Saturday, September 30, 2017

Finally! Something Trump's Good At: Blaming the Victims

The most important thing to Trump -- other than getting to one of his golf courses as fast as possible -- is that the victims of a hurricane praise him. The thing he can't forgive or forget is criticism of any kind, and the thing that will send him into a Twitter rage is criticism from a woman.

So the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, criticized the government's slow and inept response to Hurricane Maria. She also said, “I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying.” She didn't mention Trump by name, but he took it personally. Because that's what you do when you're a thin-skinned narcissist.

Last weekend, Trump tweeted 22 different times about his newest cultural enemy, black athletes in the National Football League. He tweeted nary a single time last weekend about the devastation in Puerto Rico. Black athletes aren't good citizens in his eyes. Puerto Ricans aren't even citizens at all to him.

He attacked the mayor this morning at 7:26 a.m. -- "Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico" -- but already days ago he had begun to blame the victims of Maria:
Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble .... It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars ... owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.
Those were tweets from last Monday. Texas and Florida, both states that voted for him last November, "are doing great." But Puerto Rico is a loser island full of loser people whose debt makes them really unworthy of help. Isn't that the gist of those tweets?

Trump sees the world through a pig's eyes. He's gotten his because he deserved it all. Everybody gets what they deserve, no? So the iron logic of victim-blaming means to Trump that Puerto Rico got what it deserved too.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Grand Dook of the Empire Sez He Got the Message (Though Not the Bill)

Grand Dook Price
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he'll write a check for $51,887 to cover "his seat" on all those private chartered flights he took since the inauguration. So stop yer bitchin, peons!

He's offered to pay for just his seat. The flights are said to total over $400,000, but Price wants to pay for just the space that accommodated his modest (we're sure!) butt on those flights, as though all the other seats were also being paid for by others (others who are less privileged to fly on the taxpayer's bundle), even though those seats were empty (except maybe for his wife, his staff, his personal chef, and his fanner).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Believe Me," Sez Trump. We Don't

Trump unveiled his tax overhaul plan yesterday in Indiana. It has big benefits for corporations and the very wealthy. Because there is little substance yet in the 9-page master outline (the press got a one-page summary), the bottom line for the middle class is unknown and may be modest. It will definitely add substantially to the national debt, over $2 trillion by the estimates I've seen this a.m. (Republican cheerleaders claim the deficit doesn't matter: see below).

During the rollout, Trump said, “Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households. Not the wealthy and well-connected. They can call me all they want; I’m doing the right thing.” He then added: “And it’s not good for me, believe me.”

Said the man who's afraid to release his tax returns.

Under the Trump tax plan, the very wealthy -- including Mister too -- will pay only 35 percent on their income taxes (down from 39.6 percent). At the moment, this rate applies to any income above about $418,000. "If you make $1,000,000, in other words, you’ll save about $27,700 a year in taxes" (Heather Long). 

This guy Trump. Look at just one gigantic lie: "They [the very wealthy] can call me all they want" -- presumably to complain about how hard this tax plan will be on them -- "I'm doing the right thing." Bro, they don't need to call you; they'll see you at Mar-a-Lago.

Huge addition to the national debt. Just like that, the fiscally conservative Republican Party goes to turning tricks for the wealthy like an Avenue Q street-walker. Was this deficit toxin the trigger that prompted The Drudge Report to headline the Trump tax plan yesterday, “MORE BETRAYAL”? (Don't go looking for the headline now. Headline's been changed. But here's a screen capture of the original.) 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts that deficits will total $10.1 trillion over the next
decade (that's in addition to the current $20 trillion deficit). New deficit spending under the Trump Plan is expected to top $1 trillion a year in 2022 and keep growing from there.

Some Congressional Republicans who had until yesterday been deficit hawks jumped into promoting the tax plan. "It'll be great! It'll produce 4% growth as the economy explodes, because really rich people will want to build new factories and hire and hire some more!"

A dubious proposition. The CBO projects that, under current laws and policies, "the economy will grow 2.3 percent this year but growth will average just 1.9 percent a year over the coming decade." Oh, "under current laws"! We're changing that, sez the Trumpian fantasy. With a new law, we're unleashing a flood of economic development that will top out at 4% national growth. Dubious at best, say the economists at The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Even calling the 9-page outline "the Trump tax plan" is wrong, since it's not really his. Maybe he's read the nine-page outline, and very possibly he hasn't. The plan is actually the product of the so-called Big Six working group -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Finance Committee chair Orrin Hatch, and the House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee chair Kevin Brady.

They're shrugging off the specter of adding trillions to the federal deficit (while meanwhile and incidentally enriching a chief executive and many of his ideological pals. Trump for one has never been shy about conflicts of interest and profiting off the office).

What this guy said: "President Trump’s tax plan is morally repugnant and bad economic policy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Alabama Republicans Go Retro

Alabama Republican voters picked Roy Moore last night. The man who holds a gun funny, wears a cowboy hat as a helmet, and wants to make his religion the law of the land. Note: his religion is not exactly the loving kind. They call him "Judge," and he does.

Can things get any worse for Mitch McConnell? It was pile-on-Mitch all day yesterday. Another repeal&replace bill sunk like an anvil in his own caucus. Another of his most influential lieutenants and committee chair, Bob Corker of Tennessee, announced he'd had enough and would not run for reelection in 2018, setting the stage for another potential circus of a Republican primary in 2018 in which the name "McConnell" will mean approximately shit. Mitch became the Nancy Pelosi of the Republican Party yesterday.

(Meanwhile -- and by the way -- who's the Tennessee Democrat for that race? More about that below.)

And the cherry on the top of yesterday for Ole Mitch ... Roy Moore, ascendant, coming at him with the lash of retarded righteousness. Everyone expects Moore to win the general. It'll be Moore v. Doug Jones, the Democrat who won his own primary on August 15 (see below). But the actual election isn't until December 12, and that's more than adequate time for a well-funded alternative to Moore to build a case. A Democratic candidate who "fits the state" and is firm to the touch has every opportunity for upsetting Judge Moore (especially in an age when anything can happen politically, and does).

Doug Jones
Nobody thinks Jones can win. Except maybe Jones himself. He's the underdog, no doubt. But he's also no coward (the cases he prosecuted as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama produces evidence of moral conviction and courage). Asked how in the world he thought he could overcome the Republican advantage in Alabama, Jones said, "At the end of the day, they [the voters of Alabama] are worried about their children, they are worried about their elderly parents, like I am. They're concerned about where their jobs are going to come and what's going to come into this state."

Nothing wrong with that, but needs some cooking on some fire. Can he translate that (populist) message into a movement in his direction? Dunno. Experts say, Proly not.


The worst set of numbers for Democrat Jones, IMO, come from the Aug. 15 primary: "Moore received 162,570 total votes, which was more than the entire Democratic field. Jones won his primary with 104,549 votes, or 65.6 percent of the 154,481 votes cast by Democrats" ( Jones has to build Democratic energy in a state where Democrats have been defeatists for more than a decade. A Democrat hasn't won a statewide election since 2008 and hasn't won a U.S. Senate race since 1992.

So ... back to the sudden opening in Tennessee: Who's the Democrat to run for Corker's seat against whatever candidate survives the Republican primary? Will the Tennessee GOP be weaker after the Trumpists tear the establishment apart? Might the Democrats nominate Nashville Mayor Megan Barry? Or US Congressman Jim Cooper? Who then? The only Democrat who's actually declared his candidacy is a virtual unknown, James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq war veteran.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"My Leetle Friend"

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore
brandished handgun at rally last night
Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has run for higher office in Alabama before — and got clobbered. When he ran for governor in 2006, incumbent Bob Riley bested him in the GOP primary by a 2-to-1 margin. Four years later, he came in fourth in the GOP gubernatorial primary, getting just 19 percent of the vote.

But this loon seems inevitable to win the run-off today with incumbent (appointed) Senator Luther Strange. Then it's on to the final contest with Democrat Doug Jones on December 12.

Will Alabama voters have a moment of clarity?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Roy Moore for Senate Ad

That didn't take long.

Burr and Tillis Should Be Ashamed for Supporting Graham-Cassidy

Bribery Monday

1. Can Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins be bribed? Those two Republican senators have said they needed to see how the Graham-Cassidy health care bill would affect their states. Presto! Graham and Cassidy got to work over the weekend and rewrote their bill to give more money to Alaska and Maine. They're rolling out the new version of the bill this morning ... which, just incidentally, the Congressional Budget Office will never be able to "score" before the end of the week. Question: If the latest Republican "fix" for Obamacare is so great, why would it take bribery to get it passed?

2. Charge of Massive Voter Fraud in New Hampshire Earns Four Pinocchios. Kris Kobach, Trump's top vote suppressor, keeps trying. Bless his heart.

3. American citizens in great distress following hurricane. Does Trump understand that the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens? They're not just brown people on some distant island. They're American citizens. And they're in much worse shape than either the people of south Texas or the people of Florida. Some 80% of local agricultural crops were destroyed by Maria, and the very real specter of starvation is facing thousands. Maybe Trump could take a break from tweeting about the brown people in professional sports and actually do something to help Puerto Rico.

4. Trump loves those self-inflicted wounds. The backlash against Trump's outburst against the National Football League for condoning protest has drawn its own high-powered backlash. Many team owners -- all or most of them million-dollar donors to Trump -- have condemned the comments and either symbolically or literally linked arms with their players. Meanwhile, a Trump lickspittle group started running Facebook ads urging Trump supporters to turn off NFL games on TV. Good luck with that project.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Follow Trump's Logic, But Beware of Whiplash

Been reading coverage of Trump's big rally in Huntsville last night in support of Luther Strange, including in the Huntsville Times.

Swathes of empty seats showing up at the
70-minute mark. Photo Paul Gattis,
Alabama Media Group
"I'm for Luther, but I might have made a mistake"
Trump talked out his ambivalence about supporting Strange in front of several thousand (possibly confused) Trump fans (but not necessarily Luther Strange fans).

“I might have made a mistake. I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake,” Trump said about his early decision to back Strange. So, as if acting on his regret, he brought Strange's lethal opponent Roy Moore into the equation: “And, by the way, both good men. Both good men. If his opponent wins, I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him. But, I have to say this … Luther will definitely win.”

Strange had taken the stage just before Trump and proudly put on a red “Make America Great Again” hat. “Are you ready to support our president tonight?” Strange asked of a crowd that was supposedly there to support his candidacy for the Senate. From the stands, a young Trump supporter shouted back: “You suck!”

Strange spoke for fewer than four minutes at his own rally. Trump spoke -- if you could call his disconnected word-salad a "speech" -- for over 90 minutes. People in the upper stands were seen beginning to leave after the hour mark. Trump noticed too and suggested that people were just headed to the restrooms.

"You should be very afraid, but also, you're perfectly safe"
In Alabama, they love saber-rattling (political cod-pieces). And Trump loves a pissing match, so the following prompted the loudest cheers of the night:

“We can’t have madmen out there, shooting rockets all over the place. And by the way: Rocketman should have been handled a long time ago. [Bill Clinton's fault. Barack Obama's fault.] This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m going to handle it, because we have to handle it. Little rocketman.”

He then ominously warned that North Korea could explode a “massive weapon” over the Pacific Ocean, resulting in “tremendous, tremendous calamity where the plume goes.” Then he told everyone not to worry about that.

“Maybe something gets worked out and maybe it doesn’t, but I can tell you one thing: You are protected. Okay? You are protected.”

By the great big solid dome of his towering ego?

A few other hard-rock gems
When Trump rambles, he bumps into all sorts of furniture. "How about a thing called your Second Amendment,” the president said. “Right? Okay, remember that? If Crooked Hillary got elected, you would not have a Second Amendment, believe me. You’d be handing in your rifles. You’d be saying: ‘Here, here they are.’ ” Who knew that a president had that kind of power? Apparently, ending the Second Amendment for Hillary would have been as easy as ignoring centuries of precedent invested in the emoluments clause.

While trying to praise Strange once again, Trump drew a contrast between Strange and several other Republican lawmakers he had lobbied to support RepealAndReplace. Trump said the other Republican congressmen would consider voting for the legislation only if the president had dinner with their various relatives. “Pictures all night, everything,” Trump said. “Brutal. Brutal. You know what that is, folks, right? It’s called brutality.” Trump talks about his erstwhile political allies that way. Pretty soon he won't have political allies.

Trump got the rally crowd to boo McCain. Twice. And chant "Lock her up!" repeatedly. It's called uniting the country.

“Believe me, folks,” he said. “The wall is happening.” Only now apparently, it's going to be a see-through wall to prevent people on our side from being killed when the drug traffickers catapult 100-lb. bags of narcotics over that wall. 

And having entered the domain now of Mad Magazine, I leave you with the chief executive about which you can feel so proud, and bid you adieu.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Imperial Stylings of Secretary Price

Look, libtards, we know you're going to act all outraged and stuff and start demanding reform, because of Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private chartered flights, so he doesn't have to rub elbows with common folk in air terminals and -- heaven forbid! -- get seated next to some talkative liberal with opinions for a two-hour flight. So of course he spent hundreds of thousands of our dollars on chartered airplanes just since January.

And his spokeswoman had a legitimate -- totally legitimate! -- excuse. She said he got delayed at an airport once. And he had to sit in a waiting room mainly full of people who didn't know they were supposed to bow to His Grace and who didn't write him big checks back when he was running for the US House from Georgia and who probably couldn't even afford to live in Trump Tower.

Oh the indignity!

And then Secretary Price's imperial spokeswoman, Charmaine Yoest, who doesn't know a thing about irony and wouldn't recognize it if crawled up her leg and snagged her pantyhose, patiently explained to the Complainers: “This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people.”

Because real 'Muricans can and often do spent $17,000 to go 150 miles, on a private chartered plane with a kitchen.

Someone To Watch

Howard Schultz
Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake thinks that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is thinking of running in the Democratic primary for president in 2020. Fine by us. At the very least, Schultz has been jolted into political alertness by the rainless thunderhead called Trump.

Schultz was speaking at a job fair on Wednesday, and while he did not mention Trump by name, the prez was indicted by implication:
The worst thing that we all, whether we be businesspeople or private citizens — we should not be embracing indifference right now. We have to be engaged, we’ve got to speak out, we’ve got to be involved, we gotta stand up for the things that we know are true. And I think the country, in many ways, is in need of a moral, a cultural and an economic transformation....
The whole issue is, we cannot have an America where so many people are being left behind. I found myself in Houston a week and a half ago after the hurricane. I wanted to see the aftereffects, but mostly I wanted to talk to people. And you learn a few things that are heartbreaking. You know, 40 percent of American households don’t have $400 of cash available to them. Only 2 percent of the people in Houston that I talked to had flood insurance — and probably those people were in the right Zip code. There’s tens of thousands of people in a shelter today. And so I think, if we think about the country today — and I’m not talking about politics — I think the country needs to become more compassionate, more empathetic. And we can’t speak about the promise of America and the American Dream and leave millions of people behind. And it’s my view that — leave Washington aside and all the politics aside — businesses and business leaders need to do a lot more for the people they employ, the communities we serve, and we can make a significant difference. And this job fair is emblematic of just that.
"I’m not talking about politics." It's a sign of the troubled times we're in, that if you talk about public compassion and empathy, you are talking about politics, since so many at the top of this government appear to lack those qualities.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trump Plays Russian Roulette in Alabama

...and three chambers in the gun are loaded.

Trump continually proves the old saying: "You can't out-think a man who ain't thinking."

He didn't think enough before endorsing Luther Strange in the August Alabama primary. Strange had been appointed (more about that tainted appointment below) temporarily to fill Jeff Sessions' Senate seat and was running for the permanent job against a couple of other Alabama conservatives. Strange had a leg up. He was already the incumbent, and he was a favorite of Mitch McConnell (actually, his boy. Since his appointment, Strange has become a very dependable grunt in the McConnell squad. And McConnell has shepherded millions of campaign aid into Strange's bank account). Trump wanted to lead that band, so he took over as drum major and announced, "Luther Strange -- my boy too!"

Trump apparently thought the August Alabama Senate primary was mainly between Luther Strange and Congressman Mo Brooks. There was some other guy running, but he wasn't a factor (somebody said). Brooks had been bitter as gall to Trump. He had righteously slammed the door before Trump got the nomination: “Donald Trump is an adulterer,” Brooks hissed in an interview in 2016. He clearly detests Trump, and why would Trump want another Ron Paul in the Senate?

That third guy in the race? According to Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, "it was unclear whether Trump fully grasped the potential" of former Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.


Roy Moore
Moore is a Bible-thumper and an Alabama celebrity (for defying Caesar in the name of Jesus). He has the personality of a yellow-jacket. He's been twice removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, cause he's a populist in the tradition of George Wallace. So he makes mainstream and country-club Republicans nervous, while some rural Democrats like him. Lots of Republicans too, cause Roy Moore won that August primary by six percentage points over Strange. Third-place finisher Mo Brooks quickly endorsed Moore, and so did former White House puppeteer Steve Bannon.

Hmmm. Maybe Trump finally thought. "Is it a good thing to stay balls-to-the-wall in a Republican primary where my guy is already a loser? And while Steve-O is backing the other guy?" Because Trump suddenly -- after going mute on support for Strange since last August -- just tweeted a day ago Strange's name in a positive way and announced he was going to Alabama tomorrow for a Strange rally. (Fill in your quip here.)

Luther Strange has become the embodiment of the Republican Establishment, the edifice that Bannon has vowed to blow up. Trump's had that mood too, channeling Bannon. How odd then it must have been for Trump to wake up and discover he's the avatar for a second-place swamp creature.

If Strange loses and Moore wins next Tuesday -- last poll I saw, Moore was leading Strange, 47 to 39 percent -- Trump looks both weak and foolish. If Moore wins next Tuesday, prospects for Democratic nominee Doug Jones goes up. Jones is a former U.S. prosecutor with a statewide reputation for courage. He prosecuted two men who set the bomb that killed those girls in the Birmingham church back on September 15, 1963.

What If Strange Wins Next Tuesday?

Doug Jones
Strange was appointed to the seat by Governor Robert Bentley. Bentley was at the time himself under investigation for various misdeeds (and he would soon resign from office in complete disgrace). At the time of his appointment, Strange was Attorney General of Alabama, which also meant he was in charge of investigating Governor Bentley. Solid journalism revealed that Strange had delayed and vacillated the Bentley investigation, and for that he got a seat in the Senate. Which he lobbied for.

Bentley and Strange were already tainted by revelations of general Republican corruption in Alabama government at that time. The Speaker of the Alabama House had been convicted of profiting from his office in 2016 and sentenced to four years in prison. And the Bentley scandal was long-running and salacious.

In times like these, the nomination of Strange could produce a revolt among Republicans and an opportunity for Democrat Doug Jones. Either way, with whichever Republican wins the primary, the watch goes to Jones, whose prospects will depend on his smarts and his money. He's bringing Joe Biden to Alabama the week after the Republican run-off between Strange and Moore.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Zombie Obamacare Repeal Walks Again

The repealing of Obamacare has risen again from the grave, in the guise of the "Graham-Cassidy Bill" in the Senate. By many metrics, it's the worst one yet.

“This bill keeps 90 percent of the spending of Obamacare and reshuffles it,’’ Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said on Monday. “Really, when you look at how it reshuffles it, it does it just to take money from the Democrat states and give it to Republican states.’’

Block grants. Republicans love block grants. "Here's some money. Now get outta my face!" And they don't even try to hide the urge to punish, based on ideology.

Virtually everyone else says Graham-Cassidy will throw millions off health insurance, while "Medicaid would face cuts comparable to those in earlier repeal bills, and insurers in some states could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions." 

If you're sick, you'll be punished. If you vote Democratic, you'll be buried.

Trump Wants To Copy the Military Prowess of ... the French?

Trump sat with French President Emmanuel Macron and watched a big showy military parade when he was in Paris last Bastille Day in July.

It was the greatest military parade Trump had ever seen. The glitz, the gleam, the precision, the costuming, the showmanship of it all!

I want me a parade like that, Trump said. In fact, yesterday in New York when Trump saw President Macron again, Trump said in front of reporters, “I was your guest at Bastille Day, and it was one of the greatest parades I've ever seen. It was two hours on the button, and it was military might and, I think, a tremendous thing for France and the spirit of France. To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Trump wants to stage a spectacle of "military strength" on the Fourth of July. He thinks it'll make him bigger, and indispensable.

So let's review: France, the nation whose strutting has attracted the admiration of Trump, has gotten chewed all to hell and gone in war after war. The Bastille Day parade that Trump saw recalled the glories of Napoleon, not any military adventure in the 20th Century -- really not any military adventure since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. So the French military braggadocio is mythology. Harmless, since France doesn't threaten its neighbors or the world with military bullying.

That won't be isn't the case with Trump.

Why Didn't You People Warn Me?

How come I'm always the last one to find out the world's about to end?

According to David Meade and "Unsealed" magazine, the end is coming this Saturday, September 23.

Except  (footnote from Mr. Meade), “The world is not ending this Saturday, but the world as we know it is ending this Saturday." Hmmm. The world as I know it. So it's ending?

Mr. Meade hedges, sez the prophesies in the Book of Revelation will "manifest" that day in an escalating series of catastrophic events. So it's not the Rapture, though it might mimic the Rapture in some ways.

I had planned to go to the Farmer's Market Saturday.

"Unsealed" magazine has produced and posted on-line a 4-minute movie about Meade's theories. You gotta see it! Seriously. Go and watch. It's got special effects, animation, ethereal music, actors and models, and a real doozy of a plot. It's got dragons (and a dab of War of the Worlds). It's got a blond lady "clothed in the sun." It's Game of Thrones for Sunday School teachers.

Barak Obama did not make the cut, amazing as that is to report. They're not blaming him.

I'm a little concerned, though, about the baby born of The Tribulation who will rule with "an iron scepter." The movie explains that baby as Jesus Christ and -- AND -- "his church." I've known plenty of church people -- and I bet you have too -- who've lusted for the iron scepter and who meant nobody any good.

Friday, September 15, 2017

$9.99, Up in Smoke

Real Men Don't Eat Pelosi

But they do, apparently, eat Chinese with Pelosi.

That now-famous dinner at the White House two nights ago has caused a lot of indigestion among those not actually at the dinner. What did Trump agree to with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? What did he give away? What did he promise? (Not that anything he ever says or promises means squat.)

Republicans have spent many years equating the name Pelosi with political evil, and here comes Trump who breaks out the chopsticks with her. And then deals on granting amnesty to the DACA kids. Not only deals, but according to principals in the meeting, strikes a deal. With Nancy Pelosi (and, oh yes, Chuck Schumer).

It's an amnesty deal, make no mistake. Enough so that Ann Coulter tweeted, "At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?"

I think we may have finally reached a crux in testing the Trump brag: "I could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, and I wouldn't lose any supporters." He just shot the heart out of "BUILD THE WALL" chanters, didn't he?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Some of My Best Friends Are

NC House member Mike Clampitt (Bryson City) held a sparsely attended town hall meeting at Haywood Community College on the day after Labor Day, and someone produced a picture of him gleaming with pleasure amid a display of men with Confederate flags (which Confederate flag detailed below), and then someone else accused him of being "racist."

The news write-up of the confrontation drew this eye-witness comment in the Smokey Mountain News:

I was not the person who called Clampitt a racist at the meeting, but I was the one who brought up his allegiance to the flag that is NOT the official flag of the Confederacy and his being photographed willingly with the men who joined the CAnton Labor Day parade by driving their trucks sporting huge flags -- the flag of the Army of Northern Virigina, which was rejected by the leaders of the Confederacy in favor or another flag.

I asked Mr. Clampitt if he would then and there denounce racism and those who adhere to it. At first he told the long story of his ancestors on both sides and his participation in re-enactments with men
Clampitt town hall, Sept. 5
[playing] Union as well as Confederate soldiers. When he seemed to equate the importance and integrity of Confederate leaders with those of the USA -- the Union. Another audience member pointed out that the Confederates did commit treason in going to war against the US, and doing so to continue to make slaves of other human beings. No real reply addressing that incontrovertible fact.

To give context to my question, I told him about growing up in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s and watching Bloody Sunday. As a white teenager I was traumatized, but my feelings are nothing compared to what people of color in Selma must have experienced and to what they must still feel whenever they see that execrable flag, which has in every rally where KKK and other white supremacists appeared.

I told him I have no doubt at all that the flag flown by these groups IS a symbol of racism because as a white I had the misfortune to overhear what white racists in the South [say], where I've lived most of my life.

If Mr. Clampitt and his fellow family history buffs want to commemorate their heritage, why not do it accurately by using the real flag the Confederacy adopted instead of the one that sickens those of us who have seen or experienced racism?

Waiving Goodbye To Ethics in Trumpland

Trump got rid of Walter Shaub two months ago, and look what happened! New livestock at the trough.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE), which Shaub used to head -- and honorably -- has "quietly decided" to allow Washington lobbyists to donate anonymously to legal slush defense funds for Trump aides who are caught up in the Russian investigation.

Hmmm. Ethics rules, "changed quietly." As in, Maybe we can get away with it?

They didn't get away with it. The guys over at noticed. Just hours ago.

The Walter-Shaub-less Ethics Office has decided to let lobbyists make essential business investments by "giving to the needy," that is, slipping the White House staff a little baksheesh donation, and doing it anonymously [wink wink]. The quiet change in the rules "raises the potential for hidden conflicts of interest or other ethics trouble" (Darren Samuelsohn).

No kidding.

“You can picture a whole army of people with business before the government willing to step in here and make [the legal debt] go away,” said Marilyn Glynn, a former George W. Bush-era acting Ethics Office director with 17 years experience.

Who Was Walter Shaub? And Why We Should Mourn Him

Walter Shaub
Claire Harbage, NPR
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) exists as a weak watch-dog with no enforcement power. It's supposed to needle and head-off members of the Executive Branch to keep them from profiting from their government positions. (I know. In TrumpWorld, who isn't profiting? Sometimes in truly mendacious ways: Steven Mnuchin can get a government plane for his honeymoon and another one to rubberneck the full eclipse in Kentucky. It goes on. Jared Kushner has been fumbling around for a super-rich foreigner to bail him out of 666 Madison Avenue, and his family's real estate business cashed in on his prominence with rich Chinese. (Please try to convince me that Donald J. Trump isn't actively on the phone with Don Junior and Eric about the family business.)

So Walter Shaub, who's a complicated public servant, was appointed director of the Ethics Office in 2013. It would have been a five-year term. Shaub, who certainly knows the largely unenforceable rules, told the White House back in January that it shouldn't continue to conceal the details of certain conflict of interest "waivers" granted Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and others, giving them the right to earn political consulting money on the side while also working for Trump. "Waivers are considered public documents, but the Trump White House had been holding them back, saying OGE lacked the legal authority to require disclosure."

Even before that, Shaub had been a pain in the ass and probably should have stayed off Twitter -- that sweet marshmallow into which many have sunk. After Trump made it clear in January that he would not be divesting his businesses, Shaub went in for a little political sarcasm. He mimicked Trump's Twitterstyle: "Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, good for America!" Probably shouldn't have done that.

About 10 days before Trump's inauguration, Shaub spoke publicly about Trump's proposed plan for supposedly avoiding conflicts of interest (Trump said he'd move his business interests into a trust -- not at all a "blind" one -- run by his two oldest sons and a longtime business associate). But with Trump Himself the sole beneficiary of that trust, Shaub said it was a very bad idea. And a shocking departure from the policies of previous White Houses.

The White House was running over him, around him, under him. So Shaub resigned.

Fine by us, the White House said. And immediately set about making life easier.

Flippin' Awesome!

If a Democrat can flip an Oklahoma state House district that went to Trump last fall by 10 points, then just about anything can happen. Okla-frickin'-homa.

On Tuesday, in a special Oklahoma House race to replace a Republican who resigned to take a better job, school teacher Jacob Rosecrants beat some Republican businessman by more than double the margin that Trump won over Hillary in the same district last fall. Rosecrants buried his Republican opponent by 21 points.

Holy crap. Oklahoma. Where the wind comes whistling down the plain.

Also on Tuesday, another formerly Republican safe seat in New Hampshire flipped Democrat in another special election, in a district that went to Trump last fall by 16 points.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A New Political Party? Where Will the Refugees Go?

When one of the two major political parties gets in trouble, there's always talk of "third party." It's happening now to the Republicans. Jeremy Peters is out this morning with a piece in the NYTimes, wondering if Trump's about to brand a new property political party. (What shall we call it? "The Trump Party"? Or just "Trump"? "Trumpists"? "Trumpeters"? (In fairness, probably should be named for Bannon, its brain. How about The Bannonarians? Or how about White Nation?)

Bannon intends to make it happen. He's got his "weapons" back, he's leveled on his targets, and he's blasting away at the Republican establishment. McConnell, bam! Ryan, boom! He intends to take them and others down. Trump is the party now. You cannot oppose Trump. There are consequences.

Sen. Bob Corker
Like for Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. There's a rumor Bannon's prepared to support a primary opponent against Corker. Trump has attacked him on Twitter. Why? Corker publicly and on camera said that Trump had not demonstrated the “stability” or “competence” necessary to effectively lead the nation.

Now Corker is very publicly wondering if he'll even run for his Senate seat. It would only be his third term. He seems smart, level-headed, fair (though I don't prefer his votes). But he stood up to The Leader, and that makes Corker an untouchable.

Didn't Bannon just say on some Sunday interview show that Gov. Chris Christie got pushed out of Trump's inner circle because Christie didn't react well to the "Access Hollywood" tape? You remember, you do -- Trump struttin' in the locker room for the much younger Billy Bush. For the record -- and because I think we're mature enough now -- here is the unedited, unexpurgated transcription of part of what Trump bragged to Billy Bush:
“I moved on her and I failed – I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her, she was married. And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said: ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phoney tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
Christie had faced a camera back when that tape came out and said he couldn't support Trump unless he apologized. Trump didn't apologize, and Christie "didn't make the plane."

You know who else is gone who just coincidentally also denounced Trump over the "pussy-grabbing"? Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He said at the time, "I'm out. I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president." Strangely, "I'm out" proved prophetic in another way. Chaffetz left Congress suddenly, earlier this year. One of the most active and ambitious of House Republican conservatives ... retires mid-term. That's strange. There's been no hint that Trump/Bannon bullied him, but makes you wonder.
And look at the other battlefield casualties -- representatives of what may eventually be called "The Republican Party" again, refugees from Trumpland who finally got fed up with the wrongheadedness, the ignorance, and the bullying. I count four House Republicans, three in the last five days, who've backed out of running for reelection, four members who would have had a decided edge for reelection, but who are fed up: 
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. When she announced her retirement back in April, she made a point of insisting, in front of cameras, that she’s not leaving Congress "because of her differences" with President Trump or with the direction of the Trump administration. But note: Ros-Lehtinen has been "one of the most vocal moderate Republican critics of the White House and the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who said she didn’t vote for Trump last year, has disagreed with the president on deportations, transgender rights and budget cuts, and with House Republicans on healthcare" (Miami Herald).
Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.). Trott just announced yesterday. He's always been a so-called moderate. He's rich, from a suburban district that leans Republican, but he's had a "rocky relationship" with Trump. After Trump's equivocation about the "many fine people" who had associated themselves with neo-Fascism in Charlottesville, Trott said Trump should perhaps "stick to golf." Trott ... gone, after only two terms. He would have had the incumbent's advantage next year, unless he got primaried. (Dum-dum-DUMB)

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). Dent, who's been a favorite on-camera interview target for MS-NBC, has been an outspoken Trump critic. His retirement statement (in part): “I’ve worked to instill
stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I’ve fought to fulfill the basic functions of government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default. Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) Reichert is no Republican spring chicken. He's 67. He's represented his Washington State district for seven terms -- 14 years. But he decided it was time to exit. He had faced raucous town hall crowds in August, and Democrats were already lining up to battle each other in a primary for the privilege of knocking Reichert's lights out in 2018.

As the Republican Party splinters, there'll be more sudden retirements. Watch for it.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac Whipped by Hurricane Winds

The US Congress passed the debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey relief bill yesterday, and Trump quickly signed it. In the US House, some 90 Republicans voted against it, including Madam Virginia Foxx, who's rarely (ever?) voted to help anybody caught in a catastrophe.

Those 90 Republicans, and a good number of other Republicans who ended up voting for the "deal" hatched between Trump and the Democratic leadership but who actually and actively hated it because it was a deal hatched between Trump and the Democratic leadership, made their displeasure known earlier in the day when Trump's top lieutenants came to Capitol Hill to woo them.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, got booed. Steven Mnuchin, his treasury secretary, got hissed at. “[Mnuchin's] last words, and I quote, was, ‘Vote for the debt ceiling for me,’ ” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who leads a group of conservative members. “That did not go over well in the room at all …. His performance was in­cred­ibly poor.”

Said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after the vote with its 90 Republican defections, “If I ever as leader or as speaker had 90 members vote against one of the easiest bills to vote for, which is disaster assistance, you know they have a philosophical problem with governance.”


Friday, September 08, 2017

BOGged Down

How do you destroy a great educational institution?

One 28-member Board of Governors at a time, when it's packed with political hardliners and hacks who care more about ideological posturing than they do about education.

UNC BOG meeting yesterday.
Spellings is 2nd from right.
Photo Julia Wall, News&Observer
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors met yesterday, and a radical majority of right-wing Republican members -- almost all the members are Republican -- pushed through surprise resolutions that had not been shared in advance. The thrust of those resolutions was clearly aimed at undermining the authority of UNC System President Margaret Spellings, who was just appointed in 2015 (amid plenty of controversy).

Jane Stancill captured the action yesterday for the News&Observer.

Among the most destructive decisions was the vote to prohibit the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights from pursuing legal remedies for low-income and minority groups or for individual citizens. As a result, the Center will close and pursue its activities elsewhere. The Center was funded entirely by outside contributions anyway. The BOG isn't saving money by smashing the Civil Rights Center; it's merely signaling its political hostility to equal rights.

It's the old Confederacy reasserting itself, and that plantation mentality appears to be at heart the animus toward President Margaret Spellings. When the statue of Confederate symbol "Silent Sam" was becoming a flashpoint on campus, Spellings reached out to Governor Roy Cooper for advice and help in keeping order. The Republican hardliners, who intend to keep the sacred flame of the slaveholding South burning bright, were deeply offended. These 15 members of the BOG, which includes several hard-right former members of the General Assembly, signed a sharp letter of warning to Spellings:
Harry Smith
Jim Holmes
Marty Kotis
David Powers
Alex Mitchell
Philip Byers
Mike Williford
Thom Goolsby
Pearl Burris-Floyd
Wendy Murphy
Bob Rucho
Randy Ramsey
Kellie Blue
Tom Fetzer
Bill Webb
The cabbage worms are eating the cabbage from the inside out.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Trump: Full Frontal with the Democrats

Photo by Al Drago for the NYTimes
House Speaker Paul Ryan had earlier in the day yesterday called "the deal" that Trump struck with Congressional Democrats "ridiculous" and "disgraceful." Yet Trump jumped at the offer from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to tie Hurricane Harvey relief to a three-month extension of government funding and increase in the debt ceiling.

In other words -- and the short version -- Schumer and Pelosi ate Republican lunch.

Besides Schumer and Pelosi, representing the Democrats, who else was there? Trump, yes, but also House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. All those Republicans opposed the Schumer-Pelosi plan -- one might say, opposed it bitterly -- but Trump ignored them. In fact, later on Air Force One, on his way to North Dakota, Trump deliberately praised Schumer and Pelosi for striking a deal with him while not even mentioning the Republicans who were also in the meeting.

Schumer and Pelosi now have more than just leverage. Their three-month deal on the debt ceiling will force another painful vote for Republicans around Christmas time, with every chance of political disaster. Paul Ryan had wanted a debt ceiling extension of 18 months, which would have put another vote beyond the 2018 mid-term elections. Trump in effect shat in Ryan's hat.

Trump also later talked up the mutual willingness among the Trump-Schumer-Pelosi triumvirate to make the "Dream Act" (DACA) into solid law. Trump now wants the Democrats in Congress to save him from the blowback over his tromping on DACA on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Ryan and McConnell fumed in the corner like jilted spouses in a nasty divorce.

The deal struck between the Democrats and Trump still has to go for votes in both House and Senate, and many Republicans are steaming mad about it. “The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad,” Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska tweeted. Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, chair of the Republican Study Committee, said, “I’m still processing this, but my first instinct is I’m not very happy about it." But can Republicans afford to vote against it?

Score one for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Trump Lays a New Turd in the GOP Punchbowl

Republican leaders in the US Congress were perhaps looking forward to a September when they could get a couple of positive things done, like beginning to relieve Houston, and maybe raise the debt ceiling -- votes likely to be bi-partisan and popular -- but no, Trump has to go and drop DACA on them, saying, "Now, you've got six months to pull my bacon out of the fire."

Majority reaction -- wide and deep offense. Business leaders have risen up against Trump's move, risen up like a king cobra about to strike. Political leaders in both parties hate it, warned Trump against it, now scuff at the dirt. Qualified Hispanic voters who used to regularly vote Republican -- there are some -- are reconsidering their values. Congress will groan under the load while multiple "polls show that DACA enjoys overwhelming support among the public."

(Republicans stand to lose a substantial bloc of voters. Up to 38% percent of Hispanic voters have voted Republican, depending on the place and the candidate. Mitt Romney got 31% of the Hispanic vote. Trump, not.)

It's clear Trump didn't know what he was doing yesterday. By evening he was tweeting -- “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!”

I will revisit the issue. I bet you will.

If certain facts and human realities weren't clear to Trump, Sessions knew exactly what he was saying and what it all meant, and he gleamed like a greased pig in those television lights. Was he exulting in his heart? "Fewer brown people will be coming here, or staying. Praise Jesus!"

Why did Trump have to go and do that now? Of all the things that terrify him -- being touched by strange people, being laughed at, being put on the spot publicly and dared to tell the truth -- looking weak is strong juju for Trump men, and some eleven conservative Republican attorneys general had threatened to sue Trump by today if he didn't start to end DACA. (Plus he was on his way to a big public rally of his DACA-hating peeps in North Dakota today.)

The attorney-general-posse is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is under indictment by a Texas grand jury for securities fraud. Paxton was joined by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as Idaho Gov. C. L. Otter, in a June 29 letter to Jeff Sessions urging the White House to start phasing out DACA by Sept. 5, or face a lawsuit.

Jeff Sessions ... the willing stooge Trump sent out yesterday to face the cameras, the man who loves what's happening -- he had reportedly told Trump that he wouldn't defend DACA in court. The Constitution is his shield, he believes says. With Sessions, the law follows the heart, and the white Anglo-Saxon race is very important to Sessions. He's on record praising the 1924 eugenics-based immigration law that enforced racial and ethnic animosity. In a Breitbart radio interview with Steve Bannon in 2015 Sessions made perfectly clear his preference for people who "assimilate" completely, and you can figger all day what that means.

And then comes Irma.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Lord, Have Mercy!

Lee at the VMA Awards.
Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File

A descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, has stepped down as pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem over remarks he made during the August 27 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) in which he praised the Black Lives Matter movement. He was introducing the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed during demonstrations over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va.

"We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate," he said. "As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America's original sin."

Some members of his church were outraged by his politics, while clearing remaining quite comfortable with their own: "A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women' s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work," he said in the statement explaining his resignation.

Lee also issued an apology to church members for causing them pain with his remarks on MTV. But he said he continues to "strongly support" removal of monuments to his ancestor and other Confederates. Lee, a recent graduate of the Duke Divinity School, was only just appointed pastor of the church in April.

A Notorious Camera Hog Goes All Shy and Stuff

Donald Trump has never been one to avoid the camera ... until today. He won't personally announce his decision to sort-of, kinda end President Obama's "dreamers" program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Trump himself won't face the cameras to announce his non-decision decision. He's sending out immigration hard-liner Jeff Sessions to make the announcement (and Sessions has already signaled that he'll take no questions -- how's that for standing proud behind your administration's decision to quash the dreams of some 800,000 otherwise productive members of this society?).

Non-decision decision? Trump will say he's ending the DACA program but has really decided to punt the whole question over to Congress for the next six months. Congress? Is he serious? Congress has never demonstrated any aptitude nor willingness to solve the problem of children brought to this country illegally who have subsequently made productive lives for themselves and rich contributions to the communities in which they live. The stories are now multiplying about "dreamers" who've been helping to pull people out of the Houston flood waters.

Dreamers like the undocumented daughter of some of Virginia Foxx's long-time servants, a young woman who reportedly graduated with honors from Watauga High School years ago and then had trouble finding a place in college because of her undocumented status. Did Virginia Foxx help her? No, at least according to people who know that situation.

Trump is purely playing to his alt-white base, and he should hide his face.

“It’s not clear what delaying this for six months means,” said Mark Krikorian, another immigration hard-liner who runs the Center for Immigration Studies.

“He’s being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and because he doesn’t have any strong ideological anchor, or deep knowledge of the issue, he ends up sort of not knowing what to do,” Mr. Krikorian said. “I think the fact that they did nothing to [DACA] suggests that they had no idea what to do,” he added.

The cruelest part of this: The federal government has the cellphone and home address of every DACA recipient, information they volunteered to the government with the promise it would never be used against them or their families. That was part of President Obama's original executive order.

“They grew up here, they work at nearly every major company in America, serve in the military and many are working on recovery efforts in Texas,” said Todd Schulte, president of, a progressive immigration reform group that has urged the president to retain the program. “If DACA is repealed and no permanent legislation passed, they will all be fired and our government will begin the large-scale deportation of people raised in the United States.”

Does Trump want that as his legacy? Does the Republican Congress?

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Goodbye, Rep. Millis

NC House member, Republican Chris Millis of Hampstead, the idiot who tried to start a movement in the General Assembly to impeach and remove Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, has himself fallen in the weeds. He suddenly announced his retirement because -- you guessed it -- he wanted to spend more time with his family. (Totally not making that up.)

His lust for impeaching Secretary Marshall, based on bad and misunderstood information, had earned him nothing but jeers and face-palms from both sides of the aisle in the GA.

General Kelly, in a Different Foxhole

The reporting team of Thrush and Haberman serve up another piping hot popover of inside poop on the Trump White House today: "Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual."

People on the inside are making bets on how long Gen. John Kelly will last as Trump's gate-keeper ... one month or a whole year? (Smart money's on the first option.) Trump has sprayed Kelly with his "volcanic resentment" at being managed -- cussing out the man he hired to manage him.

The Marine general is dealing with the worst, sloppiest, most ill-prepared recruit in his long military career, and he's forced to do it like no Marine is accustomed to, treading "gingerly through the minefield of Mr. Trump’s psyche."

That's real estate no sane military man would want to invade. And we believe that Kelly is nothing if not sane.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Competence, Like Truth, Beauty, and Contact Lenses, Is in the Eye of the Beholder

We usually avert our gaze from polls, because -- you know -- they have a troubled history and can lead you to believe things that just aren't going to happen, but our blood sugar is low this morning and we're jonesing for sweets.

Like this: YouGov has been regularly sampling American voters since January. Cumulatively, they find that Republicans' have lost faith in Trump’s ability to handle the job, from a high of 81% approval in January to 65% in August. Republicans, who have been seen to stick with Trump like cockleburs to mohair. But repeal and replace tanked. Tanked-- somebody didn't do it right! -- like the famous Wall's about to, due to a thug immigrant named Harvey.

YouGov uses Internet polling, which I've always thought was mighty skewed, but FiveThirtyEight gives YouGov an overall B grade for getting it right. And they have a 93% correct rate for calling individual horse races.

"Opinion has changed on the most visible issues of Trump’s presidency, which suggests that the public is reacting to the administration’s handling of specific policies." Short take: the new resident administration doesn't look competent, and even Republicans are beginning to think it has a lot to do with the man at the top.

The money shot:
Falling assessments of a party or president’s competence have important electoral consequences. For one thing, it limits the range of issues that a party can campaign on, since voters are unlikely to find persuasive promises from a party that has proven it can’t deliver. Voters punish governments for poor performance on a range of issues — not just on the economy, as some claim.
Explains the current signs of panic at 1600 Penn Ave., don't it?