Friday, February 15, 2019

Another trumpian Step Towards Dictatorship

So this is shamefully happening (via Richard Cowan and David Morgan at

President Donald Trump was poised on Friday to declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that Democrats vowed to challenge as an unconstitutional attempt to fund his proposed border wall without approval from Congress.

Previous Presidents had issued national emergencies before, but usually within the confines of existing laws and regulations set by Congress to prevent overreach. Obama for example issued 12 emergencies, almost all of them involving foreign interventions and not exactly cutting into Congressional "power of the purse".  President Loser of the Popular Vote trump is explicitly pulling this maneuver to sidestep Congressional power over the budget and destroying the Constitutional concept of Checks and Balances in the process.

All because he doesn't want to be seen as a loser:

Trump was also expected to sign a bipartisan government spending bill approved by Congress on Thursday that would prevent another federal shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday morning.
The bill, lacking any money for his wall, is a defeat for Trump in Congress, where his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding yielded no result, other than a record-long 35-day December-January partial government shutdown that damaged the U.S. economy and his poll numbers.
trump's excuses this afternoon did little to convince anyone that there is a crisis at the border: the flow of drugs won't be stopped by a border wall, there's no evidence of "chain migration" abusing our immigration system, and the needed reforms to the Lottery system aren't going to get answered by this move.

The horrifying truth is that trump has ached to grant himself direct powers that the Constitution doesn't grant Presidents (his dream of being a dictator like those he admires), and is seizing on the nature of the Emergency Powers set up by Congress back in 1976 to achieve that desire. trump does not care of the precedents he's creating with this move, where most critics - even Republicans - are worried if this move succeeds trump is giving license to future DEMOCRATIC Presidents to enact socialist/progressive reforms in spite of conservative obstruction in Congress. trump is likely convinced there will never be a Democratic successor, that he will somehow become Dictator-For-Life in spite of the 22nd Amendment (he can always issue an Emergency Order cancelling all future elections, after all why not) or even his own mortality (Gods help us if trump thinks he can pass on executive powers to his children).

trump is also ignoring the reality of his actions going to the Courts - already California has filed a lawsuit against it - but not the lawsuit part because he already admits he knew those would happen, trump only cares to create the illusion that his actions are giving him a major win. In spite of the polling that should tell him the Wall is a bad sell to the public, that it will give a rallying point for Democratic candidates against him in 2020, and that even his Far Right allies are attacking him for betraying their agenda of a harsher immigration policy (trump signed that budget which actually gave Democrats small victories on that front). All that matters to trump right now are the optics of "victory" and his personal ambition to become America's Biggest Dictator Ever (eat your heart out, Andrew Jackson!).

And while our nation's leader fiddle over fake "emergencies," we're coping this afternoon with a real National Emergency with YET ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING with at least five dead in Aurora IL (which is different from the MASS SHOOTING in Aurora CO back in 2012, CAN WE KEEP TRACK OF THESE MASS SHOOTINGS ANYMORE, AMERICA).

We're in the Darkest Timeline, folks. Every day gets worse until trump and his Republican enablers are driven out of power forever.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

When Churches Betray Faith, Churches Become Conspiracies

God. (via the Houston Chronicle and reporters Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco):

In the decade since Vasquez's appeal for help, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals.
It's not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.
They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.
About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.
Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today...
And these are just the ones we know about, from 20 years or so. This is rape and sexual assault that likely had been going on for decades earlier.

For all the goddamn Christian wingnuts yelling and screaming about Muslims, the greatest threat to our families in the United States are the goddamn Christian wingnuts.

Did you catch that last bit? Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.

Did you catch that earlier bit, where some of the victims were forced to get abortions? The Southern Baptists are one of the biggest religious groups to rail against abortion, but by God if their own should rape a woman or young girl then hey let's just make sure that medical procedure we don't talk about that it gets done in another state where nobody will find out.

Goddamned hypocrites. No, worse, Pharisees.

How is this any better than what the Catholic Church has been doing for decades (if not centuries) covering up their own pedophiles and rapists? The Pope just had to come out recently and confess his church has been covering up the rape and sex slavery of nuns, on top of the recent revelations of what priests have been doing to children.

This isn't about God (other than perverting the Lord's work) this isn't about Faith (other than destroying it for thousands of victims) this is about Power, the power of institutional control that a church can grant to those in charge. This is about a blinded, lustful Patriarchy that views their flock not as followers but as the next meal.

There is no God in these churches the second their own politics demanded they protect the rapists and abusers instead of their children and victims.

To hell with these scandal-plagued institutions. For all that the laws of man have brought against them - charges and convictions and jail time - the churches themselves remain relatively unpunished, still standing, still seeking more converts and members (and victims for their abuses). Utterly convinced God has forgiven their sins as though THEY can judge their own corrupt selves.

To hell with them. We need our government to step up here. We need accountability.

These churches need to lose their tax-exempt status.

It is an argument cropping up across the world wherever these Church scandals have struck. A lot of nations grant tax-exempt status to churches out of respect to the idea that churches are charitable institutions, looking out for the well-being of their parishioners and their communities. They also do it as a sign of separation of Church and State, to avoid the political abuse of faith that history has shown doesn't end well for a lot of innocent people.

But these sex abuse revelations are exposing that concept as a lie. These churches are so horrified by exposure they've covered up, lied, betrayed victims, all because the threat of liability - of paying restitution to victims - drove them to cover up.

These churches love Money and Power more than they love God and People.

So if money is what they love(worship), that's where the punishment should be.

End their tax-exempt status.

Oh, they'll yell, they'll scream, they'll claim we're violating their First Amendment rights to free worship. Which won't be true. If they want to keep gathering and praying, they can do that. It's just they can't keep all the goddamned cash that rolls in when they do.

We have to recognize this truth: These churches that protected sexual predators and abused their own members are no longer churches. These organizations are now criminal conspiracies.

Goddamn them.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Brief Thought on How to Label Rich Jerks

Idiot Billionaire Hoping To Save His Tax Cuts From Impending Progressive Passage of High Marginal Rates Doesn't Like Being Called a Billionaire (via Arwa Mahdawi of the Guardian).

When asked by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin whether he thought billionaires had become too powerful in American life, the coffee magnate complained that “the moniker billionaire now has become the catchphrase”. Rather than using a word like billionaire to describe a person with billions of dollars, Schultz suggested it may be better to use expressions like “people of means” or “people of wealth”.
Poor Schultz. He was just trying to help us all out; generously digging into his rich vocabulary and spreading the semantic wealth. However, after footage of the interview went viral this week, the businessman has been mercilessly mocked. People of mean spirit have been suggesting their own alternatives to billionaire such as “robber barons”, “cash vampires”, and various other phrases that are probably too rude to repeat...

Yeah, I've probably repeated about twenty rude ones on Twitter just this weekend alone.

But let's play nice, shall we? Let's not go after the super-rich who are failing at noblesse oblige with the vindictive venom of French Revolutionaries.

If we're gonna label Billionaires for what they are, let's keep this professional yet accurate.

Let's call them:

Avarice Americans.

What, Schultz. You don't like that? You don't like getting called out for your greedy tax-dodging stealing-from-the-public ways?

Whadda ya gonna do, pay us to NOT insult you? You should. All of you Billionaires should tread lightly. There's 300 million of us and only 585 of you. I think we can take 'em in a fair fight.

Deeply A Problem

As a followup to my previous blogging, the situation in Virginia is getting crazier by the hour.

Northam has NOT resigned as expected and is trying to refuse accountability for the photo he originally apologized for (his argument afterward was that "Oops I got that confused with ANOTHER time I wore blackface" and that "Oops I was Halloweening as Michael Jackson")

Thing is, Northam is now politically isolated with his own party as most Democrats in-state and nationwide are denouncing him/asking him to resign. He may think he can endure the rest of his administration but it's likely his own state assembly will block him on any objectives he hopes to achieve.

Problem is, the next in line Lt. Governor Fairfax is now facing sexual assault charges dating back to 2004. It apparently had been cursory investigated and dismissed then - by both law enforcement and the media - but because of the current situation now has regained public notice.

This all went into Florida-Man level madness today when the state's Attorney General - by state constitution the second-in-line to the Governor's seat - admitted he too donned blackface in his youth, and unlike Northam is openly apologizing for it. There's a likelihood calls for his resignation are bound to start as he's politically wounded as well. This gets into crazy mode because if all three resign at once, the next in line is the State Assembly Speaker... who is a Republican, and who is only the Speaker because a goddamn tiebreaker had to be settled by drawing lots out of a goddamn jar.

So let's recap: One of our major states - 11th overall in population, 10th in the economy, a key part of one of our largest metropolises (the North Virginia-DC-Baltimore area), home to many Presidents and key historical figures and places - is about to go sideways.

Granted, a lot of this could be easily resolved if 1) Northam resigns NOW for the good of his state and his party, 2) Fairfax uses his time as Governor to immediately find a Lt. Governor replacement, 3) Fairfax steps aside if the sexual assault allegations prove true, allowing the new Lt. Governor to replace him, 4) the new new Governor replaces the Attorney General with someone WITHOUT a racist or sexist background.

Also granted: A lot of this bullshit wouldn't be happening if enough of our political leaders avoided being (alleged) racist idiots or (alleged) sexual harassers. If only, God help them, they ever took the time to examine their life choices and noticed particular moments in their pasts that should have warned them "Oh SHIT this will come back to bite me on the ass at the worst possible moment."

But that's the world we live in, isn't it. If we just focus on the racist part of today's problem, we'd see that particular blindness of White Privilege as a major concern.

I am completely with John Cole on this:

Again, this shit was right there in the open. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but the over the top “wtf” from people is a little crazy- THIS HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFETIME. Kids are still doing their High Senior senior pictures in Confederate garb. The entire god damned tea party was a racist ass reaction to a black President.
This is a deeply racist nation- it’s part of who we are. So yes, there was black face going on, but let’s not lose sight of the other really racist shit that is happening. Let’s not all pretend that this shit is news to us, but remember to work on all the other stuff that is still ongoing and problematic. Like disfranchising millions of black people. Like the racial disparities in the criminal justice system that range from being more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, more likely to receive longer sentences, more likely to be sentenced to death. The racial disparities in the medical system that range from being less likely to receive preventative care, receiving lower quality and less effective care, to higher infant mortality rates to lower likelihood of being insured to worse pain management and quality of life. Or racial disparities in education which range from lower reading and achievement levels to lower graduation rates to less exposure and access to advanced classes to lower quality schools to on and on. Or racial disparities in the banking system, to christ do I need to go on?
Again, I’m 48, white, and from West Virginia and not particularly woke, but fer fuck’s sake, if you’re surprised that a bunch of college kids in Virginia were in blackface in the 70’s and 80’s there are a lot of things about this world that are going to shock the shit out of you. You should start by listening to some people of color. And voting for them.

The United States need to stop paying lip service to honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and start paying attention to the goddamn warnings the good Reverend was trying to tell us about the destructive nature of racism. King kept mentioning his biggest obstacle wasn't the Racists - he could see them coming and knew how to fight them - but the indifferent Whites who lived within their privileged world and had no idea the damage they were doing.

The first thing White America has GOT TO DO IS ADMIT THEY LIVE WITH A PRIVILEGE that many non-Whites do not have, and that this privilege is blinding them to the harm they commit.

This doesn't mean all of a sudden falling to our knees and begging forgiveness. It doesn't mean inviting every Black or Latino person you know over to pot luck where you'll be serving potato salad with raisins in it. Or suddenly turning around and offering billions in reparations (although if we are being honest for the love of God we SHOULD do that because a lot of minority poverty stems from our racist history of Ghetto-As-Policy).

But it does mean first and foremost we need to stop going out of our way to be assholes towards other ethnics. Christ. This should be the easiest thing to do. JUST STOP BEING ASSHOLES.


Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Stink of Racism It Gets Into Everything

So this kind of blew up last night (via the Virginian Pilot):

A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows him and another person in racist costumes — one wearing blackface and one a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, though it was not clear which person was the future governor.
Hours after the 35-year-old photo came to light Friday, Northam apologized for his decision to appear in it. Elected officials and activist groups from across the political spectrum called for him to resign.

By this morning, major Democratic figures at the state and national level - including Julian Castro, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden - have made calls for Northam to step down.

Virginia's state constitution has it the Lt. Governor - currently Justin Fairfax, who is Black - will step into the Governor's office and appoint his own temporary replacement (a permanent Lt. Governor to serve out the rest of the 2 years of term will be voted on in November).

There are a few shocking things about this story. Mostly to do with the fact Northam's yearbook has been out there for ages and it's only now coming to light. In this day and age of aggressive Oppo Research in elections, you'd have thought some Republican snoop would have caught this and presented it to Northam's political rivals BEFORE Northam won the governorship. (I am hearing stories however that researchers DID find this, but thought it was a fake created by other GOP operatives...)

The one thing that isn't shocking - at least to me - was that there was something this racist in the personal history of a White boy who grew up in the traditional South.

Northam's own background has him growing up in the 1970s and 80s, post-Civil Rights Era of the 60s, where racism was still entrenched in a lot of social, educational, and professional institutions across the South. He attended Virginia Military Institute (which has a history of racism and sexism - not allowing girls to enroll until 1996) and had a school nickname of "Coonman" in 1981. He went to a Virginia medical college surrounded by drunken white frat boys (and yeah, I've noted THAT problem before) who, anecdotally speaking, tend to be arrogant with a good amount of stupidity aimed at pulling cruel pranks, bullying disguised as hazing, and mockery of others.

Northam may have grown out of it, when the time came and he went to work as a doctor and then got into politics and then worked his way to the Governor's seat. Much of his public record has been consistent with the stance of a centrist Democrat in the modern South, supporting pro-choice positions (he's currently under fire from the Far Right for statements made about late-trimester abortions), education reforms, and protecting voter rights. However, something like this in his past - something that seems a consistent pattern of his youth - makes it harder not only for Blacks to trust him but for the state (and national) Democratic leadership to argue in good faith on social and economic reforms fighting racism.

It's troubling, but it's out there now. That trust is gone.

Look, we just had a scandal here in Florida where the appointed Secretary of State Ertel turned out to have worn a racist costume in 2005 that mocked Hurricane Katrina victims. He did this stunt at the age of 35, well aware of the cruelty he was promoting and doing it anyway, As soon as the photos got out, he had to resign because nobody could trust him being fair overseeing elections in a contentious battleground state like ours (even though Ertel's work history as an Elections Supervisor - fighting against Rick Scott's voter purges - seemed scandal-free).

Ertel's background is about the same as Northam's. Born in Jacksonville, FL and having lived here for much of his life - except for his time studying at University of Maryland before joining the Army and serving during the 1990s - Ertel has been immersed in the same cultural mess that other Southern Whites grew up in. As much as Northam probably thought it was funny or cool to dress up racist, Ertel thought the same thing. A lot of Southern Whites (and gods help us, more and more Whites nationwide) probably have thought the same thing.

This is where having hundreds of years of the same social messaging, the same mental conditioning, just gets into everything like the rotting stench of death. Southern Culture is a thing, after all, it's NASCAR and College Football and Daisy Dukes and Grandma's Moonshine Whiskey and Redneck Jokes and Pecan/Peach Pie and Dirt Roads under Spanish Moss trees down by the creeks where kids in coveralls fish for dinner. It's also a rabid history of lynching and vagrancy laws and entire Black towns getting wiped off the maps and Jim Crow and ongoing voter suppression and Confederate Battle Flags shoved into everyone's faces.

It gets to where White folk don't ever see it as a problem, because after all being White in the South has its privileges. White kids grow up in a culture that allows for mocking of minorities - especially Blacks - and embracing the mindset of "rebellion" AND "status quo" that the Confederacy/Lost Cause has come to represent. And then they have kids and pass the privilege onward.

This is where every White person who grew up south of the Mason Dixon line needs to re-examine every childish, seemingly harmless prank or joke they ever pulled while as children and teens because I guarantee - myself included - there is at least one moment of racist stupidity and cruelty stuck on your soul's track record. I fear that I have one, and the troubling thing is I cannot remember because for me - and likely for a lot of other Whites - it's been so easy to forget the slight or damage done. The weapon of racism never got aimed at me, after all...

Meanwhile, I may have noted how Ertel's behavior fit a mostly Republican attitude towards race, Northam's standing as a Democrat doesn't change my argument. For every modern Democrat caught pulling racist shit - and yeah, I know Robert Byrd was KKK and a Democrat, but he's DEAD now and he recanted -  there's still a ratio of 5 or 6 modern Republicans pulling equally racist shit or in Rep. Steve King's case, racist shit that's worse.

There were a number of Far Right pundits crowing earlier about how the Democrats were hypocrites in having Northam exposed as a racist, but when the Democratic response properly called on his resignation those same pundits are trying to flip the narrative to hide their own hypocrisy on the matter. Like this is all still a game to them... It still doesn't excuse the Far Right of their hatreds, as much as it doesn't excuse Northam's cluelessness or Ertel's cruelty or anyone else's blithe ignorance regardless of party affiliation.

The hypocrisy of racism, the pain of racism, this is all on full display right now. It's been out there before Reverend King exposed it to the world shaming our nation onto a better moral arc, and it's still been there all this time of the rest of us trying to build a better loving world.

The damage of racism - even the tiniest bit that was meant to be funny, which turns out never really funny after all - is piling up. This is something a lot of White folk - myself included - need to acknowledge and step away from.

The first step in getting better is admitting you have a problem. And the addiction of White Privilege can be a hell of a drug.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Billionaires Ballot, An Electoral Nightmare (w/ Update)

Given how the Beltway media loves covering elections - the horse race nature of campaigning always involves personality clashes and plot twists galore - we're already into the nightmare of 2020 coverage not only with the usual suspects putting in their expected nominations but also a surprising opening appearance.

It seems the former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz is thinking about putting his hat in the 2020 ring to run as an independent.

Naturally, this requires a reasoned and well-thought response from Twitter (just read this article from Balloon Juice for a nice refresher). Which, if I can summarize for you, was this:


There's already been calls to boycott Starbucks (I originally argued that it might not work since he retired the CEO gig, but it turns out he still owns a hefty share so yeah go ahead nuke the company).

Schultz's reasoning for running is he posits the "Both Sides are wrong" argument popular with the "No Labels Third Party Will Save Us" wing of mainstream media.

But he's made his real reason pretty clear after his first couple of interviews: He's already attacked the likes of Kamala Harris (who announced this week) and Elizabeth Warren (who's announced earlier) and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (who is too young to announce but can dance circles around him) for their open calls for higher tax rates and expanded healthcare / social aid programs that will likely involve taxing the rich.

He's terrified by Democratic Party calls for a high marginal tax rate on billionaires, and he wants to do everything in his power - such as Spoiling the Democrats as a "Centrist" - to ensure trump wins a second term to keep that from happening.

Let's refer to Eugene Robinson at RealClearPolitics on this:

At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm election and Trump's cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I'm pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich.
He does have a chance in 2020, however, if the anti-Trump vote is split between two or more candidates. Imagine Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, siphoning off even 5 percent of the Democratic candidate's vote in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The horror of 2016 threatens to become a recurring nightmare.

Here is the sad truth of American Presidential Elections that I have noted before: The Electoral College system as currently rigged favors a Winner-Take-All by state meaning the top two major party candidates - Democratic and Republican - are the ONLY possible candidates to win the Electors.

No third party or independent candidate stands a chance. Anderson in 1980 barely won 6 percent of the overall popular vote and NOTHING in the Electoral College. Perot ran his vanity campaigns in 1992 and 1996 and achieved the same Electoral College results (Nada). Libertarians and Green candidates have yet to garner even ONE Elector over multiple campaigns. The last time we had a successful third party candidate was Wallace in 1968 with 46 EV, and that was because of the cultural and political shift over the Civil Rights Acts that sent the racist Southern voters to the polls in revolt.

But that's the thing, as Robinson notes, the third party candidate can perform the role of Spoiler to knock the possible winner down a peg and force the Electoral College - by having key battleground states flip the wrong way by just a handful of votes - to elect the losing Second-Place finisher.

We've seen it within our own lifetimes. The Perot races in 1992 and 1996 arguably pulled away enough votes from the Republican candidates, and there's still bitterness among Democrats towards the role Ralph Nader played in the 2000 elections. You could argue about Jill Stein affecting Hillary's chances in key states, but Libertarian Gary Johnson had a bigger popular vote impact and it did little damage to trump's chances (there's still the specter of Putin sabotaging the whole 2016 scene so that's kind of a wash). Outside of our times, the biggest Spoiler election was 1912's when Teddy Roosevelt - angry at his Republican protege Taft's soft business policies - decided to run his Bull Moose campaign... letting the Democratic candidate Wilson win due to the split Republican voter base.

Robinson notes in his article how even trump understood that in 2015-16:

Remember how coy Trump was early in the Republican primary campaign, reserving the option of an independent candidacy if the GOP did not treat him fairly? Trump used the threat as leverage to get his way on debate logistics and ballot access. But then he suddenly reversed course, signing a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
A person familiar with Trump's thinking told me why. Trump understood that the most likely outcome, if he ran on his own, would be to guarantee Hillary Clinton's election by taking votes away from the GOP candidate. In his wildest dreams, he might hope to win enough electoral votes to keep either major-party candidate from reaching a majority. But in that case, the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives -- which would surely choose the Republican or the Democrat, not Trump.

That's the real purpose - and threat - of a strong third party candidate in our current Presidential system: shake up enough votes to make the likely winning party actually lose.

Schultz is not actually strong - at least not yet, because he's a relatively unknown figure just re-entering the spotlight - but he is RICH. As a confirmed billionaire, he can throw about 500 million dollars at a vanity campaign and still use it as a tax write-off somehow because he can STILL spend enough money on accountants to cheat the IRS.

Referring back to my earlier argument against Schultz: the sonofabitch is running scared because the ascendant Democratic Party - with its new lineup of Progressive and left-leaning Congresspersons - shows little sign of slipping back for the upcoming 2020 cycle. The Dems are likely to retain control of the House, can arguably retain enough state governments (and maybe win a few Purple ones if the turnout's high enough) to keep progressive efforts going, may threaten Republican control of the Senate (more GOP Senators are up for re-election than Democrats this next cycle), and are poised to win against an unpopular and inept incumbent in trump (barring further Russian intervention).

Running for Governor or Senator as an "Independent" (or even as a business-friendly Democrat - he is apparently a registered D) won't stop that momentum. Running for President - even with the unlikelihood of winning without a popular base of support - to ensure trump retains veto power over everything is the best achievable goal.

Schultz making this a suicide mission is the only thing that makes sense. He has to know he's already getting hit on social media by outraged Democrats, and he's making a terrible impression with the media talking heads he's interviewed with. He's just another amateur at politics. It'd be like... me, making an announcement from my blog that "HEY, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for 2020 as an Independent!"

The only difference between Schultz and myself is I cannot afford to even download the paperwork I'd have to file to start a campaign, and he can afford to hire 10,000 people to do all that for him.

But we're running into the OTHER big problem with modern American politics (actually it's several): terrible, horrifying myths about business and politics.

  • The myth that Government ought to be run like a Business;
  • The myth that Business Leaders - CEOs for example - are capable of managing Public Sector powers;
  • The myth that our partisan landscape can be healed/fixed by a calming Centrist figure that can create bipartisan support just by standing there oh so pretty.

As we've seen from bad performances from other Presidents with business backgrounds - Hoover and Dubya and the current Loser of the Popular Vote trump (the con artist's not even a successful businessman in the first place!!!) - we should know by now that being a CEO is different from being a President. Decision making in a business is top-down, has to be, and there's nothing wrong with that. But a President has to lead by consensus and awareness of the public will, and CEOs can never think like that (everything has to be HIS WAY or the highway, or in Dubya's case he deferred authority out to handlers like Cheney - also having corporate experience - who DID think like that).

The myth of Government being run like a Business should be taking hits as well. Where a business operates in order to earn profits, a government has to operate to provide services as a public good. Those are opposing objectives. Every time the Republicans pull their "run it like a business" stunt - tax cuts and deregulations - everything falls apart with deficits and collapsing infrastructure.

The final myth is the belief - the hope - of the mainstream media and high-ranking punditry that all we need is a Uniter figure outside of "Party" corruption to rise up and save us from our weak political overlords. They look to figures like Washington who seemed to rise above party (only because he existed before they formed, and when they did he leaned conservative/Federalist). They look to calming, fatherly patriarchs like Eisenhower or amiable, cheerful types like Reagan (his spell on the current punditry remains horrifyingly intact).

THAT is the biggest pipe dream of all. There is no outisde Uniter figure waiting to save us, no one with a level of public popularity - outside of entertainers with universal appeal - that can sweep in and guide us to sane policy. And if there is, it sure as hell isn't yet another billionaire - especially one whom nobody could pick out of a police lineup two weeks ago - thinking he can buy his way onto the national ballot.

But we're stuck with Schultz, just like we were stuck with other vanity candidates like Perot, or the likes of Steve Forbes or Herman Cain trying their luck in Republican primaries.

Because the final biggest problem we have with our electoral system: It favors the rich.

It's been a thing since our nation's founding: Every political player from the Founders at the Declaration of Independence through the first few decades of forming the Constitution were all wealthy men. Lawyers, merchants, landowners, slaveowners. Not a one of them were what we'd call poor or middle class. They could afford to play the game of politics and then hand it off to the next rich newcomer to come along and keep the game going.

As our nation grew, we'd get the occasional poor person - someone from a struggling background - but we'd still get overwhelmed by the business leaders and the profit makers, all of them keeping control of government to ensure their needs - staying rich - were met first before taking care of the general welfare (reforms when they happened only happen in waves, like the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century in response to the corruption of the late 19th Century).

This is where we're stuck today. Only the rich can run for office. Entry fees alone to get on a ballot can get expensive. You have to take time to campaign, make speeches, get on airwaves, kiss babies, etc. and only the self-employed and indolent wealthy can afford that. You have to raise campaign funds, which means getting other wealthy people to chip in, and who else can do that but someone from those same social circles?

And the current electoral system favoring dark money and deep-pocket SuperPACs - thanks Citizens United! - guarantees that the wealthy can buy their candidates and make sure they stay bought.

We may live in a republic democracy, and we in theory should have open elections where any person could put their name in to run for office. But in practice we're stuck in a system where the billionaires hire the millionaires to run the government across the board as much as possible. And whenever that gets threatened - when a political party gains power like the Democrats that are willing to disrupt the rich people's attempts to get even richer by avoiding their civic duty of paying taxes or answering to the law - they break out fellow billionaires to run themselves and do their hardest to convince enough suckers voters into thinking they are the MODERATE CENTRIST NON-PARTY SAVIOR of their dreams.

This shouldn't be a hard decision to make, America. Billionaires are ironically not worth it as Presidential candidates. They are more disaster than savior.


Update: So far, Schultz's campaign rollout has been getting negative reviews. If he's trying to appeal to Democrats, accusing the party's more popular figures as "unAmerican" isn't going to cut it... (via Paul Blest at Splinter):

Schultz has just been getting pummeled from all sides over the past few days for everything from his inability to provide a vision for the country that doesn’t sound like it was left on the cutting floor during West Wing writers’ meetings to his repeated insistence that taxes, a robust safety net, and essentially everything that he doesn’t like are “un-American.” But while a lot of the attacks have come from the left, even Schultz’s presumed natural constituency—ideological centrists who think Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump pose a remotely similar level of danger to the country—are already tired of his shit.
Axios’ Mike Allen, who’s never afraid to ask the tough questions, has a blog out in Axios today which serves to allow Democratic Party “insiders”—i.e., the people whose main responsibility for the last couple of decades has been making sure it never does anything too popular—the opportunity to verbally whale on Schultz and his insipid candidacy... One of Washington’s best-wired party operatives told me: “I’ve talked to six dozen Democrats, and the overwhelming sentiment is that he will be pushed out by this incredible wave of disgust and disdain rolling his way...”
Schultz is going to have a problem appealing to the "Centrists" among the Democratic ranks if Schultz keeps talking like he's further to the Right on economic issues than most Republicans.

Like I tweeted:

it's at the point where Schultz is essentially just trump without the MAGA Hat Racism, which shouldn't make Schultz a draw to anyone in this electoral market. Except the damn media will pretend he's a fcking moderate to try and draw centrist voters away from the Dems. >:(

This election cycle requires total focus, America. Don't vote for billionaire assholes, thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Brexit Here We Come

I haven't really talked much about the Brexit situation for several reasons:

1) We've been having crazier shit happening stateside, goddamn you trump,
2) The last time I discussed Brexit I made it a personal argument with someone I respected and ended up offending them, so it's a bit of a sore spot to revisit.

But, well, things are heating up now because Brexit is on a deadline now, with the Conservatives in the British Parliament (Tories to their friends) set on getting some sort of deal by March 29. With the looming possibility of a No-Deal Brexit (you may start hearing posh economists screaming like terrified camp counselors in a horror movie right aboot here) happening that will very likely crash one of the biggest economies on the globe.

To refer to Yasmeen Serhan at The Atlantic on this one:

Indeed, in the two and a half years since Britons made the consequential decision to leave the EU, the process of their departure has been defined by political chaos. In 2017, it was the snap election in which May lost her party’s governing majority after gambling with the hope that she could expand it. The year that followed was one of a near-constant stream of negotiation deadlocks, cabinet resignations, and no-confidence letters. And though 2019 has only just begun, it appears to promise more of the same.
It began with May holding a previously delayed vote on her negotiated Brexit agreement with the EU, which British lawmakers rejected by a record-breaking margin—the kind that, in normal times, would have almost certainly resulted in the prime minister’s resignation...
That May continues to survive without the governing majority or authority to get her deal through Parliament is a testament to how far some of her Brexit deal’s biggest opponents—including the hard-line Brexit supporters within her own Conservative Party and their partners in the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party—will go to stave off a general election. Though they might not like the prime minister’s deal, they like the idea of a Jeremy Corbyn–led Labour government even less...

It doesn't help matters in the UK when the Labour Party - the next largest opposition party to the Tories - aren't entirely opposed to the Brexit efforts, not on party principle at least. The crazy thing about the Brexit chaos is that the major parties are split themselves: The Tories are split between a 'Hard' Brexit and a 'Soft' Brexit (which would be pulling out of the EU by name but keeping a lot of EU-friendly deals in place); Labour is split between a 'Soft' Brexit (whatever Corbyn thinks it should be) and a rejection of the 2016 referendum (to either 'Remain' or hold a second referendum with different terms instead).

What's really crazy, and I mean Florida-level crazy: the UK government seems determined to race towards the Brexit deadline on what is turning out to be a suicide run.

The scale of disaster awaiting the British economy depends entirely on the size of whatever Brexit deal gets passed. Even a middle-of-the-road 'Soft' Brexit is going to cause disruptions with trade deals outside of the EU, while a 'Hard' Brexit would cause serious disruptions to trade across the board as well as employment losses in key industries. The Brexit move has already harmed the British healthcare system with medical staff fleeing due to the uncertainty. Another impact of Brexit would be the loss of institutions and corporations - some are leaving NOW - that have made London a key financial capital.

And the topper is the situation with Ireland. Thanks to the EU, there is an open border between Northern Ireland (British) and the Republic of Ireland. If Brexit happens, that border - sharing trade and resources - closes shut unless exemptions are made... and Ireland isn't in the mood to deal. That border situation is one of the key elements of the peace that has formed on that troubled Island since the 1990s. Without a resolution on that border, the British Parliament may well proceed to a No-Deal Brexit. Which is sort of like dropping a financial Hiroshima bomb on the Tower of London.

A No-Deal Brexit would mean:

  • an immediate halt on all trade and transit between the United Kingdom and Europe
  • food shortages
  • medical supplies shortages
  • general supplies shortages
  • loss of legal rights for EU residents in the UK and for UK residents in Europe
  • most likely major drops in their stock markets and pound valuation

Like I said, it's like making a suicide run... straight over the White Cliffs of Dover.

Who would have thought that Ireland would be the cause of the United Kingdom's downfall?

With all that at stake, with everything in chaos, it's frustrating to note that there is a simple goddamned solution to this Brexit mess:

Just stop. Cancel the whole thing.

The Article 50 declaration to leave the EU can be canceled, just like that. You may get a lot of howls from the Leave factions who are obsessed with that cliff dive, but you avert even partial economic disaster if you do.

There are valid arguments to cancel Brexit. First, The referendum that started this whole mess was poorly planned out. Second, the people who pushed for Leave - Nigel Farage, above all - turned out to have lied about their positions meaning the arguments favoring Brexit are not in good faith. Third, the complications surrounding Brexit are proving the referendum wasn't a good idea. Fourth, there is growing evidence Russia meddled in the damn thing the same way they've meddled in other Western elections and ballot issues.

All May has to do is convince Parliament that there just isn't enough time and rational thought to make Brexit doable, and cancel the Article 50 request. She can argue that they need time to regroup on the matter and work out a plan first, THEN hold another referendum to see if the people agree with doing a Brexit later.

Let calmer judgment prevail.


It's not going to happen is it? The British Conservatives are apparently just as batshit crazy as the Republicans here at home.

This is not going to end well.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Some Thoughts On the Possible Ending to Mueller's trump-Russia Investigations w/Update

With Roger Stone now indicted on charges related to the Russian attempts to sabotage/hack/subvert our 2016 elections, what is exactly happening now and what's next?

From what we've been tracking, this is what's been established so far (via Margaret Hartmann and Nick Tabor at New York):

  • George Papadopoulos was charged with lying to investigators about his interactions with Russian agents, and has already served jail time. He is reportedly assisting Mueller's investigations.
  • Paul Manafort and Rick Gates allegedly laundered millions for Russians, and met with Russian agents about helping trump's Presidential campaign. Gates plead out and is helping: Manafort was convicted by a jury on several charges, plead out, then turned out to be lying about all that, which revoked his deal and has sent him back to court to re-face his convictions.
  • Michael Flynn, whom trump picked to serve as his National Security Advisor, had to resign and faced charges on lying to investigators about his Russian ties. He plead out and is helping the investigation.
  • Mueller proved to a grand jury that Russian operatives and businesses engaged in deliberate computer break-ins, social media propaganda, and other coordinated efforts to subvert the 2016 elections. This is a key point to remember as the rest of the investigation focuses on how and when trump's own campaign worked with these people, which would be serious federal violations (52 US Code s30121).
  • Michael Cohen, trump's personal lawyer for years, was caught paying off women to hide their adulterous affairs with trump during the election, which interfered with campaign finance regulations. While this doesn't directly relate to trump's Russian activities - which is one reason Mueller handed this off to another office with the Dept. of Justice - Cohen did meet with Russians on other matters that would have established illegal financial arrangements before, during, and after the election.
  • The most recent development was Roger Stone getting charged with lying to investigators about his contacts with WikiLeaks - which was getting hacked Russian info and dropping them at key points of the campaign cycle to "scandalize" Hillary - and also threatening/tampering with a witness. Stone left a sizable paper trail on this, suggesting an easy court win should it go to trial.

This is where we're at after two years of grand jury indictments and ongoing FBI/Intel digging. It doesn't look like much, but there's a lot of meat there... and there's supposed to be more stuff - additional indictments for key trump figures like Jared Kushner and donald trump junior - still under seal.

But what should we really expect over the next few months?

Part of what we're waiting on is the Democratic majority in the House handing over their Intelligence Committee's interviews conducted (rather haphazardly and biased to favor trump) the past congressional term. There are testimonies given - especially by Stone and trump junior - that may conflict with what Mueller's teams have, meaning certain people can get charged down the road with Lying to Congress (they don't even have to have been put under Oath in these matters). While the Republicans are trying to delay the release of documents to the Justice Department (and Mueller), they can't delay the inevitable on this.

With regards to Mueller's timing, he seems to release the indictments he has - again, the few stories that get leaked tend to agree he's got plenty of sealed indictments - when he's figured there is nothing more he can get about a suspect without taking him to trial and seeing if he'll flip. In a case like this, the paperwork and phone calls can only prove so much: Making the connections between players and getting them to confess is how the case gets proven to a jury.

What Mueller's working on is a serious matter: it involves charging a sitting President of having cheated to get that office, and relying on an adversarial foreign power (Russia) for getting it. There are old sayings at play here, referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson - "when you strike at a king you must kill him" - and Omar Little - "when you come at the king you best not miss." Mueller is going at the Head of State for the United States of America. He's got to have his i's dotted and his t's crossed for this.

Which is why this has been such a slow and painful process for a lot of Americans who have been convinced since the twisted outcome of November 2016 that serious crimes went down. Ever since trump openly called on Russia to hack Hillary and the Democrats in August, the fears of trump being Putin's puppet have been out there, and each new revelations seems to prove those fears true.

So it's been a long long looooong process - psst, is trump in jail yet?! - but we should recognize we're getting towards the end of that process.

For starters, Mueller has kind of gotten every known player lined up with their testimonies. While he's reportedly interested in getting more interviews out of trump, he's already gotten some questions answered by questionnaire that may be enough to go on. (The other buzz is that Mueller knows everything: the intel agencies have apparently picked up so much evidence that Mueller could probably go to trials without testimony anyway. Still, it helps to get testimony just to drive the nails in...)

There are still those sealed indictments, reportedly targeting some of the bigger names left on the board (Kushner, junior). If we look at this like a flowchart for a Mafia organization, Mueller has gotten the foot soldiers (Papadopoulos) and some of the Capos (Stone, Manafort) and even the Consigliere (Cohen). All that's left are a handful of remaining Capos (Bannon, Hicks?) and then the Underboss(es), the ones trump relies on the most to run everything for him. You don't get the Underbosses until you're ready to get the Boss himself.

That's his Inner Circle. In the Mafia, that's almost always family (the ties of blood are the strongest). That's Kushner and that's junior.

And when those indictments come out, that's the point of no return. Whatever it's been that has held trump back from shutting down the entire Justice Department and FBI to end Mueller's work will go away. trump will fight back to save his Inner Circle of family because that is all he has left to stay in power.

There's one other thing to consider at play: 2020.

While Mueller has to take his time, he is facing another clock and that's the next Presidential election cycle. We are already getting people announcing their campaigns for the Democratic ticket. Like it or not, we're getting into that horse race (again).

It's been noted that the government agencies don't like to interfere with political campaigns: They are well aware of the electoral consequences of public announcements of criminal investigations (which is one reason why FBI Director Comey's letter about Hillary's emails in October 2016 remains a major faux pas). While they had some evidence of trump's involvement with Russia by August 2016, the intelligence agencies didn't want to make any statements about it without political cover from both President Obama and Congressional Republican leaders. When McConnell refused to give permission, the intel agencies kept quiet... until it was too late.

We're coming up to a similar consideration. While it's obvious trump will have to answer about all this during his 2020 re-election efforts (unless the Beltway media wimps out as usual), the FBI and other agencies will be under enormous pressure during 2020 if those investigations were still ongoing. They are likely to get everything they have - well, everything they can release from national security concerns - out to the courts and let the Judiciary handle all the headaches before the Primaries begin at the start of next year.

Mueller should be expected to end everything this year - 2019 - before it directly affects 2020. It's merely a question now of which month.

I got good money on it happening in April. I figure it takes, what, six months at the earliest to start court trials? That should make it October 2019 when the big trials start, should go to jury by November 2019...

Tick-tock, on the clock. DJ Mueller gonna wrap this up.

(Update 1/28): FiveThirtyEight just published this the day after I published mine. It's a little more thorough than my take (and more focused on the political responses) but doesn't look at the impending deadline the investigations clearly face. And damn I keep feeling I'm always one step ahead of these guys talking about this stuff...

Blood in the Streets: Angry Guy Compliation

While we've been distracted by trump's incompetence, this has been going on:

Remember in the United States we only pay attention to the mass shootings where the body count is three or more, so more than likely we're not even seeing the individual acts of domestic violence involving men shooting/stabbing/killing their wives/girlfriends happening on a daily basis.

It's already been an established problem with gun violence: For all the problems involving the ready and available access of firearms, the other half of the problem involves the ready willingness of Angry Guys to get triggered for some ego-busting reason and going on a goddamned killing spree.

(If you're angry I pointed out the shooters are mostly White guys, it's because I wanna give trump and his anti-immigrant Haters Brigade a nice middle-fingered FUCK YOU Salute because their goddamned Wall would not have stopped any of these attacks on women)

You wanna know how bad gun violence has gotten in the United States?

Wikipedia has started breaking down their list of mass shootings by year (starting in 2013). They can't keep the body counts to just one html page.

And while the numbers on mass shootings aren't exact - thanks to a NRA-owned Republican Party that fights any attempt to track shooting injuries or gun-related deaths - just on reading the partial list of what we know you will keep seeing the same thing: Angry Guys.

While there's a lot America can do to cut down on the mass shootings (tip: Universal Background Checks and Filtering Out Domestic Abusers would FUCKING HELP, people) one thing we should be doing is calming the crazed, blood-boiled male population out there and getting them to, you know, STOP KILLING EVERYBODY.

Okay guys? Seriously? Just watch that damn Gillette Ad and CALM THE FUCK DOWN.