Monday, January 22, 2018

My Thoughts On the Democrats Dealing Away the trump Shutdown

Shouldn't say I was surprised by this, but yeah the Democrats in the Senate decided to make a deal to end the current shutdown (via Washington Post):

Congress voted late Monday to reopen the government after a three-day shutdown, sending President Trump a short-term spending bill that passed after Senate Republican leaders pledged to act on immigration policy next month.
The House joined the Senate in passing the bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and roll back several health-care taxes. It passed 81-18 in the Senate and 266-150 in the House.
“I’m glad we can finally get back to work here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the vote. He called the shutdown a “manufactured crisis” characterized by “damaging partisan theatrics.”

LOOK IN THE MIRROR WHEN YOU SAY THAT MITCH, 'CAUSE THE PARTISANSHIP STARTS WITH YOU.

In the meantime, my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of Dem voters decrying the fact that their own party's leadership seemed to fold like origami paper.

We are going to have to recognize some sad truths:


  • As much as the Far Left wants it, the main leadership of the Democratic Party genuinely believes in actual governance. They don't play the Republicans' extremist game of Chicken to see every car get smashed to hell going over cliffs. The Congressional Republicans had forced a shutdown, threatening the basic functions of government, and the Congressional Democrats knew that meant minor and major offices weren't going to be doing the Public any good. So yeah, Dems will tend to blink first in these Shutdown showdowns.
  • The Dem leadership did get at least one thing good out of this: CHIP should get funded now for six years, which takes one hostage out of the equation.
  • The remaining hostage in all this - DREAMers, relying on a DACA bill - may be facing hell over the next few weeks, but there's supposed to be a deal on the table where McConnell agreed to bring a DACA bill to a vote before this Continuing Resolution ends some time in March. This still puts the onus on Republicans, who are divided on the immigration issue to where ANY serious attempt to fix things will collapse on A) trump's wall obsession and B) the wingnut base's hatred of immigrants nullifying any proposal.


It hurts, in truth, to see the Democrats fold this quickly on a fight that they had every reason to play out longer than this. For all the rationales for keeping government working, they are doing this by sacrificing the current well-being of 800,000 or so Americans whose only crime was being brought here as kids by their illegal alien parents. They are seeing this - rightly - as a betrayal, with no guarantee that they are going to get to stay in the country they grew up loving and serving.

And this all still depends on McConnell, a man whose personal honor died years ago when he decided to condemn the nation to his partisan bullshit. As that Esquire article I linked to asked, Can you trust Mitch McConnell? His years of obstruction and manipulation make him one of the most evil men on the planet, and his track record of breaking deals and ignoring rules make me think of the only argument why you should NEVER deal with the devil.

Because a Deal with the Devil is no deal at all.

McConnell is bound to cheat, bound to stall, bound to lie, and do everything in his power to put the blame on Democrats again, who've shown a terrible willingness to shoulder such burdens at the expense of disillusioning their own voter base.

Despite all this, I have to argue that Democratic voters need to step up this midterms. Don't get bummed by this. Look at the bigger picture. Look at the son of a bitch sitting in the White House right now.

NOTHING is holding trump accountable to the law, certainly not the Congressional Republicans who are supposed to do their job maintaining Checks and Balances. On this one point alone, you NEED to show up and vote for EVERY DEMOCRAT on the ballot. With Democrats in charge of Congress after this midterms, you can be assured that they will hold trump and his cronies responsible for the laws they are breaking right now.

On that alone, Democrats, GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT. Don't hide, don't despair. Keep fighting.

Otherwise, McConnell keeps winning, and the Republicans keep destroying everything we love.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

What Matters Anymore?

Saturday Night Live finally nailed it on the head:


As the sketch with guest host Jessica Chastain reveals, the last two weeks - of trump dumping on non-Eurowhite nations as "shitholes", of trump getting caught paying off a porn star he had an affair with less than a year after his third wife Melania gave birth to their son, of trump destabilizing government to where nobody in Congress could avoid the #trumpShutdown of 2018 - would otherwise have devastated any other Presidency, shamed the political party of that President into action to rein in such abuses and scandal, or driven most of the nation into rioting in the streets.

But nope. Nada. As Chastain rightly points out, the crazier and reckless trump behaves and the worse he does at the job as Commander-in-Chief, the more his rabid voting base will approve of him.

And the rest of us are stuck because the Rule of Law is relying on the other half of government - the Legislative branch - to do something about it. But the Republicans control the Legislative branch and they are not going to do anything that threatens their chances of getting re-elected by that rabid pro-trump base they rely on as well.

We've entered into the realm of political nihilism, where nothing matters because the ones in power don't fucking care what ethics or rules really mean. The ghosts of 19th Century Anarchists must be roiling in their graves in sheer envy.

And when Chastain raised that bottle of wine to drink it straight, I sympathized. I know that sentiment. Alas, I am unable to drink hard cider as I had hoped. I am stone cold sober. I am so depressed.

We are so royally fucked.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

So the Republicans Get Their Shutdown 2018 Edition

It's after midnight. Do YOU know where your United States federal government is?

Oh, right.

It's on shutdown.

Republicans in the Senate couldn't agree on the House bill sent their way, and with the fate of DREAMer immigrants and CHIP childcare health funding being held hostage, there was no way Democrats would come to their rescue on any kind of funding or Continuing Resolution.

Meanwhile, that keen Negotiator world-renown for his art of the deal donald trump went to bed blaming Democrats for the fact that *he* blew up a proposed bipartisan deal on immigration a few days ago when he insulted Haiti and all of Africa.

This is an historic first. This *is* the first time a political party (Republicans) held control of both branches of Congress AND the Presidency and FAILED TO PASS ANY KIND OF A BUDGET TO KEEP THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OPERATING.

This takes a certain level of incompetency AND malice. Some things the modern Republican Party are best at anymore. They're certainly not any good at ACTUAL GOVERNANCE.

This is not going to end well.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In Sadder News, I Did Not Receive Even a Nomination in the Fake News Awards

It turns out that trump and his people did not look to bloggers for their "fake news" documenting trump's many lies, failures, and stumbles.

Which is a damn shame. I'm sure I would have received a nomination for "Most Gratuitous Use of the Word Shitgibbon In a Long-Form Blog Entry".

Just think of all the coverage and attention that nomination would have garnered me. I would have at least gotten three or four more people buying my underwhelming Surviving the Age of Obstruction book off of Amazon or BN.com.

I'm just gonna have to go over to the corner here and cry my out, hoping beyond hope that more people talk their libraries at least into buying my books.

Insert tears here. (Wailing and gnashing of teeth)

I Gots Me More Government Shutdown Blues 2018 Edition

How can you tell there's a federal government shutdown pending?

The Republicans are already trying to blame Democrats for not surrendering to them over it.

It's not as though Republicans control both houses of Congress, which should simplify the GOP's ability to get shit done.

It's not as though Democrats have any influence over the Far Right factions of Congress that are refusing to give their own party some wriggle room with Continuing Resolutions. THAT'S entirely Paul Ryan's fault for not getting his own to agree to vote on another CR to extend their budgeting deadlines a little further down the road.

The budget fight this time is over DREAMers - a way to grant citizenship to those who were brought here as children by illegal immigrants, who grew up as Americans and many of whom are honest hard-working citizens in heart if not by law - and over trump's insistence for massive taxpayer funding for his Godawful Wall (guess what, trumpshirts: Mexico's not ever paying for your shit, YOU ARE).

Democrats are not going to budge on getting DREAMers their citizenship. Whatever compromises the Dems are willing to make to keep government open they're thinking long-term on the matter, and even then it's gonna be a hard sell to the whole party.

This means this is all on the Republicans: A Party that hasn't held itself accountable since Watergate. And yet blaming Democrats for their own failures to govern is all the Republicans can do at this point.

There are a lot of reasons why we've been suffering through one of the Worst Congresses Ever in American history. The failure of genuine bipartisanship out of the McConnell/Boehner/Ryan leadership - if not outright obstruction of Obama's Presidency - since 2010. The failure to rein in the worst racist impulses of their current banner-carrier trump. The failure to recognize their party are governing in the minority, ignoring the polls that show the GOP tax-cut, budget-slashing agendas are woefully unpopular with most Americans.

It all comes down to this: Republicans simply can't govern. Oh, they can win elections, but winning elections doesn't mean you can make hard decisions that elected officials are expected to make. Elections are won based on emotional drives, on bias and impulse: Republicans can sell themselves to their base on fear and anger, but those impulses are useless when it comes time to make Honest-to-God decisions that actually benefits people.

So this is why we're facing the third - or fourth? I lost track - Government Shutdown in modern memory since the 1990s. A trend of Government Shutdowns that happen ONLY when Republicans are in control of Congress, and this is the first time it's happening when they also control the White House (to get past the presidential veto power).

This is how bad it's gotten for us, America. Even when they're in charge of EVERYTHING, the Republicans screw up.

And we're the ones who have to pay for it.

Again.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, AMERICA, STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Some Thoughts On Martin Luther King Jr. 2018 Edition

(Update: Thank you Batocchio for the link to Mike's Blog Round-Up on Crooksandliars.com!)

"...The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes.  ...Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that..." - from Where Do We Go From Here speech (1967)

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" - a saying attributed to Reverend King, based on sayings from a speech by Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. King says it in one line where Parker took a whole paragraph, and King says it better. (this is kinda like how Jimi Hendrix's take on "All Along the Watchtower" is waaaaay better than Bob Dylan's original)

Never forget King spent his last years fighting against poverty and income inequality, seeing that as a universal problem for everyone's civil rights:

We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty...
The problem indicates that our emphasis must be two-fold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available...

MLK essentially argued for guaranteed basic incomes before it came into vogue a few years ago.

Also, this:

I know this kinda goes against Rev. King's admonitions against violence,
but never let a white guy in a bowtie speak for what King stood for.
Also, I really think if Reverend King were alive today (ducks to avoid Huey's thrown chair) he'd be under arrest for beating the everloving hell out of trump.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

That trump Is Racist Should Not Surprise Us Anymore. IT SHOULD ANGER US NOW.

Jesus.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Thursday questioned why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to some as “shithole countries,” according to two sources familiar with the comments...

To the 62 million who voted for trump. You knew.

...The lawmakers were describing how certain immigration programs operate, including one to give safe haven in the United States to people from countries suffering from natural disasters or civil strife.
One of the sources who was briefed on the conversation said that Trump said, “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries ... We should have more people from Norway.”
The second source familiar with the conversation, said Trump also questioned the need for Haitians in the United States...

As a side note, most Norwegians are Socialists, far Left of any home-grown librul you find here. And I'm pretty sure Norwegians are going to be appalled that trump is abusing their culture like this. But I digress.

Many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers slammed Trump for his remarks.
Republican U.S. Representative Mia Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values” and called on Trump to apologize to the American people and to the countries he denigrated...

That's the thing about racism when it becomes personal for you, isn't it, Republicans? Otherwise you're fine with it.

BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT trump HAS BEEN SINCE DAY ONE OF HIS CAMPAIGN.

How many other times have I pointed out on this blog how racist trump behaves on the national stage? How often does trump come to the defense of Neo-Nazis and known bigots? How many times does he get caught disparaging entire nations because of their skin color or religion or culture?

To quote Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice:

And now this:  Trump, uttering out loud the hate soundtrack that loops constantly through his lizard brain.  This time, he was so obvious as to make it clear even to the meanest comprehension (not implying anything about CNN).  There’s no hidden meaning, no subtext in his words.  This ain’t eleven dimensional chess or brilliant electoral strategery.  January 11, 2018 ain’t the day that Donald Trump became President.
It’s the one on which he reminded us exactly what kind of president he is, what kind of leader the GOP accepts, welcomes, follows.
And thus the test: every single GOP member of Congress, every cabinet official, every White House staffer who fails to condemn this statement, owns it — along with all the sentiments and intentions behind it. They become the bigots, aiders and abettors of the worst impulses in the public sphere. They are to be named and shamed; small children should grimace to see them and each of us will spit on the sidewalks as they pass...

62 Million fellow Americans had no problem with trump's racism when they voted for him. YOU OWN THIS, Republicans. YOU trump VOTERS OWN THIS FOREVER.

Some things remain unforgivable. Supporting racism is one of them.

Damn you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Killing the Gerrymander: 2018 With the Best News Yet

Again, not a huge fan of the gerrymander.

Which is why the latest news out of North Carolina heartens me. Per David A Graham at The Atlantic:

Federal judges have yet again struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as an unconstitutional gerrymander, dealing Republicans a blow and throwing the state’s maps into chaos just months before a pivotal midterm election.
A three-judge panel, including one circuit-court judge and two district-court judges, ruled Tuesday evening that the Old North State’s redistricting plan relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution. The decision is the first time a federal court has ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander...

As Graham notes, there are two other gerrymander cases on similar arguments in other courts, so we'll likely have to wait for this to get to the Supreme Court (where it could well die for partisan reasons /headdesk).

But this ruling is a huge fcking deal because unlike previous gerrymandering rulings - which focused on minority representation - this focused on Party representation: Between the difference of Republican, Democrat, and Independent/smaller Third parties. As Graham noted, earlier gerrymandering efforts based on race was shot down by the courts, so the Republican-controlled North Carolina state legislature "proudly used partisanship as their primary criterion in drawing new maps." They intentionally drew state and congressional districts to serve Republican needs:

“I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander, which is not against the law,” said Representative David Lewis, the chair of the state House redistricting committee. He also said, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” And he suggested the committee draw maps that would produce 10 Republican and three Democratic U.S. House districts, on the basis that he didn’t think it would be possible to come up with an 11-2 map...

The court came back and told Lewis and the other Republicans that guess what IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW:

Common Cause and the League of Women Voters both challenged the law, and their two suits were consolidated into one. The plaintiffs argued that the plan violated the Equal Protection Clause, because it discriminated against non-Republican voters; the First Amendment, because it discriminated against voters based on previous political expression; and Article I, because it interfered with the right of the people to elect their representatives...
“A partisan gerrymander that is intended to and likely has the effect of entrenching a political party in power undermines the ability of voters to effect change when they see legislative action as infringing on their rights,” Judge James Wynn, an Obama appointee, wrote for the court. “We agree with Plaintiffs that a wealth of evidence proves the General Assembly’s intent to ‘subordinate’ the interests of non-Republican voters and ‘entrench’ Republican domination of the state’s congressional delegation...”
Wynn was joined in full by Judge William Britt, a Carter appointee, and in part by Judge William Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee who accepted the Equal Protection and Article I arguments but rejected the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim...

This last bit is important. The judges did not split on two of the three arguments, meaning those arguments can work at the higher appellate (and Supreme Court) levels. The First Amendment argument is open to interpretation, but the Equal Protection and Article I arguments are etched deep into the legal underpinnings of voters' rights.

This partisan gerrymandering on the part of Republicans - in fairness, Democrats have been doing this in states like Illinois as well - is one of the big reasons why we're struggling against a federal government where the Party in power does not actually represent the majority of voters. Most Americans vote Democratic: However, the nature of geography and demographics (which is affected by gerrymandering) gave Republicans more seats in Congress.

If we can get rid of gerrymandering - if we can as a nation make it so that the House AND the Senate reflect the actual voter turnout and the issues they want resolved - we should get a Legislative branch of the federal government that genuinely reflects - and serves - the nation's interests. Only the geographic limitations - on the Senate, where small states are disproportionately represented - would be a problem from that point.

We'd still have elected officials who actually earned their electoral wins, not based on "safe" districts carved out to decimate the opposing party(ies).

Here's hoping.