Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What The Republicans Want to Do When They Kill Off Obamacare

It's really very simple:

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

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

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

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

And we are all fucking screwed.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Republican Party Bites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gods Help Us All.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hark! I Saw U2 Live

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

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

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


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

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

You could see the double rainbow at one point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The video accompanying "Bullet the Blue Sky"

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What If: trump and the Pardon Power

So hey, if it's time for some Game Theory (as Eric Garland would put it), how do we game out this ongoing disaster that is the trump Administration?

Right now, we're in the middle of an ongoing and expanding special counsel investigation into potentially criminal ties between Russia and trump's Presidential campaign.

As it stands now trump himself is "not the target" of the investigation, but so many of his people in his Inner Circle are - Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and more - that there's every likelihood that trump is tied to at least one felony violation. Given trump's history of questionable business deals, that likelihood jumps higher.

And let's include the Obstruction of Justice situation over trump's firing of FBI Director Comey.

So let's just say the Progressive/Democrat/Sane Person's Fantasy comes true to the last detail: That Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigations into trump-Russia-Gate prove that trump's campaign actively colluded with Russian spies and hackers to subvert the 2016 Elections (including hacking into electronic voting machines to skew results); that the active collusion not only involves trump but also VP Pence, Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and various other Republican Party leaders and campaign experts in a massive conspiracy (that itself can be a criminal charge); that there were acts of bribery, slush funds, illegal payoffs, and money laundering INVOLVING FOREIGN DONORS (an electoral No-No); that there were acts of extortion involving hacked emails of both Democrats and Republicans; and that trump actively Obstructed the investigations by firing not only Comey but also other government officials such as Sally Yates (who warned the White House that Flynn was compromised).

So there's about five felony charges at the least facing President Loser of the Popular Vote donald trump.

What the hell happens next?

In a sane and just world, Congress would move to Impeach trump (and other high-level officials) to prevent his further abuse of power.

But a Republican-controlled Congress - especially with Ryan and McConnell at the helm - will likely not do so. Even if Ryan and McConnell are dragged off in handcuffs, the remaining majorities in the House and Senate will likely remain Republican. And the Republicans are cowards.

In the meantime, since the investigation would reveal trump's criminal misdeeds, the federal agents authorized to arrest him on those charges - I dunno if it would be the FBI or the US Marshals, what the hell let's make it Gibbs' team from NCIS - are hurrying over to the nearest trump Golf Course to slap the handcuffs on him.

But before Gibbs can get through the door, trump rushes over to a table and fills out official Presidential Pardon papers that he issues to himself regarding those crimes and any others he may have possibly committed beforehand. Essentially giving himself a "Get Out of Jail Free" card (he may include everyone else arrested, but knowing trump he'll likely let most of them hang for "their failure" to serve him).

Can trump even do that? Can ANY President pardon himself?

It's a serious question, and it's come up often during major scandals like Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Whitewater.

It starts off with the question if Presidents can be charged while in office. Given the nature of their duties, there's a likelihood they may violate laws both domestic and foreign - such as war crimes - and if they can be charged on even a minor issue it could prove distracting. However, previous Supreme Court decisions argued that the President is NOT above the law, so if there are felonies involved - especially ones that threaten the Constitutional system - this situation may fall into precedent and trump can get charged.

If we go to Brian Kalt over at Foreign Policy:

I have been writing about presidential self-pardons for years. My position has always been that they would be legally invalid. I have also believed that a self-pardon is unlikely to ever happen because there are too many incentives weighing against it. But I am not sure that applies to Trump, who has proved he has a high tolerance for personal risk and a taste for attempting the never-before attempted.
So what would happen if Trump attempted a self-pardon? First, some pardon fundamentals: Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the power to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Pardons thus can only cover federal criminal offenses and cannot thwart an impeachment (which technically is not a criminal prosecution anyway)...
...If a court ever did consider the issue, the decision could go either way because there are reasonable arguments on both sides. The president (or ex-president by the time he would be prosecuted) would have a very simple case that his self-pardon was valid: There is nothing in the Constitution that explicitly forbids it.
The prosecutor’s argument, while much more complicated, is a stronger one. First, a textual argument: The word “pardon” means something inherently bilateral, something that a sovereign bestows upon a subject. Consider more colloquially that you can beg someone else’s pardon, but you never seek or receive one from yourself. While there is admittedly no explicit limitation on self-pardons, there is no need for one, because a self-pardon is by definition not a “pardon...” 
...The prosecutor can also appeal to the venerable maxim that no one may be the judge in his own case. If a federal criminal defendant feels unjustly accused, he must convince one of the following to back him: the U.S. attorney (who can drop the prosecution), a majority of the grand jury (which can refuse to indict), the judge (who can dismiss the case), any member of the trial jury (which can fail to unanimously convict), or the president (who can pardon). But people cannot prosecute, judge, or sit on juries in their own cases. Like a judge who would have to submit to the authority of another judge if he were being prosecuted, a president must seek a pardon from his successor...

Again, considering trump, his need for self-preservation would still compel him to attempt a self-pardon, but the damage from that move wouldn't be worth it. Again to Kalt:

Besides these legal arguments against self-pardons, there are also some practical reasons why a president would not want to pardon himself even if he thought he could. The most important is that it would look so craven and corrupt that it would greatly weaken the president’s political position with all but his most die-hard supporters. If he were facing impeachment, it would increase his chances of being removed from office. If there were an election anytime soon, he and his party could pay a tremendous price.

The subsequent election after Nixon's resignation and Ford's pardon of him in September 1974 over Watergate was the 1974 Midterms Election (November). Republicans lost seats in both the Senate and the House, and Ford narrowly lost to Carter in the 1976 Presidential. Political experts agree the pardon ruined the Republicans' chances both times.

If trump does this for himself, he may remain in the White House but he'll be terribly alone. Accepting the pardon is an admission of guilt: It's a "Yeah I did the crime, but I won't do the time" move. No matter how he'll sell it to his base, everyone else on the planet will know him for what he is: A crook, and not a very smart one at that.

No sane person will want to work for him (which is already a problem his administration has), fearing the likelihood of getting caught up in other criminal misdeeds. Meaning an already-understaffed West Wing will get worse, and sloppier, with failures and disasters of mismanaging the state of affairs that would harm the nation even more. There would be at least two years of death, war, and mayhem before a Democratic Congress could challenge trump's destructive ways.

It would be possible for a Republican-controlled Congress to turn on trump if he abuses his office with a self-pardon move. They may fear their own Far Right base but they're not all idiots in Congress: They've seen what happens to the Party associated with scandal (SEE 1974 results) and know if they stick with trump throughout the midterms they will lose every Independent non-wingnut voter out there even in the "safe" gerrymandered districts. Impeaching trump would be the only way to save their skins in November 2018 (if they can last that long).

There's even a slight possibility that if the scandal is seriously bad, enough Republicans in Congress will flip parties - it can happen during the congressional sessions - and give control to the Democrats now, who would gladly Impeach trump even if they still end up with Pence in the Oval Office.

Both those scenarios, however, are pretty weak Ifs. The modern Republican Party is craven, dogmatic, and obsessed with their tax-cut deregulation agenda of doom. Even the "moderates" in the Party won't bolt.

This can well go down to the Supreme Court to determine if a President can self-pardon. That could still take years to reach that level of the legal system, and it still boils down to whether the conservative Republican-backed Justices side with the Constitution or with trump.

We are so royally fucked.

The Summer of Our Discontent

How much farther does this train wreck have to careen, O Lord?

The devastation made by the growing trump-Russia scandal spreads by the minute now, not by week or day. There's evidence that Russian-backed hackers cyberattacked our electronic voting machines in key states that flipped for trump.

trump himself has been reduced to accusing fired FBI Director Comey of lying and yet still claiming Comey's testimony vindicates him. Given trump's history of lying, why should anyone believe his claims?

And yet... and yet there's still the trump Voter Base who will side with him on every lie, every con, because it profits them to do so at the cost of their own sanity and safety.

We are still so very fucked.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Anniversary: Storming Those Beaches

Early in the morning of June 6, 1944 a massive invasion fleet made up of American, British, Canadian, and French forces landed at various spots along Normandy beaches for a spot of tea to affirm their commitment to a Western Front against the Nazis.

As such, we honor this day for those men's bravery and sacrifice.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Anniversary: Tiananmen Once Again

Today is June 4th, which means another reminder that some fights for freedom are not over:

Police detained at least 11 Chinese activists after a pair of small events to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, according to human rights groups and activists.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered in Hong Kong for the annual candlelight vigil to remember the events of June 4, 1989, which have gained added poignancy in recent years in view of a continuing struggle for democracy there.

I still hope Tank Man is still alive. I still want to ask him the question, about what it was like to stand there in front of the tanks.

Part of me worries, however, I will learn soon enough. The way trump is behaving in the Oval Office, my own country is facing its own Tiananmen moment...

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Drowning in trump's Bluster

Today wasn't even much of a surprise. OF COURSE trump would do this:

Donald Trump has confirmed that he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, in effect ensuring the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases will quit the international effort to address dangerous global warming.
The US will remove itself from the deal, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not party to the Paris agreement. There will be no penalty for leaving, with the Paris deal based upon the premise of voluntary emissions reductions by participating countries...
“We will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said. “If we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Would it help to note that nearly EVERY OTHER NATION - including oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and RUSSIA (!) - are staying with the Paris Climate Accords?

Would it help to note that every one of trump's excuses to take the United States out of those Accords are verifiable lies?

trump, meanwhile, seems to think he can "re-negotiate" his own climate deals with individual nations, convinced "he" can get deals that would be "fair"... which by his measurements means "deals in which I steal a shitload of other people's money."

As always, he's creating problems by making everything about him.

You see, here's the little secret that most of the Beltway Media won't talk about. The real reason trump is exiting the climate change accords. It's not over facts, it's not even over standard Republican ideology of opposing everything Democrats support.

trump is exiting the Paris Climate Accords out of personal spite.

To Krugman over at the New York Times, he's thinking of this in terms of Republican animosity towards Obama - who did agree to the Paris Accords - as the simplest explanation:

Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.
Beyond this, much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.
And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?

But for trump to do this now, so quickly after his disastrous trip abroad, tells me that he's doing this because his tiny little fee-fees got hurt and he's swinging back at Europe in the worst way possible.

See, trump went overseas on his first big trip as President Loser of the Popular Vote, and with all the crazy things he did and the crazier things he said and the insulting crap he attempted to pull off, trump came back in a foul mood knowing full well he'd been made a laughingstock.

Listen to trump's speech. He kept obsessing over being treated fairly, and commented "We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won't be."

Who's "we," kemosabe?

The world leaders, the other countries, they were laughing at YOU.

And they still are laughing at you: Because like the wounded eight-year-old bully you are, you came back out onto the playground with mud on your face still threatening to beat up the entire school that showed you that mudpit in the first place.

The rest of the world is going to go on with their climate accord deals because 1) they are driven by the empirical evidence that climate change is a real threat, 2) they are able to make money off of switching to carbon-neutral or eco-friendly energy platforms, 3) they aren't idiots.

Meanwhile, the United States is going to drown in the ocean that is trump's Ignorance.

This move hurts US more than it hurts the world. Look at what's happening. Look at the alienation trump is causing with his destructive travel bans. Look at the way trump caused discord over his failure to recognize Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Look at how trump treated allies that have stood with the United States for decades to create a period of remarkable global stability (granted, this covers most of Western civilization, there remains a lot of bad stuff on the fringes).

Forget the Wall trump keeps threatening to put up on the Mexican border. trump has pretty much built a wall of Isolationism around the United States and has brought an end to the era of the United States as a global power. Nobody in their right mind can claim the President is the Leader of the Free World anymore. trump is only leading himself.

He's giving Putin (who wants the United States to fall as a global power) everything he wants to weaken Western Europe. He's giving China (who can now lead on green energy issues) everything they want to become the biggest Superpower on the planet.

This is what you voted for, 62 million Americans: an easily bruised ego-driven monster cutting off our own collective nose to spite the rest of the world.

Damn you.