Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Guessing The Republican Repeal Gameplan

There's been a leak or three of various Republican plans to follow through on their "Repeal And Replace Pray Nobody Notices There's No Sane Replacement" of Obamacare, and there's now reports of the GOP House leadership just deciding on a kamikaze do-or-die bill to see if it passes (per the Talking Points Memo):

The movement to repeal the Affordable Care Act appears to be approaching a do-or-die moment for Republicans, as the clock ticks on dismantling Obamacare in time to also tackle tax reform before Congress's summer recess. Many of the differences that dogged Republicans about repealing and replacing the law remain. But GOP lawmakers, particularly in the House, seem intent on moving forward, if a leaked a draft of legislation is of any judge...
Republicans have had seven years to coalesce around an Obamacare replacement, during which GOP lawmakers took dozens of vote to repeal the ACA, but in the months since Donald Trump’s surprise election, have only inched a little closer to settling on a plan moving forward. GOP lawmakers were able to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that then-President Obama vetoed in 2016. But now that they have a President Trump in the White House who will sign it, they’ve raised concerns about the timing, funding and general shape of an ACA replacement. According to the Wall Street Journal report, leadership is ready to move forward right away with a replacement strategy that resembles the previous proposals put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) rather than fully litigate all of the differences within the House GOP conference. The risk of such a strategy is that it takes only a few defections -- about two dozen members in the House and three Republicans in the Senate -- to torpedo the repeal bill...
Already House conservatives -- including the leaders of the influential groups the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee -- are objecting to some of the ideas being floated, and particularly the proposal to offer refundable tax credits for individual insurance...

The usual practice in the House is to Whip - organize - your votes on a bill by getting your party members in line and on-message. Funny thing is, they've had months six years to rally around a planned "Repeal and Replace" package, and yet they STILL can't rally around one because the party's factions - The Freedom Caucus that wants to watch it all burn vs. the Establishment incumbents that like to keep their cushy seats until more lobbyists need to fill no-show jobs - remain divided on how sharp they want their knives to be when they gut Obamacare like a fish.

So the new plan is to play what David Anderson at Balloon Juice calls a game of chicken: Ryan and his leadership team are daring their Republican foot soldiers to either go big or go home.

Given how the Republicans tend to fall into line when it gets to be do-or-die time, this is likely a done deal: Few House Republicans have the nerve or strength of character to test their "safe" gerrymandered districts (because those gerrymandered districts are ONLY safe for those who whimper before their wingnut voter base). The Senate may be a different matter - they have to win statewide voters and thus in practice can appeal to more moderate sensibilities - but the House is IMHO 95 percent (Okay, I'm not THAT absolutist about this) ready to vote Ryan's Repeal deal. They have to before they move on to what they want to pass, their "cut taxes for the rich and kill the federal budget forever" plan.

So what does this mean? What will we see as the results of this Repeal (and no real Replace) bill?

The universe will dance down one of these four paths:

1) The Republicans pass their Repeal plan, and somehow their Replace plan isn't as devastating as the budget offices predict it will be. Thousands may lose their health care plans but there's no noticeable uptick in health-related deaths (and a possibility the states in dire straits pass their own state-level programs). Job losses to the health care industry and health provider industry are minimal. This frees up the Republicans to pass their massive tax-cut / slash-and-burn federal budget... which actually works after TWO PREVIOUS FAILED ATTEMPTS at tax cuts, and with Congress holding down on any excessive spending like they did in 2001-2006.

This is known as the "Monkeys-Fly-Out-Of-My-Ass" timeline. Every Republican budget plan since 1980 that revolved around tax cuts created massive deficits and economic hardships. Because Republicans don't care about deficits at all: they just want tax cuts ALWAYS, and to hell with the consequences.

In short: This will never happen. The Repeal plan kills one part of the economy while the follow-up Ryan Budget kills the rest. And the Republicans will do their damnedest to pin the blame on Obama, Immigrants, and the Librul Poor. But people are gonna remember who passed all this crap, who campaigned on these lies about taxes and bad economies... and still vote Republican because they're f-cking hard-wired that way.

2) The House Republicans pass their Repeal plan, but the Senate Republicans balk at the poor Replace elements and it stalls out. The bill goes back to the House for fine-tuning, but the factions still can't agree on what stays and what goes. This stymies the entire budget process for the year and the government staggers on up to the point where the Freedom Caucus, wanting to burn it all down anyway, forces a budget shutdown that creates a constitutional crisis and economic meltdown.

Faced with an obstructionist faction of 40-plus wingnuts, the remaining House Republicans are forced to deal with the Democrats to pass any kind of budget at all to save the nation, but at the cost of their own electoral safety because the wingnuts will stir up a primary shitstorm in 2018 against the Establishment GOP. I doubt the Republicans can come up with anything for a budget that would satisfy the wingnuts AND the Senate at the same time... and any budget plan HAS to do something with Obamacare anyway, which makes this still a huge mess to figure out.

In short: This could happen. The Senate has already voiced enough opposition to the House's Repeal plan to make this likely. The random factor to all this is how the House reacts to that rejection: Implosion - the party splintering and eating itself - or Explosion - pursuing an agenda that makes things worse.

3) The proposed Repeal plan can't even pass through the House because the Freedom Caucus opposes it to where the Republicans don't have enough votes to make it through. Ryan could then pursue just his tax-cut budget plan without dealing with the ACA at all - ignore it and just let it suffer through the massive spending cuts his budget already doles out - and hope that the party faithful decide to let it slide as well.

The Freedom Caucus will make noises about it in the wingnut media, but will adjust their anger towards libruls and immigrants anyway. The Republicans stumble on as a united but backstabbing party, complaining about how Obama rigged the health care system against the American people and trying to keep the Repeal rallying cry fresh for their 2018 midterms.

In short: The actual compromise situation for everyone on the Far Right to accept. It won't be pretty, and it will still cause severe harm to the nation's economic well-being, but it would be a best-case scenario for the health care system to at least on paper chug along until someone with political will fixes it.

4) Aliens appear in orbit around the Earth and beam up every sane person to transport us to one of the habitable planets orbiting Trappist-1. Also, every needed fruit and grain plant as well as enough livestock to ensure a proper food supply. And soap. We'll need toothpaste too. Access to fibers for clothing. Also our pets and companion animals. Everything we need to make good chili or the best pizza. We might need several colony ships for this.

In short: I've got to focus on finishing up my sci-fi short stories. I'm facing a shit-ton of deadlines.

I don't see many other variables here. If anyone else figures out how the GOP Repeal gameplan works out, leave a comment. Danke.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Leak

Thing about the halls of power, it's that for all your need and desire to maintain a tight focused West Wing administration you are going to get leaks in your White House.

It's unavoidable, and it happens for several reasons:

1) Lower-rung proles in the organization feel a need to show off, that they're part of a powerful organization, and so they'll blab - "hush hush" and off the record of course - about some meaningless little piece of trivia that actually angers enough people over in Congress to make it an embarrassment. It's usually minor, partisan or political posturing stuff that never compromises national security (often because the leaker in question doesn't have clearance for the serious shit anyway). You still see somebody losing their job over this once the higher ups figure out who could have been in the loop for that tidbit.

2) There's a possible shift in how the federal government will do things, so the West Wing issues a deliberate leak - often through a trusted reporter, and done through an informal chat - to see what the response would be. You can tell how "official" the leak is by how the unnamed source is ranked: Senior Advisor for example will outrank Senior Spokesperson. The rank will flag Congress' notice as to how serious the White House is pursuing the policy change.

3) There is a likely shift in how the federal government will do things, but there's a faction within the White House - one of the agencies - concerned about its direction (or even its legality). This is where the whistleblowing comes in, and this is where it gets serious. At this point, you have to worry about national security - especially if the leak involves foreign policy or military actions - and how high both the dissenting leaker and the policy advocates are on the chain of command.

4) The leaks are coming during a period of mismanagement and misdeeds within the administration. There's so much chaos and stress within the West Wing that people are spilling their guts to their Beltway media friends in order to A) cover their ass to deflect any blame for incoming disasters, B) point the blame towards rivals (and sometimes even the guilty party) elsewhere in the office, C) vent their frustration about the idiots in charge, AND/OR D) add to the chaos and anarchy to make their bosses' lives more miserable.

Guess where Trump's White House falls on the list? Yup. Fourth. On the list. The chaos one.

Per the Balloon Juice daily roundup of schadenfreude (which actually links to a Politico article):

Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.
Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide...

The irony that Spicer's witch-hunt among his own staffers to find leaks was itself leaked to the press should not be lost to history.

Spicer is likely to find some of the less competent leakers, but he's not going to succeed on cutting off every outlet because he's dealing with others in the White House - in other offices and agencies - outside of his control who are still able to whisper stuff out to people, and using methods well-honed over decades of interoffice backstabbing that can't be easy to track.

Like it or not, Washington DC is a company town and rather insular: too many people are connected to too many sources. Kind of like the Six Degrees game: you can link Jake Tapper to someone in the State Department command structure by three people, you can link Rachel Maddow to someone in Justice by two, that sort of thing. Cutting off those kinds of communications is next to impossible not without shutting down everybody's social lives. Even threatening to do so can backfire by driving the whisperers into dishing out bigger tales of interoffice ineptitude - and maybe criminal behavior - before they get the boot.

All Spicer - Spicey? Spices? I'm keen on making him the next Spice Girl and labeling him Yelly Spice - is going to do with this leaks investigation is give Saturday Night Live more material for the next fresh episode.

It'd be funny except for the fact this is our federal government sinking like the Titanic. This is not pretty, and it's gonna build up to something explosive...

Friday, February 24, 2017

Killing the Gerrymander With Math: Yes, the Geeks WILL SAVE DEMOCRACY...

(Update: hello again, Crooks and Liars readers! Thanks for linking in via Mike's Blog Round-up, and thank you again Batocchio! P.S. please check out the rest of this blog, including my Writings tab and Links tab above. P.S.S.: I had nothing to do with the card-reading at last night's Oscars. I was rooting for Rogue One all the way...)

Saw this on Twitter, jumped into the article at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Meet the Math Professor Who’s Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry

And we're not talking about the polyhedral dice used in Dungeons & Dragons, oh no. Although rolling a d20 for critical would really make Killing the Gerrymander SOOOOOOOO WORTH IT.

Moon Duchin is an associate professor of math and director of the Science, Technology and Society program at Tufts. She realized last year that some of her research about metric geometry could be applied to gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating the shape of electoral districts to benefit a specific party, which is widely seen as a major contributor to government dysfunction.
At first, she says, her plans were straightforward and research-oriented — "to put together a team to do some modeling and then maybe consult with state redistricting commissions." But then she got more creative. "I became convinced that it’s probably more effective to try to help train a big new generation of expert witnesses who know the math side pretty well," she says...

Due to the Supreme Court ruling Selby County v Holder that gutted the district enforcements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, there's been an uptick in court cases fighting the extreme gerrymandering that's kicked in over the last 10 20 years.

What Duchin is attempting to do is clear up one of the more confusing elements of congressional districting: what the actual shape of the district should be:

(Duchin direct quote from interview) In redistricting, one of the principles that’s taken seriously by courts is that districts should be compact. The U.S. Constitution does not say that, but many state constitutions do, and it’s taken as a kind of general principle of how districts ought to look.
But nobody knows exactly what compactness means. People just have the idea that it means the shape shouldn’t be too weird, shouldn’t be too eccentric; it should be a kind of reasonable shape. Lots of people have taken a swing at that over the years. Which definition you choose actually has stakes. It changes what maps are acceptable and what maps aren’t. If you look at the Supreme Court history, what you’ll see is that a lot of times, especially in the ’90s, the court would say, Look, some shapes are obviously too bizarre but we don’t know how to describe the cutoff. How bizarre is too bizarre? We don’t know; that sounds hard...
...I was surprised to see that even though there were different mathematical attempts at a definition, you don’t ever see mathematicians testifying in court about it. So our first aim was to think like mathematicians about compactness and look at all the definitions that already exist, and compare them and try to prove theorems about the relationships between the definitions.
What courts have been looking for is one definition of compactness that they can understand, that we can compute, and that they can use as a kind of go-to standard. I don’t have any illusions that we’re going to settle that debate forever, but I think we can make a contribution to the debate...

From what I'm getting from the interview, the goal of Duchin's efforts seems to be getting rid of some of the more egregious spread-out districts, of trying to get more districts placed in actual population density centers like major cities/metro areas, rather than carved out as pieces to the edges of large sprawling districts made up of underpopulated rural zones (look at how cities like San Antonio and Orlando are divided between 4-5 different districts without a single district actually dedicated to that metro).

As long as this achieves a viable goal: Getting Congressional districts set to places where people actually live, and fully reflective of the population percentages between party identifications. I'm tired of the Republicans representing about 45 percent of the people and yet controlling 60 percent of the districts...

Monday, February 20, 2017

President's Day 2017

On this day we honor the Presidents who served this nation with honor and distinction.

Washington

Adams

Jefferson
Monroe
Jackson
Polk
Lincoln

Roosevelt

Roosevelt

Truman
Eisenhower
Kennedy
Reagan

Obama

STILL MY PRESIDENT

As for the current job-holder, I refuse to name him here. That bankrupt con artist does not belong on this list.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Only Number That Matters

Keeping track of Trump's polling numbers isn't as important as keeping up with - and fighting back against - the terrible actions of his administration, but it's the canary in the coal mine that can tell us just when Trump is truly doomed.

That Trump is already underwater on the polls - starting off his tenure below 50 percent, something NO President has done in the era of modern polling (Eisenhower onward) - does nothing. Everybody knew coming into this that Trump was the least popular winner of the Electoral College loser of the Popular Vote of all time. That he's polling at 38-39 percent now doesn't mean much either.

Right now, the only way Trump leaves office - barring a full four years of his madness, or Gods Help Us he steals the re-election - is through impeachment or the 25 Amendment.

But impeachment only happens through Congress... and Republicans control Congress.

The 25 Amendment removal process only happens through the Cabinet and the Vice President... and Republicans control that.

And the Republicans are cowards.

For all the storm and fury that comes out of the Beltway media, that the party Establishment despises Trump and are just poised to toss him overboard first chance they get, the Republicans are STILL not doing anything about him.

Because for all the bad polling there is on Trump, there is only one number that matters:

How many Republican voters approve of Trump.

From the NBC News/Gallup poll recently done:



Notice the polarized numbers between the three factions of Democrats to Independents to Republicans. Of course the Republicans disapproved of the Democrats - harshly so after 1992 when the partisanship started its avalanche - for Clinton and Obama, and of course the Democrats disapproved of the Republicans from Reagan onward, and while they approved their own guys with high marks. That's not surprising.

It's interesting to note the Independents, how they tend to be approving with only Bill Clinton at 49 percent to start his tenure, and even then that's pretty solid close to 50 percent. Trump is terrible among Independents at 35 percent, that is honestly unheard of to get among the voter bloc that tends to be the less partisan and more optimistic.

But that's unimportant for this argument. What matters is that 87 percent approval Republicans have for Trump.

As long as Trump has that much support among the party base, there is not a damn thing the Republicans in Congress or in the Establishment can do to toss him overboard.

That level of popularity - most likely inflated as a reaction the base has towards the public hostility towards their boy Trump - translates into a lot of angry primary voters come 2018. And that means angry primary challengers (remember Eric Cantor?).

Even those Senators like McCain and Graham who won't have to worry about facing any primary challengers any time soon are wary of directly attacking Trump, lest the voter base - riled up by Fox Not-News and the whole REAL Fake News Breitbart Army - turn against the whole party and risk throwing the midterms to the Democrats.

The GOP will risk the chaos and destruction of the Trump regime because A) they need him to be the scapegoat to the oncoming budget disasters they themselves know their plans are, and B) they honestly fear his - not theirs - base.

They're still cowards. They are delaying the inevitable, and unable to fix their own house of petty angry voters they've unleashed on the electorate these past 25 years.

If they're waiting for Trump's Republican numbers to drop below say 70 percent, they'll have a long wait to endure: the Far Right voting base loves Trump exactly because he pisses the right people off, which includes the Republican Establishment. It's one hell of a Catch-22: The very reason to dump Trump - that he's insane, unstable, incapable of rule, alienating our allies, punishing entire families because of their (Mexican, Arab, and/or Asian) ethnicity, unable to moderate himself to do what the NATION needs out of a President - is the very reason his followers will never abandon him.

It's going to take a disaster worse than Hurricane Katrina - at this point, I doubt a terror strike would even help, because enough Dems and Indys were burned by the fallout of Bush/Cheney's miscues after 9/11 to fall for that again - to drop Trump's Republican approval to a level where he loses enough party support for the GOP to impeach or remove him. And by then, thousands will be dead, hundreds of thousands will be suffering, and it will all be too late.

For the rest of us, the Democrats and the Independents clearly opposed to Trump, the best we can do is keep the pressure up, and run for office. Every seat must be challenged. Every office needs be flipped to those who will fight Trump and his Far Right wingnuts every minute of every day.

Our numbers need to matter more.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Trump the Imposter

I always come back to this quote, as the villains on the Far Right keep proving it true:

An honest man, like the true religion, appeals to the understanding, or modestly confides in the internal evidence of his conscience. The imposter employs force instead of argument, imposes silence where he cannot convince, and propagates his character by the sword.
- Junius (Letter 41, 1770)

And how are the villains on the Far Right proving it true?

Due to their leader, Donald "Lost the Popular Vote By 3 Million" Trump.

Due to what Trump said yesterday at a mind-blowing mess of a rant (via The Moderate Voice):

...From there, the president’s criticism of the media went from barbed to personal in a cutting assessment of what he viewed as unfair coverage of his first few weeks in office – a period that has seen a succession of crises.
On a day when he ceded a loss over a signature policy in a federal appeals court, had to replace his labor secretary pick and faced questions over the resignation of his national security adviser, Trump chose to make the media a central focus of an unusually long and combative presidential news conference.
When asked by journalists of contacts between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives, he deflected the questions and put the focus instead on what he described as “illegal” government leaks and “dishonest” media coverage...
“...Tomorrow, they will say: ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press,'” Trump said. “I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.”

Hint: when a guy tells you as he's ranting and raving that he's "having a good time," no he's not. Guys having a good time hoot and holler, they do not rant or rave. But I digress...

In one unusual exchange near the end of the news conference, Trump called on a questioner, asking if he was “a friendly reporter.”
When the journalist asked about recent threats to 48 Jewish centers across the country and signs of rising anti-Semitism, Trump appeared to take the question personally, replying: “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” He added he was also the “least racist person,” told the reporter to be “quiet,” accused him of lying and then dismissed the question as “insulting.”

The reporter in question was Jewish Orthodox, and the reporter's query tried to lay out that he wasn't accusing Trump of anything - that Trump's got Jewish grandkids for example - other than trying to get Trump to admit there's something wrong with the uptick in bomb threats to Jewish centers and day care schools.

But Trump couldn't handle that. He quickly made it a personal attack on himself, and tried to bully the reporter by telling him to shut up and accusing him of lying.

Refer back to Junius' quote: This is Trump imposing silence where he cannot convince.

And Trump proved Junius again today, when he tweeted out this (via Balloon Juice):


Check out the framing, how he sets his position: he is accusing "FAKE NEWS media" - which happen to be some of the oldest, more reliable news agencies in the United States - of being "the enemy of the American People!"

He is setting them up as boogeymen, witches, Dirty Reds, Willie Hortons, black thugs in hoodies, scapegoats. Never offering actual proof of his claim that they are fake, but insisting that "we" his audience of "the American People" buy his word.

This is the bullying child in middle school who, when caught lying to the teachers and to the parents and unable to answer for his terrible performance with schoolwork and playing with the other kids, blames everyone but himself.

This is the con artist who, when caught setting up a job to trick a businessman out of everything, will accuse that businessman's associates of being the real crooks trying to stop him from a sweet deal.

This is the wannabe dictator who, when floundering in an administration wrapped up in foreign scandal and waning polls, attacks those who reports his regime's failures in a desperate attempt to keep his imperial robes and golden trinkets.

This is Trump proving Junius correct 250 years or so ago. Nothing has changed between the tyrants of the 18th Century and the would-be tyrant of today.

Trump is already trying to impose silence where he cannot convince. It's not going to be long before Trump uses force over argument by propagating his character by the sword...

And 62 million of you voted for this Imposter.

Gods help us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remember, This Is Just Within Trump's FIRST MONTH IN OFFICE...

Dan Rather, veteran of many a political scandal from the 1960s until today, quoted in the UK Independent:

“Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now,” former CBS news anchor Dan Rather said, in a post on Facebook. “It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now.”
His comments come after the White House admitted the President was told several weeks ago that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had not told the truth about a telephone call with a Russian diplomat—and chose not to fire him immediately. The news has fueled broader concerns about Mr Trump's closeness to Vladimir Putin and the role Russia may have played in helping him get elected...

I know I'm wary of making scandal comparisons to Watergate and I'd love to find the time to be able to rank scandals objectively and accurately, but there is a seriousness and severity to this. These accusations about Flynn - and about Trump's unsettling relationships with a autocratic, kleptocratic nation like Russia - fit the criteria of scandal regarding Corruption (extortion, bribes, financial quid pro quos) and Political (rigging or altering elections, procedural misconduct) that make for serious offenses. Throw in the fact that what Flynn was doing - what Trump's campaign was doing - falls under "substantive" (meaning this is shit that can get you arrested and charged with federal felonies) more than "salacious" (merely exposing the dark, nasty soullessness of Trump and his circle).

Making this worse is that the only ones who can do anything about this - political leadership in Congress - are not in the mood to do a damn thing about it.

We're talking about bastards like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Jason Chaffetz who were all ready to investigate the shit out of a President Hillary over unproven rumors and the SAME shit they'd investigated for the last four twelve twenty-five years.

We're less than thirty days in on Trump's administration and he's already at a scandal level of an Iran Contra, one big leak away from full-blown Watergate/Teapot Dome, and Congress refuses to do its job of oversight or to force an independent special prosecutor to take over an investigation. Shameful.

Thirty days. We've had one President die in 30 days and even he didn't commit as much damage to the nation's security status or psyche as Trump has.

If we had a Congress with any balls (to hell with spine, let's call these cowards on their collective manhood), we wouldn't have another month of this disaster.

Man up and end this shit, Congress. It's not funny anymore. It's not SAFE anymore. There is every serious possibility our national security is compromised by a foreign power that is not allied to our domestic and global interests.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nowhere To Go For Trump But Down


It's noteworthy that since the advent of national polling, no President started their administrations under 50 percent approval. It's due to several factors:

1) The President usually won a majority of popular votes, and still has those voters backing him,
2) There is a bipartisan desire by voters on both sides to wish an incoming President well and to hope for effective leadership,
3) Americans tend to be optimistic, forgiving and hopeful under most circumstances.

So how does any of that apply to Trump?


1) Trump did not win the majority of voters. He wasn't even close, with 3 million more for Hillary and when you throw in the Third Party voters Trump was under by 9 million voters with 45.9 percent (Hillary had 48 percent).
2) Trump (and the Republicans) ran such a bitter and divisive campaign - with Trump himself the most hated candidate in recent memory - that there is no bipartisan desire to support him.
3) The election result - where a broken Electoral College awarded the Presidency to someone a majority of voters didn't want - has created a numbed, shocked, angry response out of a majority of Americans (including non-voters) suddenly fearful and worried about our nation's present and future. This is anecdote on my part, but I can attest to a number of writers I know who are suffering depression and writer's block due to Trump.

We are three weeks in to Trump's administration and he's straddling 40 percent approval in the Gallup poll. His disapproval number is at 55 percent, and it's gone up nearly every 3-day gap in the polling.

Obama didn't sink to 40 percent approval until August 2011, three years into his first term. Dubya didn't sink to 40 percent approval until August 2005, his second term. Bush the Lesser was actually well in the 50s during his first year coming off a contested 2000 election. The response after 9/11 artificially bumped him to 90 percent for a week, but that was under terrible circumstances.

And if Trump has anyone to blame about his poor numbers compared to his two predecessors, he's only got himself to point at in that fancy gold-trimmed mirror of his.

We are living with a Presidential administration that's adept at one thing: Causing unforced errors that creates more problems than solves, and creating more headaches for a federal bureaucracy that has to clean up this mess.

By unforced errors I'm referring to a lot of the bad things - and things that haven't even happened yet - going on in Trump's White House:




The biggest unforced error was his Week Two attempt to placate his anti-immigrant supporters, issuing an Executive Order that banned refugees that had already been vetted from seven Middle Eastern nations as well as blocking the return of green-card-holding legalized residents from those nations.

This was a major mistake from start to (near) finish. The Order itself is a mess. It wasn't vetted with any White House lawyers, leaving it riddled with vague irregularities. As a result, it conflicts with existing law and - as the courts are finding - conflicts with the Constitution itself (flip to page 25 of the 9th Appellate Court ruling).

The Order made life miserable not just for American legalized residents but also Muslim residents from other countries, caught in the middle of travel to the U.S. for business or family reasons. That turned this into a major international scandal, with our supposed-to-be earnest allies like the United Kingdom - whose Commonwealth incorporates many Muslims and cultures affected by this disaster - publicly debating blocking Trump from official visits. The international outrage still hasn't ebbed.

The outrage here at home was immediate: thousands rushed to the major airports where Muslim travelers were being detained and protested like crazy. Lawyers offered pro bono services to those affected. If you look at that Gallup poll, you might notice the Disapproval numbers for Trump went UP after that weekend. If Trump thought he was going to get a lot of public support for his Muslim ban, he failed.

But that's a sign of how Trump is going to rule: Entirely on impulse, focused on brutal satisfaction to hurt others, and relying on his overwhelmed handlers to clean up the mess.

This is not effective leadership.

This is exactly what 62 million morans voted for when they backed an ill-informed, impulsive, ignorant bankrupt fraud of a failed businessman whose only success had been to trademark his name.

The reasons he hasn't been impeached yet are because the Republicans in the House need him around long enough to sign their impending disastrous tax-cut legislation, and those same Republicans are terrified of angering their party base still in love with this failure.

This means Trump will continue to misbehave. Even in the wake of losing his National Security Advisor Flynn to a major - and ONGOING - scandal, Trump won't learn. Trump will keep bulldozing across the landscape, whining about everybody else making his own poll numbers go down as he pulls off more outlandish and illegal stunts.

Who the hell is going to corral Trump from turning his weekend home Mal-A-Laugho into Spy Central? Who the hell is going to stop Trump's administration from constantly lying its collective ass off? Who the hell is going to keep Trump from insulting more of our allies and ruining more of our businesses to improve his own bottom line?

He's not going to win anybody over. He's losing whatever undecideds are left. He's already lost the 65 million who voted for Hillary. He's bound to start losing Republicans who actually care for things like competence and coherency in policy. He's polling right about where Dubya started losing people during the epic disaster that was Katrina... and Trump hasn't had his own Katrina yet. That is not a question of IF concerning this West Wing, it's a matter of WHEN.

This is going to keep going in a downward spiral.

This is not going to end well.

Update (2/16): Saw this on Twitter. Pew Research Center has this chart on how poorly Trump is doing with the general public:


Trump is double Clinton's unfavorables. And Bill still had 56 percent approval.

Monday, February 13, 2017

At Some Point During the Fall You Just Want the Ground To Show Up and End The Suspense

I hate to be a buzzkill, but... where's the Earth-Shattering Kaboom?

I was promised an Earth-Shattering Kaboom the second Trump swore to violate his oath of office last January. After all, Republicans held both wings of Congress. Paul Ryan was sitting on a Budget of Death to inflict upon the masses, slashing social safety nets like Medicare and Social Security and everything else that weren't F-35 fighter planes that can't fly. The Senate was poised to grant Trump foreign policy muscle to bully our allies and hug Russia long and hard until Putin got his rocks off.

But it's been three weeks going on four, more than an month into the Train Wreck of the Age of Trump, and other than a bunch of Executive Orders out of Trump - half of them tied up in courts for being unconstitutional - we're all still just sitting here waiting for the axe to fall.

Congress still seems tied up in knots, not because of Democratic obstruction - although it may come up once bills get to the Senate, in the meantime the Senate hasn't blocked Trump's nominations for his administration despite two or three major fights - but because the Republicans are trying to drive with the emergency brakes still on.

From what I can tell, it's as though the House Republicans can't get past the problem of figuring out how to kill Obamacare and avoid any blame for it. This makes sense because any hit to our health care laws has an effect on the overall federal budget, and Ryan and his budget-slashers need that item checked off the list before they can implement the rest of their Budget of Death.

But I'm not the only one noticing the slowdown - and the overall ineptitude - of this Republican government. Over to David Anderson (formerly Richard Mayhew) at Balloon Juice:

We’re 24 days into the Trump Error. And there has been little legislative activity. As of the morning of the 13th, there have been two bills that he has signed. The first was a bill that waived requirements for his Secretary of Defense nominee to be the Secretary of Defense. The second is a two page technical correction bill for the Government Accountability Office to get more data. That sounds like a perfectly lovely law on the face of it but it is not a major bill.
Why does this matter?
The first 100 days is the easiest time for legislation to pass and for major structural changes to get pulled in the desired direction of a determined trifecta. After 100 days, the opposition will have gotten its act together and the mid-term election cycle has gotten started so marginal majority members won’t want to piss off too many potential groups of supporters by making choices...

Over at the New Republic, Brian Beutler had this to say:

Because most Republicans didn’t expect Donald Trump to win the presidency, they had to cobble together a governing strategy on very short notice, but it was obvious many months before the election that if Trump were to win, party leaders would ignore his racism, corruption, volatility, and ignorance to whatever extent was necessary to enact a meaningful legislative agenda.
This was a morally hideous pact, but it bears superficial resemblance to a very familiar, unremarkable pattern. New presidents come in, often at the height of popularity, and they and their congressional allies make the most of it for as long as possible, until recriminations can no longer be suppressed...

The problem stems from Trump: Congress has been busier trying to respond to Trump's impulsive and chaotic leadership than trying to focus on any meaningful legislation.

...It’s possible that a major payoff awaits the GOP. Perhaps they really will repeal and replace Obamacare before the end of the year, even though, according to Senator Bob Corker, “there’s not any real discussion taking place right now.” They seem no closer to a major supply-side tax reform or infrastructure bill or welfare rollback either...

As Beutler notes in a follow-up article, Trump and his weaknesses are making any initiative from the Republicans impossible to start: "This weakness contributes to a climate of rudderlessness and depression in the White House, with multiple factions anonymously backbiting each other and angling for clout by leaking juicy details of administrative incompetence to the press."

Even though Congress is a separate branch from the Presidency, there had developed over the decades - especially at the turn of the 20th Century - a kind of hand-in-hand teamwork between the West Wing and Capitol Hill. The Speaker of the House gets his/her committees to debate bills, gets them voted on and passed to the Senate where the Majority Leader does his/her thing with committees and floor votes, and then it goes to the President to sign or veto. But buried within that simple process is a complex system of give-and-take where it's needed for all the major players to be on the same page to make sure the whole transition goes through without bumps. If there's problems with not enough Senators signing on, for example, you expect delays in the legislation and you plan accordingly.

Even though the Budget is supposed to start in Congress (especially the House) it's become tradition (actually a requirement when Nixon balked over funding issues in 1974) for the President to offer his Budget Proposal - thousands of pages thick - to Congress to give them an agenda to edit and compromise. Previous administrations usually have it sent out by the first or second week of February, and it's been something that's been in the rough draft stages for months. But I honestly have not heard of anything getting done about it since December. And without that, apparently Ryan and the rest of Congress can't proceed until Trump delivers something more than three pages long describing what he wants (expect a crayon-scribbled demand for that damn Trump Wall to be funded by any means necessary).

What's happening here is a White House administration that's woefully understaffed and leaderless - with at least three in-house factions backstabbing each other with leaks and rushed orders - unable to formulate a coherent agenda that's planned out more than a week in advance. With a presidential administration in chaos, Congress can't proceed on any major legislation, creating more chaos there (especially when it feels like Trump is expecting Congress to do all the heavy lifting for him).

While it's nice that - so far - we haven't been hit with the Belgium-sized meteor that will be Ryan's budget disaster, and that outside of Trump's evil EOs our nation is stumbling along and standing up to the train wreck of the Trump Error Era, this isn't going to last. At some point, Trump is going to have to send Congress something to vote over. At some point, Ryan and McConnell are going to have to start making their own plans and passing them through their houses.

It's just the uncertainty of what the hell it's all going to look like that's causing sleepless nights. Knowing it's going to be bad is its own kind of nightmare, but waiting for it to happen somehow feels worse. At least when it DOES happen, we'll know how to fight back and save ourselves...



Thursday, February 09, 2017

Breaking News: Trump Denied His Muslim Ban

The ruling coming down from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today (via The Atlantic):

A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s order blocking the Trump administration from enforcing its immigration and refugee order, handing the president his highest-profile legal defeat yet over the controversial ban.
In an unsigned opinion, the panel decisively rejected the Justice Department’s arguments against the restraining order. “We hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay,” the three judges wrote in their 29-page decision...

It's telling that the decision is unanimous: even in a small, three-judge paneling there would have been room for at least one dissenter. What's more telling is what they focused on:

“The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the panel wrote. “Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.”
We disagree,” they added.

This part is where the judicial system gives Trump a straight-up middle finger. They are noting Trump's dictatorial need to issues orders without question, and they are reminding him that the Presidency isn't a dictatorship.

Trump, of course, isn't having any of it: His Twitter response - lacking any legal nuance - was "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"

Of course Trump would frame the matter as "National Security" instead of the raging violation of civil liberties to our nation's own legal residents his Executive Order really is. To him, the only way towards "better security" is to bully everyone he deems an enemy (both real and imagined) and make them suffer for his fears. Rather than the slow, tedious effective methods of screening already in place - as the Appeals Court noted, the affected nations on Trump's list have NOT turned out to be sources of terrorists in the US - Trump would rather enjoin an emotional, harsh, crass practice of humiliation, arrest, deportation...

Trump would rather give the haters who follow him targets of their fear and rage rather than taking the harder, better path of inclusion and acceptance of immigrants and refugees who WANT to be American, who WANT to be safe here...

This fight isn't over. The haters are still out there, angry and smarting now from the public denial by our courts they'll claim as foolish and disastrous, and every other trigger word they can throw out there to the Fox Not-News and Breitbart crowds.

This is still a big win for the lovers and the fighters for justice. We just need to keep winning more of these fights.

Monday, February 06, 2017

A Handy Guide To Light Switches

I dunno what is more troubling in the New York Times report about the first two weeks of the Trump administration:


  • That the West Wing is horrifically understaffed,
  • That there are few people in a position of authority who know what they are doing,
  • That Trump himself is complacently out-of-touch with his own people,
  • That the staffers who are there have no idea what a light switch looks like.


This blog article will focus on the last part, because it's the one that is in most dire need of attention.

BECAUSE HOW THE HELL CAN YOU NOT IDENTIFY A LIGHT SWITCH?

So, a quick perusal of the Google Search Engine brings up a link to Home Depot (tm)'s handy Buying Guide for Switches AND Dimmers (in case you want to set a mood):

This, believe it or not, is a light switch.

It has two options: Up or Down. Usually one setting will have it UP to turn on, but sometimes it will be the other way. You should be able to test this function within 3.4 seconds upon entering a darkened room.

Sometimes, there are MULTIPLE switches in a room. Each of them controls the UP or DOWN, so you will have to perform a combination of switch maneuvers to see what works. The best way is to keep one switch UP in what should be the Lights On setting, and then check the Second Switch with a series of Ups and Downs to see if that works. If not, go BACK to the First switch and turn it DOWN, then return to the Second switch and try the Ups and Downs again to see if that turns on the lights.

If the lights are NOT coming on at all, YOU SHOULD GET A LADDER DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS WITH AN OPEN WINDOW FOR NATURAL LIGHTING - or else bring a flashlight - AND CHANGE OUT THE DAMN BULBS.

Q: how many Trump employees does it take to change a light bulb?
A: do we really wanna know that answer?

Now, back to the matter at hand.

You MAY run into this newfangled technology called DIMMERS. In which case you will have a set of Knobs and Sliding bars that can turn On and then adjust the brightness of the lights to your needs.

Some Knob Dimmers will require you to Push in first to turn ON the light function, and then turn the knob CLOCKWISE to brighten the room.

The Slider Dimmers may have a Press ON button to turn ON the light function, and then slide UP to brighten the room.

If the room at the White House has absolutely NO light fixtures to turn ON or OFF, you may be in a damn broom closet.

If you are still having some difficulty figuring out where the light fixtures are, one simple rule is that the light switch is CLOSEST TO THE FREAKING DOOR YOU USE TO GO IN AND OUT OF THE DAMN ROOM.

If you are still having difficulty operating light switches and/or dimmers in any capacity, we encourage you to resign your post at the Trump White House and go back to Kindergarten because FOR CRYING OUT THIS IS SOMETHING WE LEARNED WATCHING SESAME STREET WHEN WE WERE FREAKING THREE YEARS OLD!

P.S. There may be some books at your local library on light switches that may help.

P.S.S. If this is Trump's Best and Brightest on display here, we're f-cked.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Worth It

PRESENTED WITH COMMENT

Comment:

DEAR F-CKING GOD I HAVEN'T FELT THIS BLESSED TO HAVE STAYED UP TO WATCH SNL SINCE I WOKE UP THAT NIGHT FOR NO APPARENT REASON WHEN THEY BROADCAST "LAZY SUNDAY" AND IT BLEW MY MIND.

FORGET HAVING ALEC BALDWIN CAMEO EVERY WEEK AS A BEFUDDLED DERANGED TRUMP, MELISSA MCCARTHY AS ENRAGED TWISTED SEAN SPICER SHOULD OPEN EVERY SNL UNTIL THE UNITED STATES COLLAPSES UNDER THEIR MISRULE.

ALSO I MAY NEVER LOOK AT PIZZA ROLLS THE SAME WAY AGAIN.

I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

But What If We Don't Have a Tomorrow? We Didn't Have One Today...


This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

I got you, babe.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

Don't drive angry.

This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.
This is Groundhog Day. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump.

This is not a joke. This blog is a reminder that you all were warned about Trump...