Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Closing Out a Dark January 2017

I just need to do a few things.

I really really need to focus on my writing projects. I'm not only missing personal deadlines but professional ones too.

I will remain active politically. The way things are going there's bound to be more Saturday rallies against Stupid Shit Trump Does.

But February's gotta be a quiet month for me on the blog.

I kinda need to recharge anyway, my depression is getting the better of me.

If I post again this month, it'll mostly be photos and stuff.

Good luck.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sign From the Front Lines

Shared via Facebook:

True dat.

We need to schedule our Saturdays accordingly, America.

Who Is In Charge in the Trump White House? The Worst People

Just in case we were all distracted by how Trump and the Republicans are behaving towards refugees and immigrants, there's this little tidbit to make you run screaming for the fallout shelters (via Raw Story):

In another series of executive orders on Saturday, Pres. Donald Trump restructured the National Security Council (NSC) and created a position on it for senior aide and former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen K. Bannon...
...The Post reported that Bannon has been given a regular seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which will include the nation’s highest ranking security officials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.
Unlike previous presidential administrations, Trump’s Saturday memo specified that the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will only attend principals committee meetings that pertain to their specific “responsibilities and expertise...”

In short: Trump is letting a known media wingnut participate in a key council dedicated to our national security... all the while kicking out the actual military and intelligence officials whose job it is to provide such national security.

And who is Bannon? If the connection to that wingnut rag Breitbart News doesn't tip you off, this interview about him from Ronald Radosh at Daily Beast should give you nightmares:

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.
Shocked, I asked him what he meant.
“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press...

As much as he's a documented anti-Semite, Bannon is the Far Right version of the bomb-throwing anarchist, eager to destroy every last piece of government and lawful institutions just to have his fun. He's not only out to wreck things to piss off liberals, he's keen on breaking apart conservative institutions just so he can recover and rebuild everything to HIS design.

And Bannon is not some ineffective guy standing on the sidelines basking in the glow. When this whole recent Muslim Ban executive order dropped this past Friday, Bannon was deep in the shit on making that go:

It wasn’t until after Trump had signed his name on the dotted line that DHS really got a chance to sit down and try to determine if the order was even legal. A person with knowledge of the matter said that homeland security staff didn’t even get to lay eyes on the order until Friday. Even Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership didn’t get to see the document until just before Trump signed it into law. The administration also chose not to allow the Office of Legal Counsel to provide legal guidance on the matter.
After they were finally allowed to review the order, DHS reportedly decided that the ban could not apply to green card holders, who are legal residents of the U.S., but Trump’s Bannon overruled them. CNN reports:
Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.
The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US...

This is the man who's essentially in charge at the White House. When it comes to the Presidency, you look at his key aides, who he relies on to do the dirty work on a day-by-day basis. In this administration, it's not the Chief of Staff (Reince Priebus) and it's not a key Cabinet figure and it's not the head of the Intel or security agencies and it's not the Vice President (like Cheney was to Dubya).

It's a guy whose previous work experience was creating fake news, with no experience in public administration and with every intent to abuse his authority to wreak havoc on the nation.

Here's your Kakistocracy in action, boys and girls.

We will be lucky to survive all this.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

This Offends

So we as a nation started doing this last night (via New York Times):

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.
The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy Airport filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.
Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.
Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order...

No, what is clear is that the United States is no longer a caring, open, accepting home for the refugees and immigrants that comes to... USED TO COME TO our shores.

Even as we promoted ourselves as a nation with open arms, we have bad history when it came to immigration. We were harsh against the Chinese back in the 1880s all the way up to 1943(!), we arrested and interred Japanese after Pearl Harbor, we blocked Jews trying to flee the onslaught of the Nazis, we made a mess of things with the Irish and the Italians and the Russians and more.

And yet we tried to make it all work. As messy as it could all get, we united as a nation with a multitude of cultures and backgrounds and ethnicities. We moved past the flaws of our exclusion and we became a global power, for a brief time a sole Superpower, an Empire not by the lands we conquered but by the ideas we sampled and shared.

And then 62 million of us voted for Trump.

Hate-spewing, immigrant-bashing Trump.

Our history is supposed to go forward, not back.

My history is personal. I am named for my great-grandfather Ernst Paul who came to the United States as an immigrant. No matter the distance of time and relatives between us, I am he.

I AM THE SON OF IMMIGRANTS. We are all of us sons and daughters of immigrants. Even Trump is the direct son of an immigrant, and what he does here is shameful and insulting to his own existence.

Trump does this under the excuse of national security, of trying to stop terrorists from "sneaking" into our home. But look at the nations he's banning: he's excluding places like Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Egypt. Most of the major terror attacks here in the U.S. came from THOSE nations, and yet we're punishing Somalians, and Syrians, and Libyans, and any other nationality trying to flee war zones.

Trump will grant an exception, but guess what: it'll be for Christians fleeing from those war zones. He is intentionally ignoring Muslims, and without subtlety. I'm not the only one noting that this deliberate favoritism - Trump's intentional disregard for Islam as a faith - is giving terror groups like ISIL and Al Queda great marketing and recruitment material.

If you are TRULY American, you should remember that you are here because of an immigrant or refugee coming here was your ancestor. You should remember that your culture is here because thousands of immigrants came here and made their mark on this great nation. You should remember that we are strong as a nation precisely because we overcame our fears and our hates and did the work here and abroad that needed to get done.

If you are TRULY American, what Donald Trump and his wingnut Far Right fearmongers are doing now should offend you.

Goddamn them.


Update: Nationwide protests at the major airports where Muslims enter the country. Hundreds of thousands are rising up in alarm. Lawyers are at the airports struggling to provide pro bono aid to those with green cards caught in this hellish situation. Federal courts issued stays trying to undo the damage of Trump's order... and now Trump is telling Homeland Security and their customs officials to ignore the courts. We are truly in the middle of a Constitutional Crisis.

Keep up the protests, America. It's all on us to stop Trump and his destructive agenda.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The First Long Week Of a Hellish Age

So, how goes the ongoing train wreck?

It's officially been one week since Lord Vulgamort swore at the millions who protest him on a daily basis uh swore on a Bible to violate every part of the Constitution starting with the Emoluments Clause and working his way down to the 27th Amendment uh... you know what unstrike that line because that's pretty much what he's doing right now.

It's been overwhelming to keep up with the ongoing wave of crazy and chaos that is coming out of the White House now. Other news sites are documenting the atrocities, but here are the ones that have snagged my attention and deserve a serious amount of HOLY F-CK WE'RE SCREWED:

Trump's inauguration endured sparse attendance on Friday, and many media observers and Twitter tweets made the obvious comparison to Obama's packed turnouts in 2009 and 2013. Photo after photo displayed empty parade benches and meager numbers. The post-ceremony balls and parties were not much better. A mini-scandal erupted when it turned out Trump's celebratory cake was copied from Obama's 2013 cake... and worse, it wasn't even real cake but a Styrofoam mock-up.

The Women's March on the following Saturday blew the roof off the world. Rallying against the rise of an openly misogynistic sexual predator like Trump, hundreds of thousands of women AND men (plus kids and puppies and even a cat or twelve), marched down not only Washington DC but also hundreds of cities around the world (plus Antarctica).

It reportedly drove Trump crazy. He called the National Parks Service to insist they report HIS turnout was higher than documented. He sent out his press secretary Sean Spicer to insist "this was the largest audience to watch an inauguration both in person and around the globe, period." It was too obvious a lie, and the national media outlets started breaking protocol using the "lie" word to describe the meltdown.

I want to write more about those two days, but it may take me some time...

To say it went downhill from there is an insult to hills. It was more like a cliffside Saturday onwards:

  • He declared his own inauguration a Holiday for Patriotic Devotion (dafuq?)
  • He spent Saturday at CIA headquarters, ostensibly to repair strained relations with the intelligence community... and spent nearly the entire appearance lying about the size of his inauguration attendance, bragging about his successes, and threatening to launch another war in Iraq to seize all the oil. And he brought an entourage to cheer him on while the intel people sat there.
  • He signed an executive order freezing most federal hirings, essentially planning to reduce the federal government through attrition as jobs stop getting filled. This means the government won't be able to handle the demands on public service, and a gradual loss of expert employees to retirement or ragequits. If you got a resume on USAJobs.gov website, it's worthless now.
  • He confirmed his insane plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, and is threatening to have it paid for via tariffs on IMPORTS coming into the U.S., meaning Mexico doesn't pay for it but the American consumer will. His announcement about the Wall came right before a visit from the Mexican President, who canceled the visit in protest.
  • Still railing against immigration, he signed another order authorizing his administration to go after "sanctuary cities" that provide social services to illegals.
  • He signed a block on the refugee process for certain Middle Eastern nations he declared were threats to national security that included Syria, which is suffering a major violent downturn in their years-long civil war. Trump specifically targeted Muslims to be blocked from any vetting process, allowing only Christian refugees for consideration. The impact on U.S. relations with Muslims is going to hurt: Trump is giving those ISIL and Al Qaeda extremists a huge propaganda gift doing this.
  • Trump is essentially wiping out the State Department and putting the torch to every foreign alliance we've got.

In other news, Trump is still obsessing over his losing the popular vote. He's rehashing the lie that there were millions of illegal voters, and is going so far as to threaten another federal investigation - remember kids, the Republicans tried this shit back during the Dubya administration and couldn't find a thing to confirm their Narrative - focusing entirely on the states he lost and blatantly on "urban areas" AKA cities with large minority populations. The threat of voter suppression - of using this as an excuse to purge voter rolls of citizens - is part of this gambit.

In the meantime, his approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s (except for the conservative Rasmussen), which for a starting President is a terrible place to begin: most polling drops for elected officials once the rough work of doing the job puts a strain on the official's public perception. It's a nice taste of schadenfreude, but it's going to give Trump and his handlers more impetus to shut down on media coverage in an attempt to stop any more "bad news" to get out.

So, to the eight regular readers of this blog: how are you and kids doing? Busy week for yourselves?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Listen Up, Anonymous Commentators to this Blog: 2017 Reminder

I love to get comments to my blog. It makes me feel like people are reading what I have to write, and I like to have dialogue on certain issues and concerns.

However, I don't want to leave my Comments field wide open to spambots (damn Chinese), nor to Anonymous posters who drive-by troll and hide in the shadows like the cowards they are. I do allow a certain amount of flexibility to my comment options, because not everyone has a Google account or other means of logging in here.

So, I have two rules:

Rule One: When you comment, at least be honest if not respectful of other people. If you wanna insult me, fine. I survived Tarpons Springs Middle School (barely): I'VE HEARD WORSE.

Rule Two: Sign your work. If you still feel like you wanna post as Anonymous, HONOR RULE ONE and don't fucking insult people.

If you're Anonymous but at least polite about what you're posting (or stick to insulting me - which I can then respond to in my own snarky way), you get to stay.

If you post as Anonymous and leave behind a sexist, racist, troll-baiting pile of bullshit that would take 1000 streetcleaners to clear away, your post will die the inglorious death that it deserves and I will post a follow-up on that comments thread CALLING YOU OUT AS A GODDAMN COWARD.

Go ahead and snicker as you run away, safe in the knowledge that in the real world no one will ever see you as you post bullshit comments.

You're still a coward. You're still a sexist racist coward lying out of your ass. Whether or not that bothers you is between you and your Devil, 'cause it's clear you don't answer to God.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

That Lies Are Now the Currency of the Realm: Day Two of the Trump Era

This is just wrong:

What Kellyanne Conway said to defend Spicer is worse:

CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What... You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains...
TODD: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?
CONWAY: ...That there’s...
TODD: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right...
CONWAY: Hey, Chuck, why... Hey Chuck...
TODD: ...Was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.

There are no alternate facts: A Fact is a piece of information as part of an objective reality. If you wanna be Randian about it, that means A is A. You can't go claiming A is B all because B fits your Narrative better.

There's a better word for "alternative facts" or "falsehoods". What my Deep South Grandma Kinzer used to call Good Ole Fashioned "LYING".

Trump and his Republican handlers have no respect for the media they seek to bully into submission. It's not a surprise that they're lying: What's shocking is how brazen they are about it.

Every aspect of journalistic standards and ethics are now facing their greatest challenges. Reporters and editors now have the responsibility to fact-check every WORD uttered by these liars and point them out as falsehoods every step of the way.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Obama Forever

I'm gonna try to focus on the positive here.

I do have to admit I may have jumped the gun back in May 2016 when I wrote this bit about the two legacies of Barack Obama:

What the 2016 Election is turning into is a Legacy election. Given the overall stability and economic recovery during the Obama years, and given the great strides in women's and gay rights under Obama's executive orders, and given the passage of health care reforms that are beginning to show positive results - everyone should be seriously following Richard Mayhew's health care updates on Balloon Juice - voters are going to have to look at what's at stake this November.

I admit now that I was projecting: I was HOPING the election would be one where the voters would work to uphold Obama's record and deny the Republicans any chance to dismantle his tenure. To be fair, a majority of Americans DID vote for Hillary Clinton to continue Obama's work, but the archaic and broken Electoral College (and a helping of voter suppression in key states) made that moot.

Thing is, even in the wake of a disastrous election where the Republicans did win out and are now poised to destroy every last bit of Obama's Presidential acts... I still think Obama will still leave powerful legacies to posterity.

I pointed out in that Legacy article that the other thing Obama leaves behind is a broken Republican Party. Sure, they won the 2016 elections: but they lost every last shred of integrity, honesty, maturity, intelligence, wisdom, and long-term survival in the process. They ran on a platform of destruction: massive tax cuts for the rich a majority of Americans don't support, nuking health care that a majority of Americans are beginning to realize is gonna hurt them if it's taken away, rolling back civil rights gains, and discrediting every foreign policy success of the last 70 years (!) just to appease their new best friend Putin.

And having made this fantasy world of lies - where OBAMA was a FAILURE - the Republicans are going to try to reshape the real world to that fantasy. And they're going to find the real world doesn't work that way (and that Obama was more successful than they feared).

We're going to witness over at least the next two years attempts by the Republicans to turn Obama into a damned memory (damnatio memoriae), trying to take his name off every ledger, removing every policy Obama had a hand in crafting. They'll do what they can to darken every story involving him, that somehow Obama was wrong in his logic, that he failed to achieve even a modicum of success. It'll probably get to a point where they won't utter his name at all and will drop hints to the media to keep his name out of everything, as though erasing him from existence.

It won't work. Even if they remove Obamacare, even if they wipe out every civil rights gain like gay marriage, the Republicans can never remove Obama from the office of the President. People are going to remember what he did in office, and what he spoke to. The void that the Republicans are going to carve out will be a reminder to us of the shape of what the world ought to be, and what we can get back to when the Republicans - unavoidable in their fate, as we've seen this movie before - implode on their own failures.

We're already watching the Republicans stumble on their attempt to purge Obamacare/ACA, but while they're setting up the first stage of launch they're finding out that "Repealing" is harder than they thought: Obamacare isn't just a layer added onto our existing Health Care laws, it BECAME our Health Care laws meaning any removal is going to leave a gaping hole in our economy that Congress HAS to Replace. Oh they'll still repeal Obamacare because they've made their Narrative and dare not deviate from script, but they're finding out NOW there's a huge price to pay and the Democratic Party is NOT going to be there to cover their asses...

I doubt the Republicans and their Far Right Noise Machine will ever purge Obama from the history books. They may write 100,000 screeds accusing Obama as "Worst Ever" and they may fly off the shelves for their intended audience of haters, but the real Obama biographies and retrospectives will be read in the classrooms 40 years from now while the anti-Obama books get shipped back to recycling.

There's 60 percent of Americans who are watching Barack Obama leave office with a favorable view of him. The Republicans will continue to label Obama a failed President - "A Disaster! We're cleaning up his mess! Everything bad that happens from 2017 onward is STILL HIS FAULT!" - but more and more Americans won't buy that shit. We'll know better.

We'll remember Obama as a level-headed, optimistic, groundbreaking leader. We'll remember the jobs that did come back during his eight years of office. We'll remember he opened the doors for gays and women, that he tried to speak to our better angels on race relations. We'll remember the good - he was the one who gave the order to take out Bin Laden, he set a nuclear armament deal with Iran that the Republicans can't readily block, and he helped open up Cuba that can signal the end of 40-plus years of bad behavior between neighboring countries - and the bad - he didn't do enough for the Middle East in places like Libya and Syria, he continued a War on Terror using questionable tactics - on his foreign policies.

We're going to remember Obama's place in our culture and history, not JUST as the first African-American President, but also as a major geek, a comic-book fan and wannabe Jedi, who was cool enough to be the Adult In The Room and yet still cool enough to be a guy who can chill at a backyard grill and talk about how bad the Chicago Bulls have gotten.

And we're never giving up the Joe Biden memes, the ones where he's like a clueless yet lovable prankster uncle figure.

The Onion's not going to know what to do with itself.

For myself...

I've lived now through eight Presidents (starting with Nixon) of whom only six - Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Lesser, Obama - I have any memory regarding their eras. I became fully aware of politics my college years (Bush I) so since then I have to say that Obama has left on me the most sincere, effective impression. I've had my issues - positive and negative - with each President, and I've come to terms with both Bushes for the most part while viewing Clinton as intelligent and effective but flawed. Obama is the one with the fewest disappointments for me.

I revel in the fact that for ALL the slime and falsehoods aimed at Obama over the last eight years, he is leaving the White House with the cleanest reputation. For all of the "scandals" and investigations into his office, no one from his West Wing has been charged, indicted, convicted of crimes. There have been at most resignations for failures in policy - a Secretary for Veterans Affairs had to resign over problems with service and medical aid to our hospitalized vets - but I view those as steps towards accountability.

Obama never had anything on the scale of an Iran-Contra, or the S&L Bailout, or a Lewinsky sex scandal, or a number of officials getting charged and convicted over corruption or other criminal wrong-doings. The Far Right thrilled to such things as Solyandra, Fast and Furious, and BENGHAZI ZOMG, but even their partisan witch-hunts turned into nothingburgers (problems that had more to do with a corrupt or broken Congress, or far down the chain of command among corrupt or inept grunts that the White House had no control over).

Obama, who crawled through a river of Republican shit and came out clean on the other side.

Today, he's leaving office for good. Eight years gone. Where did the time fly?

I can't rank Obama at the moment compared to all the historical Presidents - I dread knocking Truman out of the Top Ten - but he's got to well up there in the Top Twenty (out of 44), and likely well above Clinton, his closest contemporary.

To hell with the incoming administration. I'm doing my best today to not even mention the name.

I'm now living by one simple mantra.

Obama is STILL my President.

Update: Obama is starting up the Presidential Library project on his Obama Foundation page.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Hope To GOD

We're days away.

I hope to GOD our Joint Chiefs have come up with a plan to keep Trump from unilaterally opening the nuclear football briefcase and launching missiles at anybody else on a whim.

I hope to GOD that the Republicans in Congress are finally waking up to the fact that any effort to kill Obamacare would hurt too many Americans and that their crazed rhetoric and obsession to mark Obama as a failed President doesn't work anymore.

I hope to GOD Trump goes through with his planned vacation RIGHT AFTER HE SWEARS IN TO THE OFFICE, and gets so lost getting to some obscure place where he thinks he has a golf course that he never comes back.

I hope to GOD that every candidate for Cabinet posts are so incapable of impressing even Republican Senators during their hearings that every single one of them - sorry Mattis, including you - actually lose the floor votes.

I hope to GOD Betsy DeVos is forced to teach at a school that has a bear for a mascot.

I hope to GOD the number of people who show up for Trump Inaugural is less than the number of people who show up for a Tampa Bay Rays game (sorry guys, but honestly turnout at the Trop really sucks if it's not a BoSox or Yankees visit).

I hope to GOD the ongoing investigations into Trump's deals with Russia - including the recent bombshell that our intel agencies are investigating covert cash funding! - leads to serious arrests. This is insane: we've got evidence already that a foreign nation meddled in our elections, and if there's been any actual money changing hands... that is WORKING WITH that foreign power, that has got to fall under the definition of TREASON...

I hope to GOD we survive this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And a King Ain't Satisfied

Poor man wanna be rich/
Rich man wanna be king/
And a king ain't satisfied/
Till he rules everything... - "Badlands," Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

One of the ongoing stories as we're heading towards the brick wall of January 20th 2017 - and the inauguration of the least qualified and least popular President-Elect of All Time in Donald Trump - is how Trump and his people have been having the hardest time rounding up celebrities and musical performers for his grand Inaugural.

In modern times - as television has made such events a global must-see - an incoming new President presides over a gala night of celebration among the artists and the wealthy celebs who either helped promote the candidate to victory or else shares a common ground on issues to where the artists feel comfortable playing to the President's fanbase.

But Trump is a different case than any of the others before him.

For starters, a shitload of musicians hate Trump right off the bat.

It's partly because Trump kept playing their songs at his rallies when they kept telling him to stop. No respect from him, ergo no respect from them.

It's partly because Trump's built up a reputation for failing to pay his performers what he promised. I hope to God that 3 Doors Down asked for their money up front. (note: I had four songs from 3 Doors Down on my iTunes. Had...)

It's partly because Trump's sexist behavior around supermodels has kinda made him a dangerous man to be with if you're anywhere prettier than a Five.

And it's mostly because a lot of musicians, actors, and the simply famous do not share his world-view of pissing on (yeah, I went there) the less fortunate.

And yet, Trump and his transition team has been trying hard to find anybody with an A-List name willing to show up and perform in his honor.

It's not that he loves any of these performers. (I wonder what kind of music Trump listens to in the first place) It's that A-List celebrities are what he wants to surround himself with so he can feed off their fame and claim himself as one of them.

For all his disdain and insults he tweets towards them - the actors and musicians who publicly embarrass him or call him out for his shameless vulgarity - if say Meryl Streep suddenly turned around and invited Trump to a Hollywood house party I guarantee you Trump would be on the first private plane out to the West Coast.

Trump's ego - the desire to be seen as successful, or handsome, or powerful - requires him to prove his worth by seeking out the truly successful and pretty and powerful and insert himself into their scene.

Remember this, Trump killed an entire sports league - the USFL - because he wanted to force himself into one of the hardest cliques to get into: the small circle of big-time sports owners. It's something that's bugged him almost his entire life. And the sports owners to the four (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) major leagues - who have a pretty good idea that Trump is corrupt and bankrupt - have blocked him across the board (ever notice how when a New York based team is up for sale that a supposed billionaire like Trump isn't even allowed to make a pitch?).

And it's not enough that he has to be seen with the celebrities and the successful and the glamorous. He has to be placed front and center among them, and have them speak of him in glowing wonderful terms. Getting bands to sing in his presence, to sing to his glory, will boost his Ego like no other.

And it'd be a bonus to that Ego if he can get those who dismiss or deride him to back down, to crumble under his pressure. Like the political opponents he bullied into submission during the campaign, his victory over them is when they're working for him as the hired help, begging for table scraps and favors he dishes out to his whims.

So while he'll crow that he'll be perfectly fine with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock - known celebrities but also artists shuffled to the fringes of celebrity due to their vocal extremism - and he'll be happy getting Toby Keith as Country music tends to lean conservative already, missing out on the more glamorous performers that showed up with eager grins for Obama in 2009 is a kick to his ever-hungry Ego. As long as those artists and celebrities keep telling him NO, he can't enjoy a damn thing.

Making it worse is when the performers who turn him down do so publicly, with a level of snark and horror that make it clear how hated Trump is to them (and to those performers' fanbases).

How bad has it gotten for Trump?

It's not that Trump is getting denied by Bruce Springsteen - one of the top live American performers of the last 40 years - it's that Trump is getting dumped by a Springsteen cover band:

The B-Street Band, a popular Bruce Springsteen cover group that's performed nearly 200 gigs a year since 1980, convened in the dressing room Sunday night before a typical late-afternoon gig at Bensalem, PA's Parx Casino.
Will Forte, the group's 63-year-old keyboardist, manager, agent and publicist, among other roles, was telling the band about the "thousands of emails from both sides" he had received after news broke that the group would be playing the Garden State Presidential Inaugural Gala on January 19th as part of Donald Trump's inauguration. "We're standing out in the storm right here," he told the band. "We gotta get out of the storm..."

Okay, as a side note, don't cover bands come into existence after most of the people involved in the original band are all dead or something? You know, like the Doors cover band or the Milli Vanilli cover band? I digress, let's move on...

If the B-Street Band pledge allegiance to anyone, it's Springsteen, who has repeatedly voiced his anger and disgust at the president-elect. (Forte half-jokingly said of the B-Street Band last week, "I don't even know if they have any politics.") Out of respect for their musical inspiration, they've decided to pull out of this week's event.

When I first heard about the cover band playing for Trump, I couldn't believe the story was real. A cover band has to love the artist(s) they're covering: to love Bruce is to understand where he comes from - Joisey - and what drives Bruce's music and lyrical directions - which leans progressive, pro-Union, pro-Democrat.

Trump is everything - greedy, racist, an upper class thief that has wrecked Atlantic City and ruined thousands of workers' livelihoods - that Bruce Springsteen despises. He's done entire albums - Nebraska, Ghost of Tom Joad - that would rail against the kind of world Trump would build (and then destroy).

That the B-Street Band finally decided to bow out under pressure - that Springsteen's fanbase would never forgive them if they played, that Bruce himself would be horrified if they did - is a sign of how tenuous Trump's hold on America's celebrity world is.

That Trump's people were desperate enough to hire a cover band in the first place is an obvious sign of how low into the lists of available acts they were diving to get anything of value.

In an age where celebrity is across every medium, broadcast into every home via radio or TV or Internet, having a low-level, B-List type of inauguration is going to haunt Trump and blast his Ego into a thousand sharp angry pieces. No matter how hard he tries to convince the world - convince himself - that his gala night is the greatest (no, no it won't be) of all time.

And it won't help his Ego if the crowd turnout is going to be about a third (maybe half) of what Obama got in 2009 or 2013.

Denying Trump any level of satisfaction is good for the soul.

But the fight continues against everything else Trump represents.

Wishing for some angels to blow this Trump into the sea...

Monday, January 16, 2017

As Though America Has Forgotten The Evils of a Chaotic and Friendless Foreign Policy

What part of "we're f-cked" do you not get yet?

Ask Zack Beauchamp at Vox.com:

Donald Trump just lobbed a grenade into the normally staid world of European-American diplomacy, using a joint interview with two of Europe’s biggest newspapers to call NATO “obsolete,” predict that the European Union would fall apart and announce that the US wouldn’t really care if it did, and threaten to potentially start a trade war with Germany over BMW’s plans to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico.
For good measure, Trump also criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of Washington’s closest allies, while hinting that he’d be willing to lift the sanctions imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has rattled many in Europe by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and threatening to use force against other of his neighbors...

This is the damage caused by bringing in someone with no foreign policy awareness to run a nation, especially one as large and important as ours:

The remarks forced Secretary of State John Kerry to spend one of his last days as America’s top diplomat repairing the damage that Trump has done before even taking the oath of office. In an interview with CNN, Kerry said it was "inappropriate" for Trump to "be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner."
Kerry is right to be worried. Bashing NATO and the European Union, and alienating Germany, is a plan for tearing apart US relations with the EU — for weakening the agreements that underpin America’s status as the sole superpower and that maintain peace on the European continent.

Skewing things into "OH MY GOD THIS WILL GET WORSE" category is how Trump is Best-Friends-Forever with Putin, who would thrill to a devastated NATO because it would give Russia room to finish its beatdown of Ukraine (they're still fighting a border war) and re-establish itself as the Bully of Eastern Europe (rattling the Baltic states, Poland, and other former Soviet satellites countries).

Trump - by attacking NATO - is going after what had been a strong and maturing foreign peacekeeping organization that had reduced the threat of another world war in the wake of World War II. As Beauchamp puts it:

That’s because NATO works through commitment: Members pledge that an attack on one will be treated as an attack on all. As Trump calls the value of the alliance into question, other states might question whether he would actually defend a NATO ally if attacked — especially since, during the campaign, he said he might not. If countries don’t believe in that promise, then it stops serving as a deterrent — potentially encouraging Russia to menace a NATO member-state.
“The United States president-elect is actively working to increase the risk of military escalation and war in Europe,” Thomas Rid, a professor at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies, tweeted in response to the interview.
Beauchamp notes there would be only one winner in a fractured and divided Europe:

There is only (one) country that benefits from all of these moves: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Putin’s fundamental foreign policy goal is to restore Russia’s place as one of the world’s most powerful and influential nations. To do so, he wants to restore global politics to the way it was in the 19th century — when European countries saw each other as rivals rather than partners. This kind of “balance of power” world order would allow Russia to divide European powers by forming selective partnerships with some against the others — thus restoring Russian greatness.
Putin’s Russia is too weak, in political and military terms, to accomplish this on its own. The logical end point of Trump’s stated policies, regardless of whether that’s what he intends, is a fractured Europe that would be far less capable of standing up to Putin.

Just as my own note, Putin's attempt to shift things back to a "balance of power" rivalry across the European nations is a bad idea, because history taught us that rivalries DID NOT KEEP THE PEACE. The Balance of Power system that came into being in the wake of the Napoleonic Era provoked a variety of arms races and empire-building that culminated in World War I... which then led into World War II and its horrors.

Putin may have forgotten something about those wars: neither of them did Russia any favors, with military failures, political revolutions, famine and death the main results. If Putin thinks a divided Europe is going to make him and his nation stronger, he needs to remember what happened to the Tsar who was in power at the start of the First Big War.

But it's not Putin's relative amnesia that worries me: it's the memory lapses of my own damn nation that's driving me crazy right now.

I'm not that all surprised that more Republicans aren't rising up to denounce Trump: after all, this is the tiger they're riding and they dare not get off. The GOP has their domestic policy agenda of destroying Obamacare destroying Medicare destroying the New Deal destroying everything our nation's done since 1865, and they'll do it while Trump is in office to carry all the blame for the inevitable disasters for them. But even going after NATO and the EU - with all the serious after-effects that can derail our economy - has to be a bridge too far even for these neocons in the Senate and the House. And yet, not a peep from them. Our political leaders are now willing to let a stable, profitable, and effective foreign policy die on the vine just for one man's ego (and man-crush for the Russian dictator).

It's as though the relative stability of the last 50 years dealing with Western Europe never mattered to Trump's ill-informed nationalistic (almost isolationist) world-view, that the last 20 years of relative peace with an entire continent made up of economic and political powerhouses carries no weight with the modern Republican Party that once prided itself on foreign policy expertise.

The United States - and everything we've known in our lifetimes (for everybody born after 1945) - is so very very fucked now.

Just to note one more time, 62 million of my fellow Americans - some of them who should have known better - voted for this oncoming train wreck. And there is nobody else coming to save us.

All so that it would be a stronger world/
A strong though loving world to die in - "Sanities," John Cale

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Observations from the 2017 SwampCon at the University of Florida

So you know me, geek that I am, whenever there's a comic-con in driving distance I am prone to showing up and clogging the narrow vendor aisles.

You might remember I went to this SwampCon at UF last year. They've actually been doing this for awhile, but 2016 was the first I'd heard of it and hey, it's a chance for me to head back and check out my alma mater (also, I'm doing a shit-ton of research on Pragmatism, so to the shelvers at Library West I'm the guy who left three piles of philosophy books on that reading table on the First Floor).

I kinda dreaded going back this year, though, because last year when I went it was the same day Scalia died and the universe exploded. If I went this year and something incredibly insane happened on the political stage, then I'd be convinced that SwampCon is jinxed and I wouldn't go anymore.

Good news is, the worst thing was Trump getting into a Twitter war with civil rights hero John Lewis. Everybody else on Twitter was punching back and making Trump bleed, so it's all nice sweet schadenfreude.

As for the convention itself, here are my takes (and some photos and video):

The registration / wristband tables are set up at the entrance walkway to the Reitz Union.

I didn't dress up this trip. I'm saving the Jedi outfit for the SyFy street convention this February. I basically dressed as I usually did when I was a student here from 1988 to 1992: with a blue button shirt over a Batman tee.

Deadpool! My old nemesis! This time working on his foam sword skills.

Last year was before Pokemon Go came out. This year, I looked at the map and damn near fainted. The University campus has Pokestops all over the place within easy walking distance of each other. As soon as you step out of one Stop's range you're already in range of two others, meaning the spawnage rate with well-placed Lures would make this an ideal hunting ground for Pokemon. IT'S PIKACHU HEAVEN!!!

Also I finally caught a Tauros - my birth sign! - and an Onix, both of which don't naturally spawn where I live.

I need to come back to campus someday, with my bicycle and about 9 Incubation jars with 10km eggs to hatch...

Funny thing about living on a campus for Florida Gators. We get real gators floating in the Reitz Union pond. It's cool, he's cool, we're cool, right Bitey?

Except for this guy. He was pissed he couldn't go wading in that pond.

In terms of vendor space, this one room doesn't compete with the massive floorspaces that MegaCon and Tampa ComicCon work with. This is still a pretty small, regional con. There were a lot of anime/manga vendors though.

Told you I had some homework to do, so I walked from Reitz Union to Library West that afternoon, and en route there's Turlington Hall and THIS statue. Everyone seems to call it "The Potato". Even the Pokestop description labels it "The Potato".

IT'S NOT A FREAKING POTATO, PEOPLE! IT'S A FREAKING GLOVE! Look, to the right of that rocky shape. THAT'S THE THUMB! Sheesh!

Also, that's Century Tower in the background.

After I did some homework on Pragmatism, I walked off-campus across 13th Street to go to Leonardo's Pizza. While there, I got a photo of this... GAUDY MONSTROSITY being built at the corner of University Ave. and 13th.

It's that long-planned condo project the city's been dying to build since I had been back in Gainesville working at Library West from 2003 to 2006. It wouldn't look out of place in New York City or downtown Tampa, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of a mid-sized city where it will dwarf the college buildings right across the street from it. It blocks out the sky, it's getting built right on top of the roads, claustrophobic... Gods. Look, I know there's a problem with residential properties in Gainesville, as more and more UF students stay in-town when they graduate, and that Gainesville is growing in population. But you need to be more responsible with what you're actually building and where. This thing is gonna clash with the old-style architecture of the UF campus, no lie. Something of this size and complexity could have easily been built maybe a mile away, closer to downtown Gainesville where you want more of a nightlife community to sprout (or maybe closer to Oaks Mall or Archer Road strip malls). You all should have been something half that height and with an eye towards matching the campus architecture to where it would COMPLEMENT the scenery, not consume it.

Speaking of consumption, here's the pizza slice from Leonardo's I ate.

This was a mainstay eatery within walking distance of campus back when I was a student, and it'd been around for years before then. Last year, the place has been bought out by the university (they're looking to build more campus offices I believe) and I've been told that June 2017 is when it will close. So that pizza slice might be the last one I'll ever eat from there.

You can't go home again to the same pizzeria, can you? :(

On the way back, I took a slight detour to go visit one of the iconic locales on-campus.


On the lawn, they were prepping another group of foam swordfights, so I got some video clippage of that. Ooh, wait, I can't, Blogger can't handle the file size. Gimme five minutes to YouTube it instead.

I made it back to SwampCon for the afternoon, and I wanted to go into the "So Bad It's Good" Anime revue. Sadly, by the time I got there the room was packed. Note to the con organizers: next year, bigger room for these guys (or any other anime-themed shows, that culture is HUGE on-campus).

Other observations of note:

There was a shit-ton of Steven Universe cosplayers (I should have gotten more pictures of them, but was busy catching Onixes). Only two Deadpools. Where's my plethora of Deadpools?!?!?!

I'm used to an Artists Alley at other cons where local and published artists set up tables for autographs and print sales. The SwampCon folks should look into that, especially since there's an art college on-campus where up-and-coming sketchers and inkers are learning their trade (and there should be a number of Florida-based artists who'd love to show)...

The UF Bookstore needed to do a better job advertising and promoting the works of the authors who showed up for discussions on writing and publishing. These are authors who either live in Gainesville, are graduates of your school, or authors of some renown who put in the time to help with activities and events for the day. Putting a small pile of books on top of a table with little signage shoved into the corner of the Vendors room does not cut it.

Things have really changed in the year I've been away. Wal-Mart is no longer where it was on Archer Rd. and nearly 90 percent of that mall had been bull-dozed. Half the restaurants I knew are long gone, it took me an hour to find a Mexican eatery (for some reason I was in the mood for Mexican to balance out having pizza for lunch. I don't normally do that...) before I got back on the road to drive home and feed mah kittehs.

I did find time for one thing, to pay my respects:

Always remember.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Whoa Babe Just a Little Bit R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and Why Trump Ain't Getting Any

If there is any joy to find this dismal winter of discontent, it's the malicious joy of watching Trump fumble his way to the podium. Not the growing and alarming revelations of just how nasty his ties to Russia are turning out to be - that's actually making me turn away in horror - but the fact that Trump is still historically, epically (yes, Stephen King will kill me for the adverb use) unpopular with the universe. Via Matthew Yglesias with Vox.com:

On January 10, Quinnipiac released the first big Donald Trump poll of 2017, and it showed that he retains some strengths as a politician. Most voters think he’s intelligent (gaakkkk) and that he’s a “strong person.” (headdesk) A plurality believe he has “good leadership skills.” (o.o)
But his job approval rating is a dismal 37 percent, with 51 percent saying they disapprove of the job he’s doing. Rather than being an effective political tactic, Trump’s habit of frequently saying untrue things has led Americans to conclude by a 53-39 margin that he is not honest. Fifty-two percent say that Trump “does not care about average Americans,” and 62 percent say that he is “not level-headed.”

Just remember kids: this asshole didn't win the Popular vote, he won a broken-down Electoral College.

Sure, Trump got 62 million voters, but as I pointed out a few posts ago our elections are now so partisan that a dead dog could have gotten 62 million votes for the Republicans. I can guarantee you millions of his own voters hated him (they just hated or mistrusted Hillary more).

How historic a disaster is this?

Gallup created a comparative chart of Trump's beginning numbers compared to his predecessors Obama and Bush II and Bill Clinton:

Each of these Presidents were divisive in some respects: Clinton's win in 1992 came from a contested three-candidate race that the Republicans could not abide; Bush the Lesser lost the Popular vote and only won the Electoral College over a contested vote count in Florida (and a 5-4 SCOTUS vote); Obama won the Popular and Electoral but was hated by a Republican party that viewed him as illegitimate and a threat.

Yet all three still had high approval ratings - at least over 60 percent - going into the White House.

There are two very good reasons for this.

First reason is that a majority of Americans - regardless of party or even if they voted - want to think that the incoming President will do well and they wish him well. After all, if he succeeds the nation succeeds. It's called the Honeymoon period. It can last a few months or almost a year during which voters will give him the benefit of the doubt.

The second reason is that all three President-Elects played the public image of a Uniter, giving speeches and presentations alongside both parties to demonstrate no ill-will and to invoke signs of humility and empathy to the electorate. A perfect example is Dubya: having won a bitter contest on questionable grounds, he made a public victory speech where he spoke in humble tones about working with Democrats, and made pointed efforts towards bipartisanship:

Tonight I chose to speak from the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives because it has been a home to bipartisan cooperation. Here in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent.
We've had spirited disagreements. And in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, an example I will always follow...

Granted, once in office Bush and Cheney pursued their hard-core conservative tax cuts and policy initiatives. But he played the part of Uniter well and got his Honeymoon polling numbers in the mid-60s where his political capital had value.

So why is Trump failing at Reasons One AND Two? He's well below the 50 percent mark, and with the Quin poll at 37 percent he's slinking downward with the general public before he's done anything in office to make him even more unliked (which happens to every President, Reagan included).

Big point: Trump is no Uniter figure. His own personal nature as a bully makes that impossible. His history of vulgar and disruptive behavior is a major reason why he's been so unpopular this entire election process. And the stories about him have only gotten worse.

The final most damning part: Trump shows no respect to those he views his lessers. And that includes everyone among his own Republican ranks and his own damn voters (he's publicly admitted as much).

Machiavelli, I know I keep referring back to him, but his passage in The Prince about whether it's better to be Loved or Feared still makes a ton of sense in an electoral system like ours that runs on emotional and irrational decision-making.

Machiavelli noted it was difficult to be loved and feared at the same time, so it was preferred to be feared. He warned, however, that Fear could lead to Hate if you try to employ fear too often. And being Hated was the worst thing a Prince (leader) could become, because in that state the leader's opposition will have nothing to lose and everything to gain by driving you from power.

And Trump is coming into this role of President so very very HATED. Behaving like he's the greatest winner of all time when he really got Second Place, dismissing entire swaths of our population with insults and disdain... People hate him - myself included - with the fire of a thousand suns.

I honestly never saw - or felt - this level of animosity among my co-workers and friends towards an elected President before. Clinton never had this much hate (even after all the mud slung at him in 1992), Bush the Lesser didn't create massive protests against himself before his own tenure started, and Obama's haters were mostly contained to Rush Limbaugh's radio show and the Fox Not-News squad.

Once they hate you, it is hard to turn that emotion into something else.

The real prize for a Prince was to be Respected, a reputation that can co-exist with both Love and Fear. With Respect, a leader can be Feared as long as his subjects were convinced he knew what he was doing and capable at it. With Respect, a leader can be Loved as long as his subjects understood his Love for them was genuine, and borne of responsibility and care for their mutual well-being.

The thing about Respect, it's not given it is earned. As the saying goes, Respect Goes Both Ways. You have to show it towards others to have them respect you.

And Trump, mentioned above, does not respect you. Unless you happen to be Putin.

It shouldn't be any surprise that Trump doesn't get any respect back from the rest of us.

And without that respect, Trump is hated. And getting hundreds of thousands of protesters marching in the streets against him before Day One of his administration even starts.

It's a damn shame it took all these events and revelations after the election for more Americans to figure this out.

Things would be less dreadful and horrifying if 37 percent was his voting base on Election Night.

And we wouldn't have 62 million Americans to blame for the oncoming train wreck.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How Low Do You Think This Will Go?

There's still this sense of displacement and loss, definitely grief and anger, about what the hell happened to this nation since last November.

Just rounding up some of the other bloggers I read, about how they feel. For starters, Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice:

No, 2016 wasn’t just an electoral defeat. It was a revelation of the extent of the rot, a loss of faith as profound as any I’ve ever experienced. And the defeat of a highly qualified woman by a crude sexist bully sent a personal message to me, as a woman: You’re a second-class citizen at best, an object at worst.
Like many of you, I’ve responded in a variety of ways, becoming more involved in local politics, joining or forming groups to protect those most targeted by the racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue who will be president in 15 days. Long term, I suspect these will be the most important responses...

Leaning over to repost thoughts from PM Carpenter:

The latter I have not jettisoned from my political sympathies; I doubt I ever will. It has, rather, either marooned itself or been marooned by more powerful forces. To speak of democratic socialism (or liberalism, leftism) in this brutal age of Trumpism is, it now seems to me, to speak from a pointless conceit. No longer does America possess any rough balance of ideological powers: There is the reigning, voracious, soul-killing neofascism of Trump, and then there's all that remains of human decency. This critical remainder -- in fact, the majority of American political sentiment -- is presently scattered throughout the ideological spectrum. Such scattering, it further seems to me, must be rectified. Opposition to Trumpian fascism will more successfully battle the impending evil under one ideological flag...

Found this article in GQ searching for "Trump" and "grief" as keywords:

...The election of a lazy autocrat who traffics in Islamophobia has been a crushing blow to America’s collective psyche. Before Nov. 8, more than half of Americans had already reported that the 2016 cycle was a significant source of stress. In the month since, therapists I spoke to in New York, Chicago, and Washington have been inundated with Trump-related concerns. People already in therapy have struggled to grapple with the new reality. But those who had long felt freed of anxiety were relapsing, too, caught off guard by what nobody saw coming, and others who had never seen a therapist before called to secure an appointment...

For myself, there is little I can say except various forms of rage and regret. Like Betty Cracker, the election turnout for Trump was an eye-opening shock, that there were 62 million voters still willing to back such an openly sexist and racist business failure all because he was the Republican on their ticket. I know not all of those voters are sexists and racists themselves, but they had no problem voting for someone like that. All because they couldn't even conceive of voting for a woman candidate they were taught to despise or make a choice for a third party alternative, or at the least leave that choice blank.

And it bothers me that for all the talk about higher turnout, the actual number - when accounting for population growth and shifts in the voter registration - remained almost consistent with the previous election. The dire risk of a President Trump did not occur to more people who COULD turn out, and that to me remains inexcusable. (It is also a problem that voter suppression in key battleground states like Wisconsin and Ohio caused part of the damage done, and that remains a sin of a Republican Party and their Jurist enablers desperate to maintain a demographic stranglehold on voting)

It still bothers me that Hillary earned nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and still lost because of an archaic Electoral College system that hasn't been truly representative of our nation's voters since 1929. I do view that as a failure of both parties refusing to fix a system they want all because the College's format ensures a two-party dominance (Gods forbid the Libertarians or Greens ever get a single Elector).

In the process of coping with despair and depression, one has to find a means to fight back, to express the outrage and to stand with the convictions of what can be made right. Calling Congress early and often is one thing. I've made a few calls to the Senators of my state to express my concerns, and I'm not the only one (lines have been busy the last week or so). There are marches and public protests to join. The Women's March is out there, organizing for nationwide rallies (and yes, guys can attend). There's a ton of positive, life-affirming things you can do.

But we can't ignore the oncoming train wreck, can we. The Senate already started Phase One of their "Kill Obamacare" agenda in the dead of night (cowards!) and did so going after EVERY bit of health care coverage they could including the popular stuff like CHIP (that helped KIDS for God's sake) and protecting people with pre-existing conditions. And they did this with fucking grins on their faces. It's as though they know getting rid of Obamacare will honestly KILL people when those people lose their healthcare, and they're reveling in other people's misery all because their ideology against regulations and federalism tell them to.

We're facing a massive tax cut for the rich that will kill whatever semblance of a budget we could expect from the federal government. The party that proclaims itself fiscally responsible is about to cause more debt and deficits than drunken teenagers using up their parents' credit cards.

And then there's Trump. Russian puppet, tax-dodging, media-bullying, Emoluments violating sonofabitch that he is. The second he puts his hand to that Bible is the second he breaks every law in the US Code. And it worries me that's there nobody in position to call him to account.

I'm having nightmares now about what Trump is going to do at the podium on Inauguration Day itself. Calling for people's arrests then and there is the least of it.

We are entering an American Dark Ages, at a time when we're supposed to be entering an era of technological wonder and social diversity.

What the hell happened, America. What the hell.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Killing the Gerrymander: A Season of Hope

Update: Hello again to the Crooks & Liars audience coming here via Mike's Blog Round-Up! Thank you as always to Batocchio for inviting onto the list, and again to everyone here please visit, I have other rants and rampages to read at this blog.

For all my ranting on the sidelines about getting rid of the gerrymander, there is someone else out there - Hi, Paul! - doing the heavy lifting, and GOD BLESS HIM FOR IT.

Via Slate.com:

Both Democrats and Republicans deploy partisan gerrymandering to dilute votes for their opponents, creating one-party rule and, arguably, greater polarization. That’s bad for the body politic and a clear contravention of the Constitution. But as long as the courts refuse to step in, gerrymandering will continue to plague the country...
Now Paul Smith, one of the greatest legal minds in the country, is asking the Supreme Court to finally put a stop to it. And here’s the exciting part: He might actually succeed...



...The difficulty in curbing partisan gerrymandering has not been in convincing judges that the practice is unconstitutional—the Supreme Court has found that it is—it’s convincing judges that they can fix it.
In 2004’s Vieth v. Jubelirer, which Smith argued, five justices agreed that partisan gerrymandering likely violated the Constitution. But one of these justices, Anthony Kennedy, wasn’t sure quite how to fix the problem, and so he voted with the conservative justices to toss out a challenge to a Pennsylvania gerrymander - without closing the door to future lawsuits. In a concurring opinion, Kennedy wrote that partisan gerrymandering seems to unconstitutionally “burden representational rights” by “penalizing citizens” because of their “association with a political party” or their “expression of political views.” Still, Kennedy insisted, courts should not intervene until they could articulate “principles of fairness in districting” - specifically, a formula to decide when the burden placed on representational rights crosses the line into unconstitutionality. Otherwise, he argued, the results from one gerrymandering case to the next would likely be disparate and inconsistent...

So Smith and his people figured out a formula:

This formula - called the “efficiency gap” - cites two types of “wasted votes” in the redistricting process: “lost votes” cast in favor of a defeated candidate, and “surplus votes” cast in favor of a winning candidate that weren’t actually necessary for the candidate’s victory. The efficiency gap is, in Stephanopoulos’ words, “the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast.”
When both Democrats and Republican waste roughly the same number of votes, the efficiency gap is near zero. That means voters on both sides had a fair shot at securing their desired representation. When a party gerrymanders its opponents into the minority, however, it will “waste” fewer votes than its opponents, causing the efficiency gap to rise. A historical analysis of elections across from the country since 1972 suggests that an efficiency gap of 7 percent will entrench the majority party’s power until new maps are drawn. Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn gerrymander has an efficiency gap of 13 percent, meaning a huge number of Wisconsinites are currently deprived of their representational rights solely because they are Democrats.
This formula may sound like an oddly technical method for ensuring basic representational equality. But the justices have waded into algebraic waters before. The court has long held that the Constitution enshrines the principle of “one person, one vote,” meaning districts should contain about the same number of people so that no vote counts more or less than others. But over several decades, it has had to decide what amount of deviation from the “one person, one vote” principle was constitutionally permissible. Ultimately, the court found that the deviation between the population of the largest and smallest districts in a state cannot exceed 10 percent...

So based on this efficiency gap formula, the Wisconsin gerrymanders at 13 percent goes well beyond the historical skewing, and can well violate the "one person one vote" axiom that judicial review relies on.

As the article noted, the district court already sided with Smith and the Efficiency Gap. There is demonstrated evidence of gerrymandering affecting the voters' ability to choose their representatives, and given the legal arguments against gerrymandering there's a solid chance that the Supreme Court - even this conservative one - would accept the evidence and rule in Smith's favor.

Getting this formula set to reconfigure electoral districting at a state and federal level would go a long way towards ensuring a more accurate representation of the voters across the nation. It would certainly force the political parties to be more responsive to the voters and less towards the mapmakers.

Here's hoping Paul Smith gets the Supreme Court to agree with him.

Here's hoping the gerrymander dies a quick death before 2018 (or at least 2020).

Monday, January 09, 2017

It's 2017 And I Need New Blogging Victims for My Links

Exactly what it says on the title!

Check out my Links page - tag above or click here - and see whom I've already sacrificed on the Altar of Doom. Post a comment here or email me about what other blogs I can add to the lists.

Criteria should be:

1) Blog Language should be Galactic Basic standard (i.e. Hollywood English)

2) Political leanings should be Center-Left. That is, anything to the Left of National Review (I know, that's gonna be a broad range). Pretty much anything morally and spiritually opposed to Donald Trump and the goddamn greedhead wingnuts that have taken over the Republican Party.

2a) Or... Anything that leans towards a rational, pragmatic world-view with kitty/puppy videos.

3) Blog must be originally written stuff, no cloning/copying of other people's works. They can quote other works (and provide citation), but no reposting of entire stuff, just snippets or points of argument that stand out.

4) Geekery - a love of comic books, science fiction / fantasy, Monty Python, and 80s rock music will help.

5) NO RANDIAN OBJECTIVISTS. We're all PATRIOTIC Adam Smith Regulatory Capitalists with a side of Pragmatism and of a Utilitarian mindset here.

Get to it.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Article Two Section Four, or The Twenty-Fifth...

So I keep seeing all this talk about impeachment. Donald Trump's not even sworn in yet and there's people gaming out how removing Trump for his ongoing unethical behavior (via Digby):

There are some creative strategic thinkers out there, however, who are looking at the big picture and coming up with some exciting propositions. For instance, Robert Kuttner wrote this provocative piece for the Huffington Post, advocating for a group of experts, preferably bipartisan, to begin seriously putting together the case for impeachment...
He goes on to enumerate the high crimes and misdemeanors in which Trump is already implicated, beginning with the massive corruption inherent in his continued ownership of a privately held international company, the details of which he refuses to divulge. There are also his strange and uncharacteristic fondness for Vladimir Putin and his untrammeled nepotism, just for starters...

I have to admit, I dreaded the I-Word during the Obama years because I've seen the use of impeachment as a political, partisan tool in my lifetime (Clinton) and I was too young to witness impeachment under honest circumstances (Nixon's crimes in office, not just the Watergate cover-up but several others). I feared with each passing year - especially after 2010 and 2014 Midterms - that the Republicans would just break out the Impeach hammer and cudgel Obama with it until they drew blood.

But even Obama didn't get this kind of treatment back in 2009 - the Republicans preferred their Obstructionist gameplan instead - so I'm a little bothered that the Democrats and the Progressive Left are reaching for this tool before Day One even gets here.

Then again, Obama was never this big a goddamn glitch in the political Matrix.

Trump is coming in with so many conflicts of interest with his business holdings that he's honestly violating the Emoluments Clause the second he puts his hand to a Bible (which will likely burst into flames when he does).

Trump's alliance with Russian political and business figures - and his open devotion to autocrat Putin - is where he's valuing their friendship over the national security of the United States he's supposed to uphold and defend. Using the word "treason" describing this behavior isn't hyperbole or partisan wishful thinking...

Trump's ignorance and refusal to learn the rules and protocols of the Office of the President - especially in dealing with foreign powers - is 100 percent certain to cause a Constitutional Crisis. It's only a question of When and How it happens.

Just any ONE of those three points would be legitimate grounds - treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanors as mentioned in Article II Section 4 - for impeaching...

It just comes down to a question of political will.

Like it or not impeachment is a political tool, not a legal one. For impeachment to happen, your political party in charge of Congress has to find it in themselves to go against their own party's leadership AND voting base. This is what happened to Nixon: as his crimes became more public, his Republican allies in the Senate had more reason to turn against him.

Trump, for all his unpopularity with the nation, still has his fans among the voting base of the GOP... and they've made it clear more than once they'll side with him instead of the party. The party leadership also has learned their lessons from the Watergate fallout (and it's the wrong lesson): stick together to defend the party at all hazards...

Trump is going to have to do something so vulgar, so crass, so criminal an act while President that the partisans in the House have no choice but to vote to impeach. And even then, there may not be enough practical or pragmatic Republicans in the House to pull it off: the wingnut Freedom Caucus could well split with the party on any situation, leaving the leadership without enough in-party votes. The numbers for this get worse when any impeachment moves to the Senate: To actually remove the impeached Trump requires a two-thirds vote of all Senators, and depending on the quorum rules that's 68 Senators. Right now, there's 52 Republican Senators.

What this means for both the House and the Senate to vote for impeachment: The Republican leadership in both wings of Congress are going to have to ask Democrats to join in the effort.

The Republicans might not want to go that far, even if they HAVE to. The Democrats may also be offended by whatever Trump does, and they will have every sane reason to kick a racist, sexist bankrupt fraud like Trump off the face of the Earth. Thing is, the Democrats are not going to do the Republicans in Congress any favors. They won't do this out of the goodness of their hearts (nor should they).

The Democrats - both in the House and in the Senate - are bound to insist on deals. They'll likely insist on protecting whatever's left of Obamacare (or bringing parts of it back). They'll likely insist on protecting Planned Parenthood. They'll likely insist on business regulations be put back into place. If the Dems were being sadistic, they'll likely insist on McConnell wearing a chicken suit on the floor of the Senate and publicly apologize to Obama for being an Obstructionist Asshole. Hell, the Dems will likely call for tax hikes on the rich - THE deal-breaker that no Republican will accept, so the Dems will only be asking for THIS trade-off if Trump does something really really evil...

This is why I don't think impeachment will ever happen. The Republicans would rather live with the horror and shame of whatever sins Trump does in office, if only because they'd rather never trade-off their wingnut agenda to get the Democrats to side with them on any real honest reason to impeach.

The Republicans would rather live with the low disapproval ratings and with their reputations for corruption and venality that will inflame the nation in the wake of Trump's disasters, if only because they're living with that terrible reputation now and are still in power. They'll gamble that they won't lose in 2018 or 2020 like they did in 2006 and 2008...

No, if there is any serious attempt to remove Trump from office, it's going to have to involve the 25th Amendment. Specifically, Section 4 of the 25th:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

This is also known as the political coup option. It's where a faction within your own office can turn against you and remove your political authority as President. This can, granted, happen under any circumstance. Which is why it's a scary provision of the Amendment.

It hasn't happened yet because pulling it off is a great risk and a Constitutional crisis all its own. A Vice President has to be willing to sign off on taking power away from his/her boss, someone who has more political connections and has more popularity with your own party's base. Every member of the Cabinet (executive departments) and heads of intelligence agencies who signs off on this knows their political futures (and their lives) ride on a successful outcome. A move like this also has to involve the Joint Chiefs (Chair, Vice Chair, the heads of all four branches of the military plus the National Guard) otherwise you've got a military in chaos over who the Commander In Chief's gonna be. And both the Senate and the House has to accept what's happening.

Given the variances of party control throughout the decades since the 25th Amendment passed, there's never been a perfect alignment of factors to allow a Section 4 to take place. (When you come at the king, you best not miss)

Except Trump.

Given how dangerous Trump is regarding foreign affairs, his haphazard views on military use in global hotspots, his misunderstanding of our nation's nuclear weapon policies, and his coziness to Russia... if you asked the Joint Chiefs and the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA to sign off on a Section 4 for Trump, they've probably already printed up engraved pens for this.

While Vice-President Elect Pence is only there because Trump picked him for the job, he doesn't owe Trump on this. Pence is a creature of the Republican Party, and has clear differences from Trump when it comes to World-View. (Given Trump's personal vulgar habits, a serious Far Right Christian like Pence likely abhors him in private) If it came down to invoking the 25th through Section 4, Pence will view it as a duty to the Party (and then... maybe the nation).

The one sticking point would be the Cabinet: enough of them have to sign off on this move. And I think - I am not sure, so if someone has the answer please confirm - there's a limit needed, like a simple majority of them. That means 8 out of 15 Secretaries have to concur with VP Pence and the Joint Chiefs/Intel heads. Which might explain why Trump has been selecting people with little or no political experience for those positions: He'll want people who owe him more than they owe the Party to be on his side if a Section 4 has to be invoked.

If the 25th Amendment removal does take place it only removes Trump from the day-to-day stuff, prevents him from signing or vetoing legislation, and it takes him out of the chain of command for any decisions that need making. Trump will still technically be President, and Pence will only be serving as Acting President (I doubt Pence could choose his own Veep during this, by the by). Trump might actually LIKE this arrangement, because then he doesn't get any of the headaches while believing he'll still get enough of the perks (and the media attention he thrives on).

He'll turn into the political equivalent of Thing That Would Not Leave.

Trump will then get a ton of pressure to "take the hint" and resign from office altogether. If he gets cut off from power via the 25th Amendment, it's likely going to be over something so egregious that nobody in Congress or the Executive branch (military) will trust him with that power again. Meaning they will never send that letter to Congress saying "all is well back to normal". But knowing Trump, he'll just as likely keep the title and remain a nuisance for Pence and the Republicans who "clearly betrayed" him, sticking around in the office not physically but spiritually, haunting the Pence regime that rises up, mocking anything and everything to keep his own voter base within the GOP angry towards their leadership as always.

This is also why the 25th Amendment scenario might not play out: The Republican leadership is well aware that if they boot Trump from power, their own party voting base will declare it an "unlawful coup" and turn against them. And the leadership has seen - hi, Eric Castor! - what happens when they do.

Again, it all depends on how serious a problem Trump becomes. It all depends on how DANGEROUS in office Trump becomes.

And this train wreck is oncoming. Nothing is stopping it. We all know it's going to happen.

It's just a question of When and How.