Thursday, August 17, 2017

It Should Be THIS Simple, America

Every American has a moral choice. One or the other, can't be both.

That moral choice is this. To be a Nazi, or to Punch Nazis.







Okay, I don't condone SHOOTING Hitler, but hey if he comes back as a demon or something,
you might have to.

The moral choice is clear, my fellow Americans.

You should not stand with Nazis, you should not agree with Nazis, you should not march with Nazis.

Punch a Nazi. It's what Americans have been doing since 1941 (ehhhh, maybe 1933 but not officially).


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Normally On This Day I Would Be Posting an Anniversary Note About Woodstock

But given the insane bullshit that is the trump Era, I am finding it hard to say anything good about a moment in American History where people did their best in a chaotic situation to pull off one of the most memorable rock festivals of all time.

This is what you wrought, Republicans. A madman in the White House and Nazis fist-bumping each other because they've got a guy in trump who'll let them run wild in our streets.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blood on the Streets of Charlottesville

So. Charlottesville.

Read through this link to Balloon Juice.

Watch this:



We were supposed to get better at this.

We were supposed to answer to the better angels of our nature.

We were supposed to fight Nazis, and the Klan, and hate.

Instead they flourish in a right-wing stew of fear-mongering and anger.

Instead the worst of us sit in the White House, in Congress, at high seats of power, using that fear and anger to propagate their own and deny everyone else our citizenry and humanity.

These Nazis, Klansmen and White Supremacists marching through Charlottesville this past weekend were ostensibly there to protest the removal of Confederate statues and memorials, claiming right of "heritage". But they were really there to incite mobs to acts of violence. And they got what they wanted.




Look at their turnout. Mostly male, entirely white, carrying guns and wearing body armor, spoiling for a fight.

And now people are dead. The ones who came out in greater numbers to stand against the Nazis and haters were attacked, beaten, and killed.

Heather Heyer died when one of the White Supremacists drove his car - he sped up for impact - into the street march rallying against his side. Remember Heather's name. Consign that murdering driver to the forgotten hellhole he deserves.


This isn't hard, Republicans. This isn't a case of "Both Sides". One side is violent, angry, ill-informed, and dangerous, beholden to failed ideologies of slavery and genocide like the Confederacy and Nazi Germany. The other side are Americans of all colors and faiths working to build America and keep it strong.

We need to turn back to our better angels. We need to cut off the oxygen to the Far Right racist radicals seeking to tear America down.

We need our United States of America back.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Goodbye Guam, It Was Nice Knowing Ya

Just to update:

North Korea will develop a plan by mid-August to launch four intermediate range missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam before presenting it to leader Kim Jong Un who will make a decision on whether to proceed, the North's state media said on Thursday.

So, a few things to note about Guam before everything goes to hell:

  • It's been a US Territory since the Spanish-American War.
  • Its value as a naval station and stopping point to the Philippines made it an invaluable island to U.S. interests in the Pacific up to the beginning of World War II.
  • Japan invaded during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and held Guam until 1944. The islanders - Chamorros - had a rough occupation, but remained loyal to the United States until its liberation.
  • The native population argued successfully for self-determination by the 1950s, getting their own civilian government and by 1952 received American citizenship rights as an unincorporated territory. They gained the right to elect their own Governor by 1968. In modern times there's been efforts at either full Statehood (like Hawaii) or remaining a territory, with most residents preferring the status quo.
  • Guam hosts two major US military bases - one Naval, one Air Force - which deploy air surveillance and saber-rattling bomber flights over North Korea. Which is why North Korea wants to launch four missiles at Guam.
  • North Korea currently doesn't have nuclear capability with their missiles, so it's likely going to be conventional warheads that can blow up city blocks or airfields depending on how bad their aim is. Still, it's not going to be happy fun times if/when that happens.
  • The local Chamorros population may be currently putting up a brave front, but they're not going to be thrilled if those missiles start raining down on their coconut farms. They've got enough problems with the Brown Tree Snake and Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle already.
  • Guam was one of those places Americans should visit as part of understanding the vast stretch of our national heritage and culture. And also helping out get rid of the Brown Tree Snakes. Call it a working vacation, people, just as long as you get there before the bombs fall.


Goodbye, Guam. We love ya.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Another Quick Musing About How This Is All Effed Up

Even on vacation to his third-rate golf clubs, trump has the ability to fuck up immigration and world peace.

Just a Few Words on the Impending Nuclear War With North Korea, Thank You Republicans...

(Update: So of course all morning I've been in committee meeting, and I find out that Batocchio listed me on Crooks & Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up for today! I had no time to bake anybody any cake. I feel awkward, man...
I kid. Thank ye, Batocchio, and to everyone visiting please check out the blog!)

So it's gotten out that North Korea has designed a nuclear warhead that can fit onto missiles. With the United Nations issuing tougher sanctions to let North Korea know the world isn't happy with them, North Korea issued a threat to send "packs of wolves" to defend itself.

Via David A. Graham at The Atlantic:

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” (trump) said. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement, and as I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

This was followed up with North Korea making noises about launching strikes at the US territory - and key airbases there - of Guam.

And we're pretty much looking at a modern day Cuban Missile Crisis, but with ego-driven crazy people driving both cars over the cliffs of Armageddon.

Let's just consider what we know:


  • This is the Cold War update of Brinkmanship, which is a variation of the pre-World War Balance of Powers theory. Both sides rattle their sabers to garner concessions, making their side more reckless to make the other side more compliant. Neither side actually goes to war as long as deals are made.
  • We're at a point where deals can't be made. North Korea has too much invested into its status as a nuclear power, the United States is currently led by a person in trump who is reckless to the point of stupidity.
  • Secondary players such as China are limited in what they can do to stave off conflict. China has a use for North Korea as a loose cannon on the Asian political stage. Japan and South Korea - the nations most likely damaged by this war - are caught between a North Korea regime that has no qualms attacking them and an American regime that won't care much as long as US areas remain safe.
  • trump has been talking about a preemptive strike on North Korea just to be done with the 70-plus years of stalemate there.
  • A preemptive strike on North Korea may not succeed in taking out their missile sites and nuclear program.
  • North Korea would likely respond to that as an act of war, and retaliate with a massive artillery barrage across the DMZ into South Korea. Which means Seoul is in the crosshairs.
  • China, having arrangements with North Korea, will get drawn into the conflict in some form. Not a direct involvement against the United States or our allies there - Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Southeast Asia - but something to tie down our military focus. Something like starting a blockade around Taiwan or making a military claim for the South China Sea oil fields.
  • trump will likely escalate from there with a full invasion of North Korea. He would have to address Congress and get a vote affirming the effort, and there is a likelihood even Republicans in Congress would balk at the threat of full war. trump will likely ignore them.
  • At BEST in this scenario we end up in a Constitutional crisis where trump is removed via the 25th Amendment and let cooler heads prevail.
  • If there is a land invasion of North Korea, it won't be quick or clean. Korean terrain is notoriously bad, the regime had decades fortifying everything since 1953, and they'll have enough technical know-how to stymie American and South Korean forces early on.
  • This brings up the possibility - like it happened in the Korean War - of China sending in their troops to save their Korean allies (again). This will be another bloody mess.
  • If the US is successful enough, and if North Korea still has at least one bomb left, the North Koreans will use it. It's unlikely they can strike the mainland US, but Guam is notably in range. It's more likely North Korea will strike South Korea/Japan targets as a major Fuck You to the rest of the world.
  • If North Korea launches even one nuke, trump will use that as an excuse to nuke North Korea into a radioactive wasteland.
  • If the US launches nukes at North Korea, China may be compelled to launch an equal number of nukes at the US. And they can reach Mainland US.
  • And why would China respond like that? Because in this crazy game of Brinkmanship AKA Mutually Assured Destruction, nobody wants to be the one to pussy out. 

This is pretty much why 65 million Americans are screaming at the 62 million who voted for trump "ARE YOU FUCKING HAPPY NOW?"

I swear, in 1992 it felt like the world was gonna be safe from The End Of All Things. The Soviet Union collapsed, ending the Cold War. China wasn't interested or capable at the time of being a global threat even with their nuclear capability. Iraq was pacified. If there were wars going on, they were brushfires in Third World regions where global destruction was impossible. Even India and Pakistan - the two nations most likely to start nuclear war in the 1990s - weren't crazy enough to go there.

And yet here we are in 2017, with two knuckleheads in donald fucking trump and Kim fucking Jong fucking Un oh so eager to host a dick-measuring contest to see who can leave the most radioactive craters.

If this does all come down to a nuclear war between the US and China - because it won't stop with North Korea - I hope China has the decency to launch a few nukes right at Putin as a nice little "Thank you" note. That bastard is probably enjoying this with a bag of popcorn.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Just A Few Words on The Impending Immigration FUBAR

'Cause railing against illegals is how trump got to here, and By Golly he's gonna keep pushing that fear on his audience to keep them on his side.

But this is trump we're talking about. So the plan he's backing is obviously fucked up to begin with. Via Tom Gjelten at the Atlantic:

The bill’s proposed changes are certainly significant, but their consequences may not be easily predicted. The key lesson of the 1965 reforms is that social engineering through the adjustment of immigration policy is no simple matter—and almost any such effort will produce dramatic, unintended consequences...
The 1965 Act overturned a longstanding policy of allocating immigrant visas on the basis of national origin, whereby people from northern and western Europe were given highly preferential treatment over those from southern and eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, or Asia. Once people of all backgrounds were given a roughly equal opportunity to move to the United States, the flow of immigrants changed dramatically.
At the time the Act was passed, arriving immigrants were almost entirely white and European. Fifty years later, nine of 10 newcomers were from outside Europe, and—to the consternation of Miller and other immigration critics—their share of the American population was nearing an all-time high...
The legislation introduced by Cotton and Perdue and enthusiastically supported by the White House would aim to cut legal immigration to the United States by half, mainly by severely restricting the allocation of legal permanent residence status (green cards) on the basis of family ties...
The priority instead would be immigrants who score “points” as a result of their ability to speak English, their income prospects, and their marketable job skills. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to select immigrants “based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society” and their ability “to successfully assimilate...”

For starters, how does any of this improve our situation with illegal immigration? What is happening here goes against the LEGAL kind, which is, you know, supposed to be a good thing.

By cutting back on the number of legal arrivals, this merely shifts the burden back onto illegals getting into the country, something that had been decreasing over the past decade. People are coming to the United States because of better opportunities and relative safety, and that's not going to stop by making the rules harder.

Second, the standards trump and the other anti-immigrant Republicans want to set up are impossible to meet. Requirements such as fluency in English AND a Master's Degree in STEM (Science/Engineering) AND a paying salary that puts you in the upper income bracket would winnow out the vast majority of under-educated immigrants we already get.

But being under-educated isn't a problem for immigrants: In fact, studies show that immigration overall boosts the economic conditions - and education access - for native Americans (um, not the Native natives, sorry, but the long-standing Euro-Caucasians). So weeding down the number of immigrants would have a chilling effect.

Just try to remember one other thing: Everything trump touches turns to shit. His obsessive anti-immigrant push can easily collapse on itself... especially since Congressional Republicans know full well that most Americans support improvements to immigration not restrictions.

This is still a scary situation. We're still a nation under the whims of a fearful uneducated White Republican voter base. This is one more thing to add to the daily phone calls to Congress to stop any erosion to the American Dream.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Start Placing Your Bets on the trump Investigations...

Shit just got real (via Talking Points Memo):

Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, recently impaneled a grand jury as part of the probe, several news outlets reported on Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that the Washington, D.C. grand jury “began its work in recent weeks” and is separate from the one assisting with the probe into President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The impanelment of that jury predated Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.
Reuters confirmed, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Mueller convened a grand jury.
The empanelment of a new, separate grand jury reflects the scope of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether any members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
Reuters also reported that grand jury subpoenas were issued in connection with a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, and a Russian lawyer.
Trump Jr. attended the meeting after he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign. It was not clear whether those subpoenas were issued by the grand jury Mueller impaneled.

From what I'm gathering on the Intertubes, going to a Grand Jury means Mueller found something that requires direct testimony, hence the subpoenas.

The trump supporters and the Far Right conspiracy nuts can scream "Hillary's Emails" and "Seth Rich" all they want, but this is an actual legitimate investigation into trump's misdeeds with more and more evidence of this all going on for years.

This is no longer a hypothetical. Mueller is calling in the major players in trump's Inner Circle. Anything and everything - the decades-long bad business deals with Russian mobsters, questionable finances, the still-hidden tax returns, direct collusion with Russian agents to disrupt the 2016 elections - is going public.

It's now a question of how desperate trump will get to save his own ass. he's already publicly complaining about getting rid of Mueller's investigation despite the Congressional Republicans' admonishments that he has to leave it alone. Any attempt to pull a Saturday Night Massacre-type purge could well devastate the Justice Department (with trump firing EVERYBODY from Sessions on down until he gets someone willing to end Mueller's authority as Special Counsel).

trump is already looking at serious Obstruction of Justice charges over his firing of Comey. Shutting down Mueller will not only confirm that Obstruction, but make it clear to everyone but the hardest of supporters that trump's entire administration is a lawless sham.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

When Label Tags Rise Up Against Their Masters

In yet another round of

IS IT AUGUST YET?

I check the calendar.

(long awkward pause)

Yes.

Yes it is August.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Moochie

Anthony Scaramucci is no longer White House Communications Director.

Which is a pity because he had such a way with words. Via David A. Graham at the Atlantic:

Even in an administration that has set records for quick departures—National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer are all among the shortest-serving figures in their respective jobs—Scaramucci’s flameout was fast and phenomenal...
...Spicer was the first to go, resigning the same day Scaramucci’s was named. The fight with Priebus took longer to crest. On Wednesday, Politico obtained Scaramucci’s personal financial disclosure through a routine request, but Scaramucci blamed Priebus for “leaking it,” lodging the accusation first in a tweet and then in a CNN interview Thursday morning. Later that day, The New Yorker published an interview in which Scaramucci railed against Priebus, calling him a felon and a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic.” (He also accused Bannon of engaging in autofellatio, presumably figuratively.) By Friday afternoon, Priebus was out.
It was an impressively fast act of revenge on Priebus for trying to block him, but Scaramucci soared too fast, too high. The interview was an embarrassment, even by the lowered standards of this administration. And for Kelly, who faces the task of whipping a fractious West Wing into place, Scaramucci—who had bragged about reporting directly to the president, bypassing the chief of staff—represented too loose a cannon. And so as fast as he arrived, Scaramucci was out, having self-destructed. It’s been a rough season for Scaramucci, who sold his beloved hedge fund to work for Trump, got a top job, and then saw his marriage and job both crumble...

The bit about Bannon, of course, will become one for the ages.

It seems odd that Scaramucci would have so much impact in such a brief tenure in the White House, but given trump's management method - pure chaos - the crazy stuff unloads quick and gets kicked out the door just as quick. I've seen a few tweets about how it looks like The Mooch was brought in simply to drive Spicer and Priebus - two unloved establishment figures - out, but in truth we'll never really understand just what the hell trump ever wants done other than getting his ego polished.

And so, another comet flares out. And to the Mooch, this one's for you:


RIP Moochie.

P.S. I've had cartons of milk that lasted longer than Moochie.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Malfunction

While there's something to be said about last night - how the Senate at the last minute killed off the "Skinny Repeal" of Obamacare - something just as crazy happened today that needs mentioning.

Prince Rebus - ah, yeah I know, I can never get his name correct - Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff Whipping Boy to trump, got kicked out of his job this afternoon.

To the Atlantic's David A. Graham!

Priebus’s resignation is a turning point for the Trump presidency, but it’s too early to tell whether it will turn for the better or, somehow, the worse. Kelly will inherit a West Wing that has set a new standard for chaos, backstabbing, factionalism, and inefficacy. While every administration suffers from some rivalries, the poisonous atmosphere in Trump’s White House has exceeded all of them, bursting into full view Thursday evening with an explosive series of comments from Scaramucci to New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza.

Oh Lord. That interview with Lizza crossed a shit-ton of lines:

...The day closed with Lizza writing his own, devastating account of a deranged conversation he’d had with Scaramucci Wednesday night, after Lizza reported on a dinner Scaramucci had with Fox News personalities past and present. Politico had also published Scaramucci’s financial disclosure, obtained by a routine public-records request, but which Scaramucci was for some reason convinced had been leaked. (One fascinating lesson of Scaramucci’s appointment is how fast the debilitating paranoia of this White House can infect a new hire.)
Scaramucci demanded Lizza reveal his source, which he wouldn’t. “OK, I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks,” the spokesman said.
“I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly,” Scaramucci said, adding, “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”

Project much, Moochie?

While Scaramucci's rant suggests Priebus' removal was tied to trump's ongoing paranoia about leaks in the West Wing, it's a given among the Beltway insiders that the Chief of Staff was a wounded duck the minute he took the job. Priebus - as a Republican Party veteran - was expected to create discipline for a president who can't be disciplined. trump has no focus, and can't be told "No" by his loyal inner circle of Yes Men and family handlers.

trump's management style is chaos: he divides his handlers into factions, each of them vying for his attention and support for whichever projects they're working on. Rather than create innovation or competition, this style creates conflict and disorder as his underlings fight for limited resources or access.

Tom Kelly, who'd been serving as Secretary for Homeland Security, is switching over to take the Chief of Staff title. But nobody - including trump - really knows if he's getting the authority that is supposed to come with that title. Where other Chief of Staffs under other Presidents served as gatekeepers - managing who got to see POTUS above all - it's unlikely Kelly will be able to stop Scaramucci, Bannon, Kushner, or Putin (no, I am not joking) from going straight to trump to get a short-term and possibly insane/illegal action committed to official paper.

This is a White House that is criminally understaffed, and staffed by people who either don't know what they're doing or don't care about the damage they can do.

This is an Executive branch malfunctioning before our eyes. There are few historical parallels - maybe Grant, maybe Harding - to the self-inflicted wreckage taking place.

We are so very royally fucked.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dysfunction

In all my studies of American History, I have never found a legislative body as chaotic, dysfunctional, or fucked up as 2017's Congress.

We are talking about a Congress that keeps tripping over itself trying to pass one "simple" little thing - a massive Repeal of Obamacare, with MAYBE a Replace plan to placate the 18-32 million Americans about to get kicked off healthcare coverage - and yet wounding themselves and each other in the process.

It's gotten so bad that Republican Senators are insisting that the Republican-controlled House promise to NOT vote on the very bill ("Skinny Repeal") that the same Senators are forcing themselves to vote for (via CNN.com):

The strange drama -- Republican senators imploring their own colleagues across the Capitol to vow that they would not pass the bill they are about to pass -- unfolded as lawmakers prepared to kick off a long and exhausting open-amendment process in the Senate known as vote-a-rama.
It crystallized the remarkable dissatisfaction and deep reservations that Republican members feel just hours away from potentially voting to weaken the Affordable Care Act, something they had campaigned to do since the law's enactment more than seven years ago...
"I'm not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and politics just to get something done," GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said at a press conference...

Except that Graham is willing to vote for a bill that is terrible policy just to get something done.

It's so blatant a lie that you wonder when these Senators' parents will show up to send them to their rooms for being naughty.

It's as Matthew Yglesias notes over at Vox.com:

But if denouncing both the process by which a bill has been assembled and the substantive ideas it contains doesn’t lead you to vote against leadership on procedural matters, then what do your words even mean?
...Mitch McConnell is operating with a narrow Senate majority and basically zero margin for error ever since Susan Collins got off the BCRA bus. Objections to his approach are flying from virtually every direction of the caucus. Yet the health bill keeps shambling forward, since Republicans seem comfortable lying to the American people about essentially all aspects of the process, up to and including their own position on it.
That is the story of the health care process that has consumed the past several months in Congress: the almost unceasing parade of lies...
...The ultimate irony is that at every step along the way, the argument that appears to propel Republicans forward is the notion that they have an obligation to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
In reality, everything they have done in pursuit of repeal is breaking promises. As a candidate, donald trump promised to protect Medicaid, lower premiums and deductibles, and cover everyone. Every single version of repeal that Republicans have considered does the opposite on every front...
...McConnell and Paul Ryan then, entirely of their own volition, with no evident input from trump, proceeded to enact the most fantastically irregular legislative process anyone has ever seen. And dozens of Republican senators proceeded to repeatedly bemoan the slipshod process even while continually voting to continue the process. Now they daily — hourly, even — express intense anxiety about the pressure they are under and profound eagerness to see their way clear of this mess. But at every turn, they resist the obvious alternative — a bipartisan process aimed at a bipartisan bill that would actually stabilize exchanges and fulfill both parties’ commitment to improve Americans’ health care...

The Republicans painted themselves into this corner years ago when they went full Obstruction against Obamacare. As Frum warned, the Republicans are now in no position to make sensible health care policy because every conservative-based option is cut off to them.

The Republicans were so desperate to paint Obamacare as a failure from Day One that they resorted to lying and distortion and refusal to recognize its benefits to the majority of Americans. They screamed about Death Panels that weren't there, they complained about costs that never emerged, they laughed at a faulty website even as millions used it to get affordable health coverage.

Yet for all their lies, the Republicans now have to face reality: They cannot repeal the existing healthcare system without kicking millions of people - families, working poor, kids, elderly - off that system. And while they'll do their best to lie about who'll be responsible for all those people losing health care, the Republicans know damn well that people will blame the elected officials who voted for that repeal.

This is why Republicans are whining about the Democrats not giving them any political cover by sharing the burden of voting for these disastrous bills: The Dems are wisely avoiding any situation where they'll end up the scapegoats for this.

And yet, as we're seeing right now, the Republicans keep pushing themselves over the cliff to pass a bill nobody wants to pass. All because of that goddamn tax cut they want to get out of doing this.

There is chaos on the floor of the Senate tonight. There remains chaos across the whole of Congress as both houses play a deadly game of Hot Potato with the nation's health care.

The smartest and simplest move the Republicans can make tonight is tell the truth: They HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE to Obamacare, and that they are better off fixing the glitches in Obamacare to keep most of America in a stable and affordable health care system.

Just don't fucking vote for bad bills, Republicans. Christ. IT IS THAT SIMPLE.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Even With the Knowledge Of What They Do, The Republicans Proceed to Destroy US Healthcare

The Republican-controlled Senate voted today to discuss whichever godforsaken bill to kill Obamacare they think has the best chance of getting through the Reconciliation process.

This is just one step closer to their goddamn agenda of getting their goddamn tax cuts for the uberrich at the cost of kicking 18-32 million Americans off healthcare coverage.

They know. The Republicans have to know that what they're pursuing is unpopular with Americans. They have to know that what they're pushing for will take away affordable health care for millions within one year.

And yet, they will.

For a goddamn tax cut.

To kill something with Obama's name on it, as though they can cross his name out of the history books.

If there's any consolation, the Senate seems tied up in discussing which bad bill to pursue: the hideous BCRA, the toxic Repeal-Delay, or the horrifying House AHCA bill.

You can do what you can to make your voice heard: Call both Senators in your state. If the Senator is Democratic, thank them and ask they do everything they can to stop any repeal of Obamacare. If the Senator is Republican, be polite but firm and let them know that you oppose kicking millions of Americans off affordable healthcare.

Still need to say this. What the Hell, Republicans. What the Hell drives you all to be sadists towards your fellow citizens?

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Find Myself Humming "The Only Living Boy In New York" Right Now

I'll just get to the facts: Sean Spicer resigned as Press Secretary for trump this morning.

Spicey's gone. FLY AWAY, SPICEY, BE FREE. AND DON'T LOOK BACK.

At least we'll have Season 42 of Saturday Night Live to comfort us.


"I had a good run!" - Melissa McCarthy's final line as Spicer

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hold Tight, Wait 'Til the Party's Over

So, what exactly just happened the last 48 hours regarding the Senate's attempt to nuke Obamacare? Via the Tampa Bay Times:

President Donald Trump declared Tuesday he's going to "let Obamacare fail" after the Republicans' effort to rewrite the 2010 health care overhaul imploded in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a vote on a backup plan simply repealing the statute, but desertions by his own party seemed to ensure that would fail, too.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they opposed McConnell's Plan B. That's enough to spell defeat and could send a message to conservative Republicans that it is time to abandon efforts to tear down Obama's law.

There'd already been a bit of grumbling over how the Senate Replace bill had been mishandled, and when Senator McCain's emergency blood clot surgery forced a suspension on the vote, it gave the naysayers enough to time to make their concerns known. Apparently when McConnell tried to promise his caucus that the Medicaid funding wouldn't really go away as feared, he actually lost some of the Far Right members, killing the main plan.

So McConnell switched to a straight-up Repeal bill, bringing back one from 2015 (allowable, I guess) to vote as soon as possible. What THAT bill did was kill off all funding but kept the rules in place, which would have kicked even MORE people off health care coverage - CBO scoring had it at 32 million by 2026, with 18 million in the first year! - while forcing everyone else to pay a 100 percent increase on premiums.

Even the Moderates in the Senate - Collins especially - had to balk at that.

Where the game against Obamacare goes from here is still an open matter: As I've said repeatedly, the Republicans want their goddamn tax cuts - at the expense of the social safety net - at all hazards. But the failure here in the Senate - and the struggles earlier in the House - are highlighting the problems where the GOP have trapped themselves.

By constantly screeching for years to Repeal (and forced to offer a form of Replace), the Republicans can't turn themselves around and compromise on the existing health care system. Every offered plan has a major flaw - kicking people off coverage, which can be lethal - and nobody is willing to volunteer to give up their health care plans.

The Republicans' idea of compromise - where they insist the Democrats cave to their demands and then take the blame when it all goes to hell - is useless. The Democrats may not have explicit power right now in government being in the minority and out of the White House, but they have the ability now to say NO and stick to that. They're forcing the Republicans to deal within their own ranks - which has empowered both the Far Right AND NOW the Moderates who are punching back - and lift their own works... something the Republicans really don't want to do. Enough of them know damn well not to be holding this hand grenade when it goes off.

It does not help that this Republican Congress is trying to cope with a weak President Loser of the Popular Vote in trump. In previous times, when there was a tough piece of legislation involved, the President would make deals or offer alternatives that would placate enough members of Congress to get the job done. Obama had to to get Obamacare passed in the first place. LBJ was a fucking master at it.

But trump has almost no political capital to use. Granted, he's got his rabid fan base to scare the weaker members of the GOP. But when it comes to wheeling and dealing, he holds few favors with the major players. His current legal woes - under constant investigation for not only his Russian ties but also other scandals with his Foundation and elsewhere - doesn't give him a chance to make favors for the future (if he has one).

Making it worse is that trump is failing at reaching out: He's either tried bullying, berating, mocking those in Congress he thinks are stalling his glorious promises, or buttering up those who are not the ones he needs to win over. He's not building the back-room connections necessary between White House and the Capitol. It's not helping that his West Wing is criminally understaffed: if trump had hired enough people to massage the right Congresscritters, we'd be seeing results (granted, NOT the results we'd like...).

Update: It's worse than THAT. trump's dinner invite to "talk about the health care bill" turned into a ego-inflating talk about how France had treated him on his recent visit. The idiot cannot focus.

So what happens now?

The next major issue - one that Congress cannot avoid - is their planned budget for 2018. The proposal in the House is a massive tax cut, spending cut disaster... that may lose Far Right support from the "Freedom" Caucus because it doesn't go far enough in slashing the safety net. And this time, I don't think the House Moderates are going to accept any excuse from Ryan to back his efforts...

Keep calling, America. Call your Congresscritter, call your Senators. Remind the Republicans they have to answer for their sins, remind the Democrats to stand firm against any cut that will hurt the public.

This party ain't over.

No visible means of support and you have not seen nothing yet
Everything's stuck together
And I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire...
- "Burning Down the House" Talking Heads

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Doctor Who Alert: Yes, SHE Is...

HOLY F-CKSH-T IT'S THE NEW DOCTOR.


BELIEVE IT BRUV.

I'm serious. Jodie Whittaker starred in a cult classic SciFi movie called Attack the Block, which is now required viewing.


Oh yeah. That's Finn from Star Wars teaming up with the Doctor to fight off aliens. This is gonna go off the geek-o-meter, mates. Allow it.

In the meantime, this is great. The show is opening up the gender roles in science fiction more than it's been in ages. We've had strong female roles - Scully, Buffy, Xena - and we've had strong female leads in established franchises - Janeway on Star Trek, Starbuck and Athena on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica - but this is a major step: This will be a strong female lead in an ICONIC role.

Icons exist beyond the stories that birthed them - Sherlock, Bond, Kirk, Spock, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, just to name a few - and icons have a great impact on the cultural trends of the past, present AND future.

As much as a successful Wonder Woman movie is groundbreaking, as much as having movies like Mad Max Fury Road promote positive imagery of women, to open up an existing role and character as important to SciFi geekery as the Doctor will pave the way to equalizing roles between genders for the next generation of shows and characters.

So to all the haters out there, grow up. Women have been into science fiction as long as the men, and they've been writing their fanfic and making their cosplay and pining their dreams of heroic escapes same as you.



Allow it.

These are good times ahead for geekery.

Because the Gods of Death Need Their Pound of Flesh... And a Tax Cut

The pending Senate vote on their horrific, decimating health care bill is on hold while they wait for Senator McCain to recover from his insured, funded surgical procedure.

The irony is potent.

And yet, here we are. Poised again to watch Republicans willfully support a bill everybody knows will kick millions off of health care coverage, condemning thousands to death or massive debt.

All for a goddamn tax cut for the rich.

Even the polls are telling them they shouldn't do this. Solid majorities of American voters - even cutting into Republicans - know that the GOP push - for massive cuts to Medicaid and rewriting the rules to make access to health care harder - is gonna suck.

And yet, here we are.

The Republican leadership are doing this because of how broken our electoral system is. Accountability has disappeared in this age of mass Gerrymandering and "Safe" Districts. The deep-pocket SuperPACs pushing the tax cut agenda hold more sway over Congresscritters than their own residents.

The Republican leadership are doing this to appease the hardcore base that will show up to vote no matter what, making sure they've been satisfied to learn that the dreaded OBAMACARE went away.

The Republican leadership are doing this because they're sadists. They've lost any empathy for people making less than $90,000 a year, and there's enough of them who believe the poor really are slackers and thieves instead of grossly underpaid and unprotected by the law.

We as a nation can still fight this, but it's going to take more than the phone calls and letters to remind Congress and the Republicans that THEY have to answer to US.

It's going to take long memories, everyone. YOU NEED TO REMEMBER THIS TERRIBLE VOTE IN 2018. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN IN 2018.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Digging the trump Hole Deeper w/Update

Update below:
The current status of the Russia-trump Scandal is such a massive turn of affairs - revealing direct acts of collusion with a foreign power - that I'm better off referring you to David A Graham's take over at the Atlantic about it.

Yet with Donald Trump Jr.’s release of self-incriminating emails on Tuesday, the nation learned that the wildest of fantasies was all too real: Granted the chance to take what he believed to be damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian government official, provided because the Kremlin wished to aid his father, Trump Jr. eagerly seized the opportunity. “If it’s what you say I love it,” he wrote to an intermediary. Not only that, but he brought along his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort...
...If Trump really knew nothing about the June 9 meeting, one wonders what it was that he was so eager to suppress in his calls to the intel chiefs and his firing of James Comey. And as the collusion scenario that once seemed so implausible is verified by an email trail, which of the other allegations are true, too?

On a serious note: DEAR SWEET JESUS THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WAS ACTIVELY WORKING WITH RUSSIA TO F-CK WITH OUR ELECTION. THIS IS TREASON.

On a lighter note: Dear Sweet Jesus, these guys are morons.

The way trump jr. handled this entire revelation - by denying, admitting, evading, re-admitting, and then dumping his emails without realizing they contained incriminating proof - showed a complete lack of operational awareness. If anything, utter cluelessness about what was right or wrong. Either he thinks what he did wasn't illegal - it was, under 52 US Code 30121 - or that he's untouchable.

It's that last part that's troubling. Because one of the recurring points about this ongoing scandal is how many unforced errors the trump people have committed since the intel reports started picking up the scent in 2016. Half the people involved in the attempted cover-ups - including the Alpha Dog trump himself - keep blabbing and tripping over themselves in a rush to excuse away an early report, quickly exposing fresh evidence that just piles on the damage.

There's been comparisons about the trump empire being akin to a Mafia family (it doesn't help that being a NYC land developer likely had donald rubbing shoulders with real mobsters his whole career). But each new self-inflicted wound brings up the sorry likelihood that the trump power circle is made up entirely of Fredos. (all apologies to actor John Cazale, who was a brilliant performer whose life was cut short)

We were warned. I warned people. This was going to be an incompetent regime, led by those lacking any political savvy or administrative skill. Who turned out to get where they are through manipulation, lies, and (with Russia's help) cheating instead of any actual talent.

Right now, it's not a question of how criminal the trump campaign was. It's a question of what the hell the rest of our government - the ones who are sworn to serve and protect our nation - is going to do about stopping them.

Update: As always, leave it to a master of snark to point out the obvious WTF stupidity of junior:


Sunday, July 09, 2017

When Being Sober Is A Curse: I Blame trump

How can I cope with my recurring depression when trump keeps ruining the universe like this (via Frum at the Atlantic)?

But the basic story line is clear. It was clear in real time—and it’s clearer than ever after the Hamburg summit. Whatever exactly happened at the meeting between Trump and Putin, the president’s Sunday morning Twitter storm confirms: Trump has accepted Putin’s denials as the final word on the matter.
Why would not Trump accept it? He has insisted that the accounts of Russian interference in the US election are a “made-up story,” a hoax by sore-loser Democrats. Putin told Trump nothing that Trump did not already believe—or anyway, that Trump wanted everyone else to believe. If there was any question before Hamburg, that question was settled at Hamburg: There will be no consequences for Russia. They attacked American electoral processes and succeeded. The president Russia helped to install will not punish Russia for helping to install him.

It's shit like this that would drive me to drink if I ever developed the habit of liking alcohol. But I'm so sober it's a goddamned curse.

To quote a saner, hopefully sober Betty Cracker from Balloon Juice:

I don’t expect to like any Republican president’s policies. And Trump is a person of exceedingly low character, so I expect him to behave in an embarrassing manner. But sometimes I wonder if my antipathy toward the man distorts my view of his performance. Is it possible that, while he routinely fucks up and brings shame upon the country, Trump’s presidency isn’t the unmitigated disaster I think it is?
Then I watch something like this summary from an Australian analyst, and I think, nah, it’s not just me...
A compromised, incompetent, deranged buffoon is the president of the United States. The president is surrounded and enabled by amoral, unpatriotic, power-hungry people who will paper over his gaping deficiencies and corruption to pursue their own agendas.
That’s bad, obviously. But the normalization of the situation poses its own dangers.
To pick on NBC for a moment, how could a “top-5 takeaways” piece fail to mention Trump’s insane assertion that “everyone” at the G-20 was talking about John Podesta, which also indicated Trump has no idea what role Podesta played in 2016 or, more alarmingly, the CIA’s role in investigating crimes against U.S. citizens? How could a round-up piece not include the weird and unprecedented insertion of Trump’s knockoff bag and shoe peddler spawn into the conference? Or his capitulation to Putin on an attack on U.S. sovereignty?
My complaint isn’t just about the sorry state of Beltway coverage. We’ve been kvetching about routine hackery for decades and will for decades to come, I suspect. But living in a country run by a madman and his accomplices warps reality for everyone, including the people whose job is to provide facts that help shape our perceptions. It’s probably easier for news sources outside the U.S. to frame the Trump menace accurately. But this interminable national crisis will require all of us to keep a grip on what’s real and what’s an illusion...

Ye Gods. Lemme bring up that Australian reporter's rant:



This is what a power vacuum looks like, America: We have a preening, self-absorbed and self-deluded con artist running things. trump wants to keep selling his agenda of being cozy with Putin and Russia, that "there's no collusion" and no conspiracy to subvert our electoral process... even as the real-world evidence piles up that collusion happened.

trump wants us to believe Russia didn't hack our elections, and even wants to team up with Russia on a joke of a "joint" Cybersecurity project that would likely expose our nation's own security protocols. He's doing this even as Russia is hacking our nation's electric power grid.

I'm with Abed on this: We've gone down the Darkest Timeline in this Multiverse, where a vain madman is in control of the United States, aided and abetted by a partisan Congress and a blind mainstream media.

I want to find the portal back to the Normal Timeline, please.

So Many Different Ways The Republicans Can Make Things Worse

Trying to figure out how the endgame of the Republican War on Obamacare will go. As David Atkins over at Washington Monthly notes, the normal rules of politics no longer apply:

The setup is actually fairly simple: would the Republican desire to pass massive tax cuts for its donor class overwhelm its fear of being punished at the ballot box for taking healthcare away from millions of Americans, including their own voters? Under normal circumstances fear of electoral consequences would prevail. But we live in an age of unprecedented partisanship and big money influence, which leads many Republicans to feel insulated from the consequences of even openly cruel actions that damage their loyal constituents. That Republicans would actually destroy Obamacare went from remote possibility to very real.

What that means is anyone's guess, so I'm trying to plot out the scenarios just to determine how fucked we are.

Scenario One: McConnell is somehow able to push through the horrendous Senate version (BCRA) of trumpcare.

By making tweaks to the Senate package, McConnell will try to keep the "moderate" Republicans from bolting - gifting possible holdouts with small relief funding - while giving the Far Right more reason to vote for the bill. While the Democrats could use various procedural rules to delay or hold the bill, given McConnell's track record of bulldozing through his agenda this could also mean those procedures will get napalmed into ash.

Because the Senate bill differs from the House version (AHCA), this means the hot potato goes back to the House for a new vote, and this is where the scenarios can really diverge.

Scenario One-A: The House - despite the griping from the Freedom Caucus (Far Right) that it doesn't go far enough, and the worries of the Tuesday Group (Moderates) fully aware of how the voters hate the bill - passes the Senate BCRA and trump signs it, essentially dooming 18-24 million Americans having their healthcare taken away.

Given the delays written into the Senate bill, most of the damage from it won't be obvious until 2020. But early shifts in Medicaid funds, the loss of maternity care, and the loss of regulatory control protecting pre-existing conditions will be clear early on. The CBO score rated that 11 million could lose their health care by 2018. That's even before the hard cuts to Medicaid kick in.

Scenario One-B: The House Republicans split on the vote. The Tuesday Group were angry about how they were told to vote for a bad bill with the promise that "the Senate will fix it" only to have the Senate pass the buck back to them. They've had months to watch the public outcry against any Repeal-Replace and can refuse to support this next step. Ryan may not have enough favors in his pocket to get enough of them around to support it... while coping with a Freedom Caucus that would never accept any moderate changes to their Repeal-Replace desires.

As a result, the entire Repeal-Replace effort collapses for good. This does turn into a serious problem with Congress, because the real reason the Republicans were so eager to get rid of Obamacare first was to clear the table for bigger issues such as their overall Tax Cut Budget of Doom. They can't push that massive tax cut if there's still a big federal healthcare mandate like Obamacare in the way. The GOP hasn't even looked at a serious budget proposal this session despite several on the table, and the budget is due by September I believe. They're running out of time.

The delay in legislative action is having a cascade effect on everything else: The debt ceiling vote in particular is coming up fast, serious political infighting with the hardcore Freedom Caucus poised to block any debt hike. The Republicans can't afford to let their Repeal-Replace effort wither away, as it would signal a serious rift among their ranks preventing anything from getting done. That lack of effort will discourage their voting base, another midterm woe they'll have to cope with.

Scenario One-C: This goes a little farther than One-B in that the Republican split turns into a party civil war. Failure by Ryan and the House leadership to keep the factions in line leads to a public falling out, where either the Freedom Caucus quits the GOP (likely) to form a third party, or the Tuesday Group quits (unlikely, 'cause they're cowards) and throws in their lot with the Democrats.

There's currently 240 Republicans to 194 Democrats in the House. It would take 47 Republicans quitting the GOP and forming a third party to get them down to 193, giving Dems a plurality. Better still, any Republicans flipping party to the Dems - allowable during the sessions - would boost Democratic numbers into a majority of their own: That would need 24 Republicans switching the aisles.

By numbers, there's 33 official members of the Freedom Caucus: Not enough to form a third party unless they convince - or the SuperPAC deep pocket funders convince - enough regular Republicans to flee with them. They definitely will not flip to the Democrats, so that part of the scenario won't happen. A serious move for this scenario would have to involve enough of the moderate Tuesday Group - 48 in their roster, so either way they can do this - flipping sides or going third party.

Once the Democrats are in control of the House, the whole effort to Repeal-Replace stops.

This is pure fantasy, of course. I'd personally love to see the moderate factions grow a spine and tell the wingnuts to go fuck themselves, but that's not how elected moderates roll. It's possible the Freedom Caucus could pull off a revolt of some kind that would force the Tuesday Group to flee no matter what, or pull off a split with enough members to give the Democrats minority-majority control, but that's next-to-impossible with the current math.

Of the three variances, One-B is the one we can hope for... but don't be surprised if we get One-A. After all, with the Republicans in charge we're all screwed.

Past all this, we move on to Scenario Two: Unable to pass a Repeal-and-Replace package, the GOP Senate - then the House - opts for a straight-up Repeal and let the whole thing crash until people beg for their bad bill(s).

This is the Shoot-The-Hostage strategy. The Far Right factions in both House and Senate would view this as a winning move, because it clearly destroys Obama's signature achievement AND it validates their worldview that government regulations are bad. The logic for this move is that once they reset the nation's healthcare system to how it was in 2009 - which is, shitty - and let the nation stew in horror for six months, the Republicans could force the Democrats to agree to ANY Replace package the GOP would put on the table.

There are several faults in this logic. One, there is nothing the Republicans can do to force the Democrats to cave on this issue. The Dems may genuinely care that millions of Americans need healthcare coverage, but they are competent enough to know that any GOP plan will be a disaster compared to what Obamacare - or a Medicare/Medicaid For All - offers. The only thing Democrats will ever vote on is keeping Obamacare the way it is (or at best fixing its gaps with a Public Option). Plus, the Democrats are smart enough to know that any deal with the devil is no deal at all.

Second, for all the attempts the Republicans will try to pin the blame of losing healthcare on the Democrats, a majority of Americans are fully aware which party - the one yelling and screaming and lying their asses off about Obamacare - will deserve the blame (hint: it ain't Obama). The sudden turnaround of pro-Obamacare support is a clear sign of that. This is what David Frum warned the party about: Once a public benefit is out there - Social Security, Medicare - you can't take it away without getting punished for it.

The Republican leadership may think themselves protected via gerrymandered "safe" districts and via their growing voter suppression efforts, and given the recent history of midterms - 2010, 2014 - going their way they may be right. However, the conditions the GOP are setting up - massive social trauma, the likelihood of economic chaos when the health care industry takes the hit - could make this coming election cycle similar to 2006 when the disasters of Katrina, rising gas prices, and the failing Iraq occupation led to the Democrats flipping the House and Senate with historic gains.

A full Repeal without a Replace would also betray the Republican Moderates who are keen on genuine replacement, and that might lead to the One-C scenario.

Scenario Three: The Senate can't agree on a path forward on their version of trumpcare, and since they'd already pissed on the House version that ends any effort to Repeal. Instead, a genuine effort to Reform the existing Obamacare system (ACA) gets a bipartisan deal in the Senate done. And it goes - with some grumbling - to the House for passage just to get it out of the way.

This is from the noise coming from "moderate" Senators - Collins in particular, with harrumphs from Murkowski, Cassidy and Heller - who are openly opposed to the current Senate bill. Their plan(s) range from just minor cuts of Medicaid funding to changes of the tax model to shift the revenue burdens and placate both sides (mostly), with an eye towards making sure they keep the healthcare loss to a minimum - say, just a million or two Americans - while avoiding the bad optics of kicking children and elderly to the curb.

Whatever they come up with, the plan would have to appease either the Democrats in both the Senate and the House, or the Far Right Republicans.

In short: This could never happen. Not with the existing dogma choking the Republican leadership. The Far Right wants their goddamn tax cuts at all hazards - which would be about $750 BILLION out of ACA - and in order to justify that cut from Obamacare they HAVE to cut spending somewhere - which is why Medicaid is seeing cuts to around $744 BILLION when it's all said and done. Unless the moderates find a revenue source that can cover $744 BILLION - which means a tax hike somewhere in the economy that no wingnut can accept - that one step alone blocks all compromise.

Scenario Four: Aliens show up that can provide free health care to all, making the entire matter moot.

Problem with this is, no sentient lifeform in the universe is going to want to deal with that goddamn con artist sitting in the White House.

So you can kind of see the trouble we're in. The only scenario that looks even remotely possible is One-B where the attempt to Repeal-Replace fails again and Congress is forced to move on to other pressing matters. But knowing the wingnut nature of the modern Republican Party, they are going to get their goddamn tax cuts come hell or high water, which means we're all getting One-A.

At which point our nation DOES go to hell and we all drown in the flood.

Thanks, Russia. Thanks, 62 million trump voters. Thanks, Grover "Drown 'Em In My Bathtub" Norquist. Thanks, spineless moderate Republicans.

We are so royally fucked.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

This Is Why I Always Book Hotels Through AAA

So, trump's gone back to Europe for the G-20 Summit, and what new way has he figured out to embarrass the ever-loving hell out of himself and the entire United States?

President Donald Trump apparently forgot to book a hotel room in Hamburg, Germany, for the annual Group of 20 summit of key global leaders, and was stuck scrambling to find somewhere to stay, BuzzFeed reported Thursday.
Oops.

And they can't even use the punchline "No but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Of course, other arrangements have been made and trump will sleep in somebody's guest bedroom while his staff crash in the living room somewhere, but this still begs the question "just how fucking incompetent is trump's White House going to be?"

The White House apparently waited too long before making a reservation for Trump and his traveling staff for the summit, which begins on Friday. All the luxury hotels in the city were completely booked by other world leaders, leaving the US president — who made his name in business building, uh, luxury hotels — without a place to stay.

This is a perfect time to point out the word Schadenfreude is German for "laughing at morons" uh "malicious joy at another person's suffering".

So why does this keep happening? It might have to do with the fact that the State Department is currently understaffed and unorganized. Only nine key positions out of 124 have been confirmed at the State Department.
No one has even been nominated as the director in the Office of Foreign Missions, which is responsible for planning and providing security for US missions when diplomats and other top officials travel abroad.
This is seriously a major problem for our nation: The Executive offices necessary to represent us abroad and to ensure a functioning government at home aren't working at all. And sooner rather than later this void of organization is going to get people killed.

Meanwhile, remember how trump is not a huge fan of other world leaders laughing at him? Yeah, he's about to get more of the mockery as this weekend progresses.

This trip is not going to end well.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Going Four for the Fourth!

Because NO ONE ASKED FOR IT, here I am anyway!!!

...

So, hopefully the fireworks shows didn't scare the crap out of your pets.

In the meantime, here's some patriotic porn:


Now, ROCK OUT TO JULY 5th, AMERICANS! 'Cause it's all downhill this year to Christmas.

Where We Stand As a Nation This 4th of July

It's getting close to fireworks time across the East Coast as the sun sets and the families gather to the city parks.

It's an annual tradition, this Independence Day, to celebrate the many things the United States represents: Freedom, Democracy, Justice, the American Dream, Mom, Apple Pie, Baseball, the hearty consumption of beer and hot dogs, and blowing shit up with fireworks that scare the crap out of dogs now hiding under beds.

This year is a little harder than most, given the current situation in our political and social spheres, with a likelihood our economic sphere getting hit hard with an incoming trade war. In the face of such concerns, what is there still to celebrate about our independence from British tyranny as trumpian tyranny rises before us?

We still have a few things worth fighting for.

Our friends and families, about to face the horrors of a Republican repeal of Obamacare, need our support.

Our communities need fresh leadership focused on justice, on improving our schools, on fixing our roads and infrastructure.

Our nation needs to remember the American Dream as an inspiration to all cultures, all ethnicities, across the globe, to every man woman and child who cherish the idea of a better life for themselves and the generations that come after us.

On this 4th of July, I want to celebrate the Idea of America. The hope. The spoken guarantee to pursue life, liberty, and happiness for all.

Let's get to it.

Stand up for America this 4th of July.

Basic Observation of the Ongoing Venezuelan Crisis

There's been a major economic and political crisis in Venezuela since 2014 (actually, for years longer) that has turned into a massive constitutional crisis. So much so that to describe the problems overall would take a team of economists and foreign policy experts writing a book for publication by a university press.

Since I'm not fully qualified, I'm just gonna boil this down to the simplest explanation I can:

A dictatorial government over-reliant on a single industry (oil) is consuming itself in a wave of corrupt self-serving habits that fail to give the majority of the citizenry the fundamental resources (affordable food and housing) needed to live.

And because the people in power cannot admit to failure or allow others who can resolve these problems to enter into power, the only possible response by the majority of the people is to rise up.

At some point, and horrifyingly soon, Venezuela is going to explode in mass violence between the angry mobs and the heavily-armed military.

This won't be pretty.

Independence Day 2017 Style

I'm posting FOUR FOR THE FOURTH TODAY, beeches!

That's right. I'm gonna write four blog entries today, at least one long serious muthaf (you shut your mouth!) in honor of our nation's birth!

Starting off with as always a YouTube clip showing my favorite bit from the musical 1776!



And Hamilton's reply!



Oops.

Get to work, people, it's the Schuyler Sisters (and Peggy)!

And because I can't let it go:


Lesson: Never eat peanut butter on the 4th of July. Stick to hot dogs.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

You Will Get My Voter ID Card When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands

This weekend, I'm pissed at both trump and my state of Florida.

Well, yeah, I know I'm ALWAYS pissed about trump being the President Loser of the Popular Vote. And there are times I'm pissed with Florida having elected a goddamn MEDICARE FRAUD like Rick "No Ethics" Scott to governor.

But this weekend my German/Irish ire kicked up a notch because trump's horrific "Voter Fraud" commission sent requests to all 50 states to give up every voter registration data they've got.

Damn them.

The entire Republican Narrative of "Mass Voter Fraud" is a lie. And yet the GOP runs with this Narrative because it gives them political cover to suppress voters, specifically the poor, the minorities, and the college age voting blocs.

What the GOP can do with voter information like this - everything down to Social Security number - might range from targeted harassment to broad voter suppression by geography/district.

The good news so far is that most of the states are refusing to aid trump's faux committee by complying. As Kathy Gill notes at the Moderate Voice:

The following states have indicated that they will not provide the Kobach Commission with all of the information it requested on Wednesday. These states are either ignoring the request, complying with their state laws (the request is for more than publicly available information), or waiting for assurances on how the data will be used.
AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, GA, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MA, ME, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA (note: GOOD FOR YOU LOT!)
The following states have not received a letter:
AR, DE, HI, IL, MI
And these states have no decision or no comment:
FL, LA, MD, NE, NJ, SC, WV, WY

It's this last bit raising my ire. Florida should have only one response to this: on moral, legal, and common sense grounds, this state should tell the Republican Party to go fuck itself. We could have told them to go jump into the Gulf of Mexico, but Mississippi (!) beat us to it.

Here's the irony: a lot of Red States are telling this commission NO. Even they know this is a fool's errand, and that they'll be violating a shitload of their own laws. Even Kris Kobach's state Kansas forced Kobach to tell himself he'd have to give only the public domain info.

So what the hell are we waiting for, Florida? Sadly as Michael Van Stickler at the Tampa Bay Times reports:

Florida officials say they are considering a request for voter information from President Donald Trump's commission investigating alleged voter fraud in the 2016 election. The letter was from Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the commission and Kansas' Republican secretary of state.
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday said he has not seen the letter that had been sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Wednesday. But a spokeswoman for Detzner said the agency was reviewing the request.

This is a No-Brainer, Detzner. Write back to Kobach and trump and tell them NO DICE.

This Monday, bright and early, every Floridian needs to call the Department of State's office and insist our voter ID information remain unviolated. I certainly do not want trump to get ANY of my private information, and I sure as hell want to stop these false accusations about voter fraud.

Here's the number: 850-245-6500  and ask for Detzner and/or for the Elections office supervisor. BE POLITE BUT FIRM. Tell them you do not want your private voter information going to an unjust and harmful federal committee.

Get active, Florida.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Anniversary: Gettysburg

I dread the possibility of a time traveler going back to July 1 1863 and warning Union troops that if they win the battle then in another 154 years some jackass becomes President. I know there's no causality between one or the other, but the specter of trump becoming President would scare any honest patriot into fleeing for Canada.

Anyway, in memory of the troops who died and lived on the battlefield:



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What The Republicans Want to Do When They Kill Off Obamacare

It's really very simple:

Republicans want to give everyone earning over $200,000 annual income a tax cut. So screw the 90 percent of Americans under that income limit.

And Republicans want to kill 22 to 25 million Americans who will lose their Medicaid support and/or their health care coverage.

Try this as a reality check. Go outside to a crowded place, like a shopping mall or grocery store or a summer day's park. Start counting each person. One out of every twenty Americans are going to lose their health care. So when you get to the twentieth person, realize that the person you're pointing at is going to die.

If you think that you aren't affected, that your family or friends are safe, you're wrong. Start counting your family, start counting your friends. When you get to Number Twenty, say goodbye to that person.

And we are all fucking screwed.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Republican Party Bites

I don't think I ever believed the Senate would ever stop the madness.

When the House tripped over themselves trying to nuke Obamacare earlier this year, it had more to do with the GOP being too inept to pull off the stunt. So of course, the Far Right Republicans pressed ahead on another plan to gut the Affordable Care Act, passing a horrifying House bill that granted them their oh-so-precious TAX CUT FOR THE RICH at the cost of kicking 18 to 24 million Americans off health care.

The House did that all in a rush, in secret, unwilling to let it be up for debate or cross-examination.

So why expect the Republican-controlled Senate to be any different?

They too worked on their version of the Kill Americans Act in utter secrecy, avoiding committee room reviews or public debate on the matter. What they came up with was a horrifying Senate bill that grants them their oh-so-precious TAX CUT FOR THE RICH at the cost of kicking 18 to 24 million Americans off health care.

You might notice there is little goddamn difference between the two bills. Merely the wording and the time-delays the Senate built into their ticking time bomb.

And of course the Beltway media will condemn in the softest language, debate using rules only the Far Right will accept, falsify history about how Obama and his Democratic allies passed their ACA, and pretend that this would all somehow work out if only the Democrats in Congress would be more bipartisan about it.

And of course the Moderates in the Senate - the Concerned Corps of Crunchy Conservatism - will roll over and vote for this bill after a hammy performance of "oh we need to tweak just this little bit and ALL WILL BE WELL" so they can campaign on "I fought for you" when they really didn't.

And of course trump will sign whichever travesty of "Nuke Obamacare" reaches his desk, because then he will claim HE'S DONE THE MOST OF ANY PRESIDENT EVER and preen like a jackass pretending to be an eagle.

AND OF COURSE MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WILL LOSE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE, EITHER THROUGH MASSIVE CUTS TO MEDICAID OR THROUGH INCREASED PREMIUMS THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO MATCH. Even working Americans are going to find themselves feeling the pinch, not just in three years but in three months when the insurance companies freak out against the changes in law and funding.

All because the Republican Party as a whole no longer gives a shit about any American making less than $200,000 a year.

All because too many voters bought into the decades-long propaganda campaign by the Republicans and their Fox Not-News shills that libruls are the true evildoers who cavort with the Dreaded OTHER.

All because we have a broken electoral system from the gerrymanders all the way up to an outdated Electoral College.

I wrote two years ago that the Republican Party was dead, that all that remains was a soulless shambling ghoul, a zombie whose continued existence was racing to the grave.

Problem with zombies: anything they bite turns into a zombie too.

This nation got bit by the Wingnut plague, and we're at the point it's shambling into that grave along with the GOP.

Gods Help Us All.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hark! I Saw U2 Live

I normally don't go to live concerts. I dread going solo, and I usually can't afford the tickets for the acts I'd like to see.

One such act is U2, one of those crowd-pleasing, epic live performing bands that makes them one of the "Bucket List" bands you HAVE to see. So when they announced their 30th anniversary Joshua Tree Tour for this summer... I sat it out, because I didn't think I could afford it.

Last week, an old friend from high school announced she had an extra ticket to sell. At this point, I *could* afford it - my parents have helped straighten out my budget - so I bartered and got a ticket.

So... for the seven readers who know I'm a huge U2 fan... YEAH I WENT TO SEE THEM PERFORM AND OMG IT WAS A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE I WANNA GO OUT AND SAVE THE WORLD NOW I HAVE TO SHOUT MY EARS ARE STILL RINGING WHAT DID YOU SAY I THINK YOU SAID SOMETHING ABOUT EARDRUM SURGERY WHAT WHAT NOW

Just to note, since I was going, the Gods deemed it fit to have it rain all day over Tampa Bay. So it was still drizzling getting into the stadium:


There was a weather delay for the opening act One Direction, and when they did come out to perform there was still enough drizzle to have them cover up half the stage and the lead singer's piano. But as they finished, the storm moved on and the sun began to set over the Gulf Coast and the Gods brought forth the most beautiful rainbow:


You could see the double rainbow at one point:

Then the sun set and the rainbow left and then in the darkness they began playing "Sunday Bloody Sunday":


U2 played a handful of their pre-Joshua Tree hits while out on the in-crowd dais, wrapping up with "Pride" before moving onto the main stage to begin their Joshua Tree performance in its entirety.

Remember how I wrote about how awe-inspiring it was to hear "Where the Streets Have No Name" for the first time? Try adding a stark, haunting video backdrop of the Joshua Tree National Park to the stage:


That's me "WHOOOOOO"ing every five seconds.

I didn't video the whole concert on my smartphone because I did not manage my battery power to last (argh), so I took a bunch of photos during the rest of the concert:

My high school friend Kim showed up with her family and friends - the extra ticket was for her husband Sim who had to stay behind at work - and I asked her to get a picture of me with the stage in background.




The video accompanying "Bullet the Blue Sky"

The backdrop of "In God's Country", where they had the screen projection indented in such a way to make that Joshua Tree show as 3D.

As promised, U2 played EVERY song off Joshua Tree which made for an epic night. When they finished with "Mothers of the Disappeared", they took a bow and left the stage... which you're supposed to do so the audience can stand there for ten minutes screaming for the inevitable Encore. :) They then played their greatest hits post-Joshua Tree, including a haunting update of "Miss Sarajevo" only this time focusing on the plight of Syrian refugees fleeing that civil war (has it been SIX YEARS already?).

All in all, an epic night. And yes, my ears are still ringing.

Naked flame
She stands with a naked flame
I stand with the sons of Cain
Burned by the fire of love
Burned by the fire of love