy, and shows no respect for anyone he deems beneath him. As Graham noted:

It is not just that Trump claimed, falsely, that his predecessors had insufficiently consoled grieving families of service-members. He also spent most of the last month wrapping himself in the flag while waging a fight with NFL players and other athletes who have kneeled or undertaken other protests during the National Anthem. The athletes say these protests are a way of bringing attention to police violence and racism. But Trump has insisted that the kneeling “has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem.” The president has used his powerful Twitter account to pass along the idea that players who kneel are slighting the American military.
Even as he insists that NFL players are disrespecting the military, Trump did not make any public comment about the deaths in Niger until he was asked about it at a public press conference. Only after this prodding, and his bragging that he called every family he could, did Trump make a call to La David Johnson’s family. And when he did, he botched the call badly enough that he left Johnson’s widow in tears and his mother feeling disrespected. The president cannot be both the foremost patriot and the utmost consoler while at the same time dragging his feet on calls and angering military families.

trump fails at every requirement that the office of the Presidency expects from a leader.

A President needs to be wise, politically savvy, aware of current matters, informed on his administration's actions. We look to a President to be - and I'm going to gender-specific archetypes for this - a Father, or a Brother, or a Son, a Priest, an Educator, a Leader of the Community: in short, a Hero. Someone with charisma and style, a modicum of success, a knowing wink, a glad hand to shake, a dinner table of lively chatter with him as the provider of bon mots and sage advice.

trump is none of these things. His own resume speaks against being a genuine success: relying on the mercy of his father for his business starts, and the mercy of bankruptcy courts to rescue him from failed casinos and condos, and relying on a popular media that can't look away from his excesses and allowed him to revel in that. trump is no priest or teacher, and what he is as a Father or Brother has been clearly lacking in how screwed up his personal life is.

Whatever trump presents of himself as a leader is based on fantasy and lies. His place in the community comes from putting his name in big letters on every ad space he can get. His role in the community is never about serving others, only himself. Even when he shows up at charity events - that he gave no money to - it's all about putting himself at the center of attention, preening for the cameras before stealing off (either figuratively or literally with the charity's money pot).

There is nothing about him that makes trump truly Presidential. he cannot connect on an emotional level to anyone who's not a preening bully like himself.

Expecting trump to make phone calls to grieving families is like expecting Jack the Ripper to send Thank You cards to the British Suffragette movement.

It's just not going to end well. At all.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trailer Alert: We're running out of Jedi it seems

So, I'm trying to survive long enough to see Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I'm trying to figure out if the Porgs will be better than Ewoks:

This is what happens when a Porg reaches the Monolith:

And to be honest, I haven't even opened the Millennium Falcon Lego Set I obsessed over back when The Force Awakens came out. Well... I don't have any decent place to put it together right now...

It's Not Going To End Well

There are more and more stories about the trump regime that signals an administration in crisis. With that, I have been seeing more and more stories about how trump's tenure as President Loser of the Popular Vote will end.

None of the options are particularly nice or safe, but let's consider:

The obvious way trump's tenure ends is through the Mueller Special Counsel investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 Elections. Consider how a lot of legal experts and political think tanks - such as the Brookings people - note the likelihood trump Obstructed that ongoing FBI investigation. Just on that alone, trump could be facing criminal charges (and in a sane world, an angry Congress removing him via impeachment).

Thing is, Mueller is finding more and more how trump's campaign - including trump's own sons and son-in-law - interacted with Russian agents, Russian businessmen with ties to Putin, and how Putin gave orders to interfere with the election. The odds are good - not a 100 percent lock, but it's high - that enough people in trump's inner circle are facing criminal charges over this: Which increases the odds that just one of them will flip, breaking trump's entire con game, meaning other nasty secrets come out that would end with trump in handcuffs or impeached.

The impeachment process requires one thing, however: A Republican-controlled Congress willing to put their collective ass on the line to impeach someone from their own party. No matter how or what the GOP leadership tells themselves, trump is insanely popular with the Republican base. Attack him right now and a majority of sitting incumbents will find themselves kicked out during the 2018 midterm primaries.

There remains a chance that trump's base support with wither in the face of actual criminal findings: but considering how every single scandal that would have destroyed other campaigns never hurt trump, this isn't a given. So expecting the Republican leadership to grow a spine when Mueller presents his finding is a fool's hope.

The other likely end is with trump's handlers finally having enough with the chaos and stupidity. The ongoing reports of behind-the-scenes freakouts by trump and the stressful responses by his Chief of Staff and key Cabinet Secretaries are fueling suggestions in the media about the 25th Amendment.

I've mused about this before... and it's taken this long for the mainstream media to get to where I was back in January. Sigh. Anyhoo. We're at a point where the provision in the 25th - Section 4, about the President being "incapacitated" or unable to perform his duties - is applicable (via that Vanity Fair article):

...The conversation among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There’s a new level of concern. NBC News published a report that Trump shocked his national security team when he called for a nearly tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal during a briefing this summer. One Trump adviser confirmed to me it was after this meeting disbanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”

...One former official even speculated that (Chief of Staff) Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said...

Granted, there isn't anything specific in the amendment that spells out the definition of "unable to discharge his duties", but the lack of focus from the Oval Office has to fit. The reports of how Kelly is trying to isolate trump from trump's more reckless advisors and wingnut news sources... The fact that former generals like Kelly and Mattis have to consider cutting trump's access to the Nuclear Football (that they might, Gods help us, have to physically restrain him)... the evidence of trump's own behavior and decision-making that fall into legitimate concerns about dementia or psychosis.

Let's put it this way: trump's handlers treat him like a 5-year-old. Considering the Constitutional requirement to serve as President is that you be 35 years or older, trump is emotionally and intellectually unqualified to serve.

This move - using an amendment to force a sitting President Loser of the Popular Vote out of that office - also requires courage from a Republican Party lacking in said courage. While some in the Cabinet - Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson - are clearly exasperated and likely at the point of "fuck it," the other Secretaries - needed to sign off on the office notice - would have to go all in on the move. Enough of them either do not feel the pressure (yet) to care, or even profit from trump's chaos. We're not at a point (yet) where the Cabinet would be forced to act. It would have to be trump ordering a first strike - either at Korea or Iran or Guam or Puerto Rico - to get them to act.

The attempt would also require backing from Congress - as they have to accept the notice of removal per the amendment - and there are no signs that Speaker Ryan or Majority Leader McConnell are keen to support trump's removal (even if they are exasperated with trump's failings as well).

I doubt the military or intel agencies would raise a fuss if trump were removed. If you consider Mattis and Kelly are ex-generals trying to maintain control, there's probably a lot of sympathy among the ranks who share those backgrounds and would accept it as long as it was a legal transfer to civilian control with Pence taking over. I'd wager the NSA, CIA and FBI ranks for the most part would love to see this walking security risk in trump lose all access to stuff they don't want going to Putin.

The risks of this move will come from outside the military/executive Establishment. trump supporters - especially the Far Right media - would view the use of the 25th Amendment as a political coup. These factions would likely take their anger - already at a boiling point - out on Congressional Republicans (again, a reason why Ryan and McConnell won't back it).

There's also the likelihood the trump base could explode into violence: some of the more outrageous outliers in the wingnut media are talking about rising up if trump were removed from office. This has to be taken seriously when you consider trump's supporters include the KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other fringe groups known for violence.

We'd be talking about something akin to the 1960s. It won't get as bad as the American Civil War - probably the closest we're at right now in terms of a divided nation - if only because a majority of Americans are not that violent. The wingnuts hoping for an actual war are going to get disappointed when they get only ten or twenty people to show up for their revolution - I kid, the actual number might be 20,000 - and they're facing about 500,000 National Guard troops and 400,000 US Army troops and 300,000 Air Force personnel (and if they're really stupid about getting on boats, they'll face at least 10 Navy aircraft carrier fleets and 180,000 Marines). There might be a civil war but the heavy part of it might be over inside of, oh, a week.

While those numbers might be a mis-match, the caveat is this: All it will take is one wingnut with enough military firepower to take out a school or shopping mall or public gathering to make it bloody for enough Americans to suffer for their rage.

The only other scenario of trump's removal is being voted out in 2020. This is highly likely because 1) even trump supporters can't keep him above 30 percent approval until then, 2) trump's habit of alienating everybody will break the Republican Party well enough that a third party WILL RISE up to pull away enough votes to let Democrats win (in 2018 no less), 3)

The only problem with THAT scenario is, obviously, that's still three years down the road. Can the United States survive three more years of this chaos, this illegality, this bullying and discord by trump's own command?

Either way, we're not going to like the end results.

Friday, October 13, 2017

When You Consider All These Things

When you consider all the acts donald trump did this week:

It seems he's really pissed about getting called a fucking moron.

And he's taking it out on everybody else.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Please Don't Let Him Back Onto The Mainland

What the everloving hell (via The Atlantic):

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here and what is your death count? Sixteen people, versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.”

It gets worse:

During his briefing, he made an apparent attempt at a joke about the cost of recovery. “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. 

“That’s fine. We saved a lot of lives.” Yet the remark comes in the context of Trump repeatedly mentioning Puerto Rico’s debts as both a reason for the slow recovery and a reason to think hard about reconstruction there. Nor did he make similar remarks after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

Okay, this is the part where I lose it.

62 million of you voted for this disaster. Happy?

Monday, October 02, 2017

Blood On the Streets of Las Vegas

Here's a simple thing for the mainstream media to do:

Every mass shooting committed by angry white guys should be labeled terrorism.

Because that's what it is. Evoking fear in the victims and survivors.

And the media should pointedly do it for every angry White guy, to underscore that it's not Muslims, not Blacks, not Asians, not Latinos that's the threat here.

It's Angry Guys. Nearly every mass shooter is male, coping with emotional issues of some kind that expresses as rage towards women or towards a society that's supposed to applaud their masculinity but ignores them.

How many domestic violence episodes ends with the angry ex-boyfriend or ex-husband with a family massacre? Too many to count. How many office shootings with a disgruntled male employee pissed off that cute secretary won't return his calls?

How many schools shot up by guys who can't socialize well? How many nightclubs by guys who can't handle gender roles or identity?

The NRA keeps saying "oh no, we have a RIGHT to bear firearms" but at the expense of allowing so many Angry Guys easy access to them?

It'd be nice to think we could do something about the Angry Guys. But let's be honest, 5000 plus years of religion and morality haven't cut it. Anger is a primal emotion, hard to control.

We have to do something about the easy access to firearms. Do we really need that kind of firepower the gunman in Las Vegas just unleashed to uphold an antiquated Second Amendment? That terrorist fired for 4 minutes, killed 50 (so far) and wounded 200 people who were no threat to anybody. That's not self-defense. That's not performing the duty of a well-regulated militia. That's murder and terror.

And it's not going to stop until the NRA stops being paranoid fearmongers trying to convince more people to buy more guns and ammo. It's a hell of a racket, considering the kickbacks they get thanks to owning most of not all of the gun manufacturers.

How many more Angry Guys with Guns will it take before Reason reclaims control of governance?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Crisis

To say that the relief efforts for Puerto Rico after getting slammed by Category 5 hurricane Maria are going far too slow is an understatement.

Relief efforts that should have taken a day to begin took instead almost an entire week. Shipping supplies to the island was hampered by trump's refusal to exempt the Jones Act - necessary to allow cargo ships to deliver the bulk of needed goods - during the earliest days of this crisis. While there are military and FEMA response teams in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, they are too meager a presence compared to the scale of rescue and recovery required.

Compared to relief efforts for Houston (Harvey) and Florida (Irma), the response of the trump administration to Puerto Rico seems intentional negligence.

So, responding to all the harsh criticisms rising up as the national news outlets began covering Puerto Rico's recovery efforts, trump went and tweeted...

Basically accusing the Puerto Ricans of being lazy nobodies unwilling to save their own communities. Accusing Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of partisanship, and accusing the "fake news" of established networks CNN and NBC of "disparaging the first responders" when those news channels are actually disparaging him.

And he's tweeting all this while going on yet another golfing weekend to one of his clubs. He's not on the ground, finding out first-hand how packed the hospitals and shelters are, how much damage needs to get picked up before any rebuilding can happen.

I lived through Irma as it smashed through Florida. I work in Bartow, and even with all of the emergency electrical crews and tree cutters helping out, this small town still has debris to pick up and parts of the surrounding county without power. And this is two weeks after that storm passed through. Try multiplying the damage and recovery of a small town with 20,000 to a large island with 3.5 million people, and then add onto that how Maria was more powerful than Irma.

There has long been this dread, ever since November 9th, of how a trump-led White House would respond to genuine crises. Up until now, most of the disasters of this trump Era have been self-inflicted. But now we're here: an honest to God national crisis of watching our territorial members Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands suffer through the aftermaths of a powerful hurricane season (which isn't over yet), and "trump goes golfing" replaces the "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" meme in the national consciousness.

The reports coming out now aren't good. There may be 16 confirmed deaths, but it is still far too early to know the final death toll because of the lack of power, food, clean water, and air conditioning. Hurricane Maria hit the entire island, and Puerto Rico has 3.5 million residents to account for.

Right now, this dog has done more for Puerto Rico than trump has.

It is clear trump does not care what is happening in Puerto Rico.

62 million of you voted for that.

God help us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Aid to Puerto Rico

If trump is too busy to tweet about Puerto Rico's financial woes before the hurricanes hit, the rest of us might actually try to do something about HELPING OUR FELLOW AMERICANS (yes, Puerto Ricans are citizens ever since 1917):

Charity Navigator

Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas

All Hands Volunteers

ShelterBox USA

Unitarian Disaster Relief

United for Puerto Rico

National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disasters (supplies)

Do take the time to make sure the charities you're donating to are legitimate and have a history of helping out.