Thursday, December 14, 2017


I think I am officially old.

Yes, I know.

There are any number of hints that I could have taken in order to draw this conclusion – the rapidly thinning hair, the simple arithmetic of “current year minus birth year,” the thoroughly outdated cultural references, the fact that I now identify with the parents in Disney movies – but the one that has been most relevant here of late is simply outerwear.

It’s December in Wisconsin, which means that it’s getting cold.  Not Yukon cold, but cold enough – most mornings when we leave to get the girls off to school it’s about 17F (about -8C), which is enough to remind us that it will be winter soon.

And every morning I say to my youngest daughter, “Put a coat on!  You’ll freeze!”

She rolls her eyes and says, “Okay, dad,” and then she puts on a fall-weight jacket and that’s as good as it gets, really.  When I drop them off at school it’s easy to see that she’s in the majority, not me.  Some of those kids are just wearing t-shirts.

The school plans for this, by the way.  The lockers at Local Businessman High School are about a hands-width across and will not actually fit any coat warm enough to withstand a February day in Wisconsin.  The jackets they wear in December can fit if you shove them hard enough, I am told, but you don’t actually need to hang them up on anything.  They will stay up just from the tight fit.

There is a part of me that sympathizes with my daughter, I have to admit.  I used to be that kid.  I like cooler weather.  I still don’t get cold too easily – I’m happy in my windbreaker down to about 40F (5C), I see no reason for the air temperature ever to go above 70F (20C) no matter what time of year it is, and I much prefer winter to summer since you can always add clothing and the reverse is not necessarily true, especially in the United States.  We’re kind of weird that way.

We’re kind of weird in a lot of ways, really.

But I have reached a point where I am all too aware of the fragility of the human body and the relentless assault of the elements upon it, and I have adopted the Swedish motto (“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”). 

So I say my bit and she says her bit and so the cycle of life continues.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:


1. I have begun to dislike these posts, as they go on and on and add little to my total happiness.  I quarantine my political posts to this blog now, rather than having them infect other social media accounts that I have, for that very reason.  But I do feel an obligation to write them.  I do not accept the destruction of the American republic by right-wing extremists.  I will not go gently into that authoritarian nightmare.  I will holler and I will act and I will keep writing these for as long as I have to do so.  Add that to the long list of sins for which the GOP should burn.

2. Well, those maniacs did it.  In the dead of night, against the wishes of the vast majority of the population, they passed a tax bill that nobody had read – that nobody could read, since parts of it were hastily scribbled in the margins and were entirely illegible – but which, according to the legible bits, will pay for a massive tax cut for the already wealthy by raising taxes on the poor, the working class, and the middle class, explode the deficit and make the national debt soar, and destroy what fiscal sanity we have.  This is a joke perpetrated by a mob of clowns, and we can no longer claim to be a serious country because of it.  The Wisconsin Process – ramming through shoddily written bills crafted by lobbyists while actual elected officials are locked out of rooms, making sure that there is no time for debate, no room for public hearings, and no input from anyone other than the cronies and sycophants who wrote the thing – has gone national, as has the Kansas Miracle.  You can see how well this plan worked in Kansas, where even the GOP has conceded that it was a disaster of Biblical proportions.  And yet it’s good enough for you, citizen.  Please turn your pockets out so your GOP overlords can ensure that they haven’t missed anything.

3. This is, as Joshua Holland wrote in The Nation, an act of looting and pillage.  The GOP knows this tax bill is a moral disgrace and a fiscal nightmare.  They know that nobody likes it.  They know that a backlash is coming.  The GOP has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections and only the gerrymandering of the Electoral College has kept them in the Oval Office.  They routinely lose the total votes for the House, and only the extreme gerrymandering of House districts has kept them in the majority there – the GOP could lose the popular vote by as much as 8% and still keep their ill-gotten majority – and they understand full well that their electoral base of evangelical older white men is shrinking fast enough that even the most frantic voter suppression tactics may not save them.  This is their raid on the US Treasury, a desperation theft of public funds while the getting is good.  This is why they went all in on the Wisconsin Process, this is why they don’t care that public opinion is so overwhelmingly against the bill (even large numbers of Republican voters hate it), and this is why they are so eagerly destroying everything that makes the US more than a collection of atomized individuals ruled over by tribal warlords.  They dress it up in pretty words, but this is nothing more than a smash-and-grab raid on what they see as a dying country, one designed as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you’re not outraged by this, there is no hope for you as an American.

4. At least they’re not even pretending to care about American citizens anymore.  At least they’re not even pretending to care about fiscal responsibility anymore.  At least they’re not even pretending to care about basic economics anymore.  At least they’re not even pretending to care about Constitutional democracy anymore.  And when they try to pretend again, as most assuredly they will someday, they should immediately be pointed at, laughed at, and shooed away from the grownup table.

5. If Bernie Sanders decides to run again in 2020, he’s got his campaign speech already written out thanks to the GOP.

6. One of the more insidious assaults on basic American values and good economic planning is that the bill is deliberately written to take money away from public schools and give it to private schools.  It allows 529 plans to be used for private k-12 schools rather than just higher education, and repeals the deduction for state and local taxes that was formerly allowed when filing federal taxes.  That makes it far more expensive to pay for public schools out of those taxes, since that money is essentially being taxed twice.  So less money available for educating the vast majority of Americans, while more money available for the ultra-rich to pay for their children’s tutelage into the master class.  Welcome to the ancien regime.

7. Meanwhile, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has no trouble handing $1.4 trillion to corporations and the wealthy, but thinks it’s just far too expensive to pay about 1% of that to continue providing healthcare to poor children.  And that, folks, is pretty much the GOP priority list in a nutshell.

8. In keeping with this, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) defended the repeal of the estate tax – a tax that affects only those with more than $5.5 million in assets for individuals or $11 million for couples filing jointly (about 5,000 people in the entire US, so roughly 0.001% of Americans) and which is deeply embedded in the fabric of American democracy (see the Founding Fathers’ distrust of entail, for example) – by saying “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”  Hear that, struggling Americans trying to pay your mortgage, put food on the table, or make it to the next paycheck?  Your overlords think all you do is spend money on riotous living and use that to justify making the Gilded Age inequality of this country even worse.  Let them eat cake.

9. Michael Flynn’s guilty plea has apparently unhinged der Sturmtrumper to the point where it is now contagious.  First, der Sturmtrumper, in an effort to wriggle out from under the obvious impeachable offenses that are coming to light, sent forth into the world a Tweet claiming that he had to fire Flynn in February because he had lied to Toady Pence and the FBI, except that Flynn’s comments to the FBI were not public knowledge and were not known to the White House at the time.  And the day after Flynn was fired, der Sturmtrumper went to James Comey, then head of the FBI, to try to get him to back off the Russian investigation.  If der Sturmturmper really did know that Flynn had lied to the FBI, this is essentially der Sturmtrumper admitting publicly that he obstructed justice by actively interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation.  So der Sturmtrumper’s lawyer, John Dowd, is now claiming that he wrote that Tweet, which would be laughable if it weren’t so grotesquely transparent as a diversionary tactic.

10. Yeah, this.

11. Dowd also made the Nixonian claim that a president cannot, by definition, obstruct justice.  Uh, we settled this in the 1970s, dude.  It was the first charge listed in the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon, the ones that only got shelved when he resigned in disgrace.  If the president does it, it can in fact still be illegal, thank you very much.  Nitwit. 

12. Flynn’s guilty plea is all kinds of ugly for der Sturmtrumper.  It is not a “meet-in-the-middle” deal where both sides gave and got.  It’s the standard prosecutorial framework that says, “I know you’re guilty of a lot more and you’re going to give us everything we ask for until we get the people above you,” to which the guilty party says, “yes, sir.”  The actual charge says, in so many words, that der Sturmtrumper was actively colluding with Russian agents to subvert American diplomacy and foreign policy and influence the 2016 election, a whole new range of impeachable offenses to add to the large pile we already have.  It puts everyone in der Sturmtrumper’s administration, including both Toady Pence and “He Went To” Jared Kushner, within the range of criminal and, in Pence’s case, impeachable offenses.  And Flynn is prepared to testify to all of it. 

13.  No doubt der Sturmtrumper’s loyal minions will respond with cries of “fake news!” and other half-witted nonsense – they already are (if you really want to destroy any faith you have left in humanity, read social media comments left by supporters of der Sturmtrumper on articles about Flynn or Russia) but really what else is left to them?

14.  Is it any wonder that Congressional Republicans are frantically trying to halt the investigation into these crimes?  In theory they could value country over partisan gain, patriotism over greed, or morals over vanity, but so far not a sign of it.  Color me shocked.

15.  Of course, as soon as the GOP completes its Tax Heist, der Sturmtrumper’s usefulness will plummet.  They may well cut their losses at that point and let the process continue.

16. All of this is at a time when this country is not experiencing any major crises at home or abroad.  Try to imagine what this will look like if anything major happens in the world.  Consider: der Sturmtrumper is even now pushing us closer to nuclear war with North Korea while at the same time encouraging hardliners who want war with Iran by floating the idea of Tom Cotton, the second-most bone-ignorant man in the Senate after Ron Johnson, to run the CIA.  Cotton ardently defends the use of torture and is on record in October threatening war against Iran.  As Michelle Goldberg put it in The New York Times, “If you think 2017 was bad, imagine an America without allies fighting another two-front war, this one involving nuclear weapons, under the leadership of the most hated president in modern history, while a torture apologist runs the CIA.  The world now is a powder keg.  Trump, an untethered maniac, sits atop it, flicking a lighter that Republicans in Congress could take away but won’t.  If everything goes up in flames, we can’t say we weren’t warned.”

17. Billy Bush, the man who was speaking to der Sturmtrumper when he made his “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, has confirmed the obvious – that yes, that was der Sturmtrumper, no matter what delusion der Sturmtrumper is currently under about someone else having said that.  We have a psychotic in the White House, and the only people who can do something about that are too focused on looting the Treasury to care.

18. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world has decided that the US is no longer trustworthy?  At the end of the Obama administration, 64% of those surveyed in 37 different nations had confidence in the American president and 23% did not.  64% had a favorable view of the US as a whole, while 26% had an unfavorable view.  Six months into der Sturmtrumper’s regime, only 22% of those surveyed had confidence in the American president, versus 74% who did not, while the gap between those who had a favorable view of the US versus an unfavorable view had closed to 49-39.  Only two countries have a higher view of the presidency under der Sturmtrumper: Russia and Israel, both of which colluded with the incoming administration before it was installed, so no surprise there.  The other 35 countries have lost confidence by as much as 83 percentage points.  This kind of extreme shift in perception is unprecedented, and entirely due to the erratic and irrational policies now being implemented by this rogue regime.  The rest of the world can see it clearly, folks – maybe the US should take a look at itself in a mirror.

19. The outcome of that, for those inclined to dismiss it, is simple, as Arthur Lupia (a political scientist at the University of Michigan) points out: “As America is seen as an increasingly volatile and unreliable partner, the reduced credibility that follows creates new international opportunities for people like Putin – who can promise relative stability.  The net result?  We now have reduced leverage in many international settings.”  Folks, this is a national security issue.  We are less secure now than we were, and we will continue to be less secure for as long as this gang of criminals and halfwits is in charge.

20.  You know, there are consequences of rewriting the entire American tax code in an afternoon, scribbling up the voting copy minutes before the vote, not holding a single hearing or consulting a single expert on what the bill would actually do, and generally behaving like a drug-addled banana-republic strongman in a hurry to get out of town before the coup starts.  Screwing yourself over is just one of them.  As Eric Levitz explains in The New Yorker, this all has to do with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).  The AMT prevents companies from driving down their tax rate to zero by establishing a baseline minimum rate.  Under current law, the statutory rate for corporate taxes is usually 35%, with an AMT of 20%.  The plan was to abolish the AMT completely, since God forbid any corporation be forced to pay any taxes at all.  Taxes are for the poor and middle class!  Unfortunately Senate rules forbid any bill that will add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, and the giveaways that the GOP was forced to add in order to bribe its members to vote for this turkey brought the total way over that.  So they added the AMT back in.  And forgot to lower it.  In Levitz’ words, “This is a big problem.  The Senate bill brings the normal corporate rate down to 20 percent – while leaving the alternative MINIMUM rate at … 20 percent.  The legislation would still allow corporations to claim a wide variety of tax credits and deductions – it just renders all [of] them completely worthless.  Companies can either take no deductions, and pay a 20 percent rate – or take lots of deductions … and pay a 20 percent rate.”  To which we respond, hah.

21. The AMT screwup means that there will almost have to be a new vote on this bill – the House isn’t just going to vote for the Senate version – and that some of the more vicious and petty bits from the House version (such as the tax on graduate students) may find their way back into the final version.  Because they certainly won’t consider actually being fiscally responsible and abandoning this abomination of a law.

22. The first legislation passed by the GOP Congress since the massacres at Las Vegas and Texas is a bill that would overturn state regulations and make it easier for ammosexuals to carry concealed weapons anywhere they want.  Because people don’t count in the United States, but guns and donors do.

23. Der Sturmtrumper has decided that homeless vets should just stay on the street where they belong, apparently, cutting almost all of the $460 million from a VA program that helps veterans find affordable housing.  Republicans sure love vets when they’re sending them off to fight wars, but never seem to have time or money for them when they return and need help.  [Edit: apparently enough people pointed out the essential fuckedupness of this bit of GOP logic that they’ve backed off.  For now.  Don’t think it won’t be back, though.]

24. Der Sturmtrumper also doesn’t seem to care whether the world burns down as long as he gets his cut and his alt-white supporters are happy.  As the latest exhibit in this ongoing trend, I point you to his decision to overturn 70 years of American policy and move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – the diplomatic equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.  There is a reason that every American president from Truman to Nixon to Reagan to Bush thought that was so far beyond stupid that it never even occurred to them that a rational human being would even conceive of it, let alone try to act on it.  As with rejecting the reality of climate change, we are now the only nation on earth who lives in our ideological bubble that says this is okay (presumably excepting Israel on this one, of course, though even there I suspect there are plenty of people who recognize the stupidity of this).  Once again, der Sturmtrumper has pissed off most of our allies and pissed on the hard work of generations who sought an actual solution to problems rather than a quick point-scoring opportunity with a delusional base.  There will be blood, and it will be on der Sturmtrumper’s hands, and neither he nor his base will care.

25. This is how this will go.  Der Sturmtrumper and his alt-white administration will move the US embassy to Jerusalem, provoking intense and wholly justified outrage in the Muslim world.  Some penny-ante terrorist group will seek to capitalize on that outrage by attacking the embassy.  Der Sturmtrumper will then whip up a war frenzy and plunge the US further into the kind of unwinnable, intractable, budget-busting warfare that the GOP has specialized in this century and use that as an excuse to a) gut any non-military spending by the federal government and b) gut civil liberties in the US, both of them because “we can’t afford them in wartime.”  Watch and see.

26. Paul Ryan is already talking about destroying Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid because of a newfound concern with deficits and debt that didn’t exist when he voted for the budget bill that created the crisis in the first place.  Folks, this is the Wisconsin Process to a tee.  In 2011 Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) first destroyed Wisconsin’s fiscal sanity then used that destruction to pass Act 10, which effectively outlawed unions and gutted public education in the state.  I’m not sure why the GOP wants Americans to be poor, ignorant, and servile.  You’d have to ask them.  I do have my theories, though.

27. One of the more interesting revelations from the Mueller investigation so far is that not only did der Sturmtrumper and his campaign collude with the Russians, they also colluded with the Israelis.  In December 2016, the Obama Administration had made it clear that they were going to abstain from a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territories – a stance that has had long-standing bipartisan support for decades going back to Ronald Reagan.  According to the statement of offense against Michael Flynn, “On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.”  In other words, for those of you not keeping score, der Sturmtrumper’s transition team was actively undermining US policy by colluding with foreign governments before coming to office.  This is uncontested by der Sturmtrumper’s administration, and the Israelis have likewise been open about it.  This is yet another impeachable offense, but we’ll throw that on the large pile of the other ones that the GOP cares not a whit about.

28. Representative Elijiah E. Cummings (D-MD) has formally written to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to accuse Michael Flynn of seeking to “manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners.” His letter has three pages of citations and evidence to back this up, and calls for investigations into what is, after all, a serious crime against national security by the guy who was supposed to be promoting national security.  Good luck with that, Rep. Cummings.  They don’t care.

29. An interesting observation from a Reddit user whose name I can’t determine because I am not really conversant in Reddit but which I will gladly credit if someone else can tell me: “Christian conservatives repeatedly told me, ‘uhh, if we let a man marry a man, next thing we know we’ll have to “tolerate” pedophiles.’  Well, I’ll be damned.  Here we are merely 2 1/2 years after legal gay marriage and the GOP and evangelicals are falling all over themselves to support a pedophile.”

30. Speaking of pedophiles, the child molester Roy Moore’s latest bit of wisdom comes from a September interview in the Los Angeles Times, in which he responded to a question asking when the US was last “great” by saying, “I think it was great at the time when families were united – even though we had slavery.”  Uh, dude, that’s so far beyond screwed up that it would take three generations and a nuclear-powered Correct-All just to get it back down to “merely wrong.”  But the alt-white is nothing if not consistent: still defending slavery after a century and a half.

31.  So Al Franken is resigning but the Pussy Grabber In Chief is still in office and the child molester Roy Moore is leading the polls in Alabama, both still supported by their mindless toadies, and both still somehow immune to both shame and legal proceedings.  And now you know which party finds sexual assault acceptable and which does not.

32. Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank to get at der Sturmtrumper’s financial records.  According to Reuters, “A US official with knowledge of Mueller’s probe said one reason for the subpoenas was to find out whether Deutsche Bank may have sold some of Trump’s mortgage or other loans to Russian state development bank VEB or other Russian banks that now are under US and European sanctions.  Holding such debt, particularly if some of was or is coming due, could potentially give Russian banks some leverage over Trump, especially if they are state owned, said a second US official familiar with Russian intelligence methods.”  So, yeah, thanks, GOP – we got us a foreign puppet and you’re okay with it as long as you get your tax cuts for millionaires.

33. Now it turns out that der Sturmtrumper is planning to set up his own network of spies to circumvent the professionals in the US intelligence community because he doesn’t trust them.  This private Gestapo would report directly to the White House (via der Sturmtrumper’s stooge, Mike Pompeo), bypassing legal and political controls put in place to prevent the kind of abuse that happens when would be petit-Fascist dictators set up their own institutions to replace the ones created by a democratic republic.  Apparently disgraced subversive Oliver North will be involved, which is a pretty cushy job for someone who should have rotted in jail decades ago.  Folks, if you’re not worried about the survival of the American republic under this gang of thugs, you’re not paying attention.

34. The latest voice raised in concern regarding der Sturmtrumper’s deteriorating mental state is former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough, who points out that der Sturmtrumper has been more erratic and dangerous than usual in the last few weeks.  Scarborough runs through a long list of “bizarre” behavior, some of which I have also chronicled here, and notes that “Any Fortune 500 company would have fired a chief executive exhibiting similarly erratic behavior long ago.”  “The president’s meltdown could not come at a more perilous time,” Scarborough continues.  “For months now, national security advisors have been fretting about the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula.  But administration sources admit their greatest fear is their own commander in chief’s instability.”  Remember, folks, this is the guy with his finger on the nuclear button, and he was grotesquely unqualified to start with, let alone now as his cognitive abilities are increasingly impaired. 

35. In case you want to know where the GOP stands, you can always find a reliable indicator in Representative Steve King (R-IA), who is too much of a Dunning-Kruger poster child to keep his mouth shut or use the dog whistle rather than say things right out loud where the rest of us can hear.  “Diversity is not our strength,” is his latest little hobby horse.  Apparently we should all aspire to be pasty white men who reject anything unfamiliar, which – while consistent with the GOP platform – is no way to go through life if you hope to make anything of yourself or your country.

36. In the “credit where due” section of today’s post, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has flatly declared that the child molester Roy Moore should not be his colleague.  “The state of Alabama deserves better,” he said.  “If he wins, we have to seat him.  Then there will immediately be an ethics investigation.  The allegations are significantly stronger than the denial.”  Shelby further said that when it came time for him to cast his ballot, “I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore, I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, I wrote in a distinguished Republican name.”  The child molester Roy Moore’s campaign advisor, Brett Doster, responded with “Alabama deserves better than ‘establishment Shelby,’” which is a) true, which is why Doug Jones is running, and b) indicative of a twisted mind that thinks a non-extremist voice is worse than a pedophile.  If it weren’t so grotesque it would be comical.

37. Ah.  It makes sense now.  On December 6, the House GOP released a fact sheet about the Reverse Robin Hood tax plan that they’re attempting to shove down the throats of the American people without hearings, analysis, or even legibility.  This fact sheet referred to Americans earning $450,000/year as “low- and middle-income.”  Seriously?  That’s the top 0.5% of American earners.  The median household income in this country is almost exactly $59,000, which if you do the math, is roughly 1/8 the money of that “low- and middle-income” GOP American.   “[They] think that the income level of the top one percent is lower- and middle-class,” said AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers.  “This is a world where if you make less than $500,000, you don’t exist.”

38. Well, the Treasury has now released its “detailed analysis” of the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Plan, the one that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin claimed he had 100 staffers busily working on.  You can download it yourself!  Settle in, grab a beverage, and get ready for some reading, people!  Or not.  Definitely not.  This thing is, uh, one page long.  It has no analysis, no substance, and no reason to exist other than as a negative example.  It’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart document should look like, though it does contain a number of correctly spelled words so it’s got that going for it.  Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, folks, this is just pathetic.  We are governed by fools.

39. Europe’s five biggest economies – you know, the ones this country depends on as trading partners and diplomatic allies? – have issued a formal warning to der Sturmtrumper and his pet GOP that the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Plan may actually violate treaties this country has signed.  “It is important that the US government’s rights over domestic tax policy be exercised in a way that adheres with international obligations to which it has signed up,” said a joint statement of the finance ministers of those countries.  Let’s see, now – international law and legal obligations on the one side, short-sighted greed and cruelty on the other.  I wonder which side the GOP will choose.

40. And when faced with opposition from a woman, der Sturmtrumper responded with his usual moral leprosy and childish venom, accusing Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) of being willing to “do anything” for money, a rather thinly veiled accusation of prostitution.  That’s kind of rich coming from der Sturmtrumper, but there you go.  Seriously, can we just toss this cancer on the body politic into the dustbin of history and get an Actual President soon?

41. It’s decision day, Alabama.  You can vote for the career prosecutor, or you can vote for the child molester.  What do you want the rest of the country to see when they look at you? 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tool Guy

In my basement there are a great many tools.  They have arrived there from any number of places.  Some were Kim’s when we got married.  Some come down from her side of the family.  I inherited a tidy pile of them from my dad.  Some we have bought as needs dictated over the years.

No, there weren’t many that were mine originally.  I have a defective Mr. Goodwrench gene and should not be trusted with any tool more complex than a screwdriver and there was really no need for me to have my own tools for most of my life.  The sum total of my tools when Kim and I got married consisted of a Swiss Army knife, a crescent wrench that was given to me by a theater group back in college so I could hang lights, and one of those little kits that they used to give out as door prizes for you to stow in your car because the red plastic handle included inside could take any of the 64 random metal pieces surrounding it and become a cheap knockoff version of some other more useful tool. 

What can I say?  Tools are not me.

But we have reached the point where I can no longer find tools that I need that I am sure we have, and – perhaps more importantly – where I need the floor space in the basement for other things.  Lauren got a new bed a few weeks ago, and her old one is still sitting in the upstairs hallway, disassembled into its component pieces, waiting for a more permanent home.  Preferably one in the basement. 

So I am trying to organize the tools.

I bought a couple of those shelving units that they sell at the Big Box Hardware Stores across the nation – you know, the ones made of particle board, depleted uranium, and grief, are heavy enough to warp gravity, and that claim to require no tools to build although you and I both know that there is no friend like a hammer when it comes to such things?  Those.  I even managed to put them together and get them standing more or less where I want them without permanent injury.  Now I just have to put the tools onto them in a way that will allow me to find them again without too much hassle.

This requires sorting.

The problem, of course, is that all those tools all look more or less alike to me.  They are all made of grey metal, except for the ones that are made of dingy heavy-duty plastic or well-worn wood.  Most of them have sharp edges, grippy bits, or poky things.  And while I’m good with the basic screwdriver/hammer/wrench/pliers distinctions, once you go beyond that my sorting accuracy declines sharply.

For example, we have an entire milk crate of things that I’ve decided are plumbing-related.  There are things that are obviously plumbing-related, such as toilet-tank repair kits and something called “plumber’s tape” (big giveaway right there, if you ask me).  There are things that are probably plumbing-related, such as long skinny wrenches with flippy bits at the top, and what look to be c-clamps with cutting wheels inside of them.  And there are things that I’m putting in with the plumbing stuff because they were already in with the plumbing stuff and I’m going to assume that there is some kind of plumbing magnetism that causes plumbing-related stuff to clump together into unwieldy piles like that.

It makes as much sense as any of my other theories, anyway.

Right now I’m just putting things in piles.  Eventually there will be bins, because bins are nice.  And if I am feeling really handy when all this is done, there may actually be labels.

Monday, December 4, 2017

News and Updates

1. And now we are five.  Thanks to a series of implausible events, we are now hosting a foreign exchange student.  Fran is from Belgium and has been staying with some friends of ours for the last couple of months.  She’s been with us for about a day now, and so far it’s working out well!  We knew she’d fit in here when she settled in on the couch and started reading.  She’s one of us!

2. Things I currently know about Belgium: a) it’s where Kevin De Bruyne is from, and yes I realize that I’m probably one of two dozen people in America who know or care who Kevin De Bruyne is but there you have it, b) it’s got two main groups of people in it – the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish – and I just love those names, c) Brussels is where the European Parliament is, and d) it has the world’s best chocolate.  Things I will know about Belgium by next summer: a) a whole lot more.

3. It’s 60F here on December 4 and that’s just weird.  That’s about 15C, and that’s equally weird only in metric.  There should be snow, or at least the possibility of it.  As it is we’re expecting thunderstorms.  In December.  In Wisconsin.  Good thing the climate isn’t shifting, because otherwise?  I’d be worried.

4. Tabitha has now been accepted into two colleges, with one more application in and a handful yet to submit.  It’s becoming more and more real now – next year she will be away, and that will be very strange.  I just know I will not handle that well.  And when Lauren does the same thing four years from now?  Yeah, well.

5. We went to see Murder on the Orient Express last week.  Having never read the book or seen the previous movie, I have nothing to compare it to.  But it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, and I hope that Kenneth Branagh’s mustache goes on to have a fruitful career of its own.

6. Autoplay video ads are the scourge of the internet and any website that employs them should be immediately hacked and replaced with cat photos.  Static cat photos, all laid out right there in front of you, because any website that requires you to view a slide show or click to see the rest of the article should be immediately hacked and replaced with dancing hamsters.

7. The Cards Against Humanity people are having more fun than should they probably should with their crowd-sourced effort to put obstacles into the path of the ill-thought-out and unworkable border wall that our current government is planning to erect as a distraction from its crimes.  They bought some land on the border with Mexico with the express intent of refusing to allow any wall on it, and asked for donations to cover it.  It seemed worthwhile to me.  So far we’ve gotten an endearingly offbeat sort of a map of the land, a letter from their attorneys promising to use every legal tool to draw out the eminent domain process as long as they can, some stickers, two small sets of game cards, and the possibility that those who support such a wall will be irritated and inconvenienced, which isn’t bad for a $15 investment.  They even built a trebuchet on the land, so it will be well-defended.

8. I desperately need to deshambleize my office, as it is not only stuffed to the gunwales with books, notes, and other varieties of paper, but also now houses Kim’s office for the duration of Fran’s stay.  Unfortunately, the default setting of my office is “shambles,” so I’m not sure how this is going to work.

9. One of my long-term projects has been to try to get some handle on the basement, which is currently full of Stuff.  As a show of good intent, I spent some time last week building shelving units and setting them up along the back wall.  These have been designated as the Tool Area, as we have a large and motley collection of tools from various sources and it’s getting hard to find things that I am pretty sure we have.  Right now I’m in the “it will look worse before it looks better” stage of the project, where I pull everything out and sort it into piles.  Oh well.  Eventually it will work, and then we’ll actually know how many tools we have.

10. It is December, so I will now acknowledge the existence of Christmas.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Plinking Around in the Family Past

Is there a switch that gets flipped when you reach a certain age that makes you interested in genealogy?

I rather suspect there is.  It makes sense.  As a historian, one of the things that I have noticed over my career is that people tend to become more interested in history when they have more of their own history to be interested in.  The young look forward, not back, and that’s entirely appropriate.  Their lives are in the future and they need to focus on that.  But as you get older and more and more of your life recedes into the past, the past becomes a much more interesting thing.

And there is no past so interesting to a person as their own past.

I’ve been plinking around on my family genealogy project for a few years now, as time and resources permit.  I spent a couple of summers scanning all of the family photos, for example.  Everyone has a copy of them now so even if my house gets spirited off to Oz in one of the tornadoes that occasionally grace us with their presence here in the midwest, the photos will survive.  I’ve also scanned the small trove of documents that we’ve collected as a family – at least the ones that have come down to me.  I included those scans with the photos when I sent them out, so they too will not fall into the hands of the Lollipop Guild.  And that’s where things have stood for a while.

A week or two ago I found myself in my office not wanting to do anything of any productive value, a disturbingly common feeling these days.  So I decided to return to my plinking.

And I struck gold.

Genealogists are obsessive people, prone to do things that normal human beings would never even consider.  High on that list is going through cemeteries, cataloguing all of the gravestones, and putting that information into searchable databases for people like me to explore.  I’m grateful that they do such things, though kind of dumbfounded at the same time.  That’s okay.  People feel the same way about some of the things I do, too.

I stumbled into one of these databases and there, on my first try, was my great-great-grandmother.  I was actually looking for her daughter, who had the same name, but there you go.  Most of the information on her record lined up well with the papers I already had, so I’m pretty certain it was her.  She had a lot of children, and all but one of them were listed as descendants in the database (the one, of course, being my own great-grandmother, the one I was originally looking for, but in the defense of the database she was buried in a different cemetery so the connections might not have been clear to the people who built it).  My great-great-grandmother’s record also listed her parents.

And their parents.  And so on.

I tracked this back to a guy named James Taylor (presumably not the singer), who was born in 1797 in Ireland and, if his children are any indication, arrived here sometime in the first third of the nineteenth century.  I’m not sure what part of Ireland he was from – I’m guessing the northern part, since that’s where most of the Protestants live and I come from a long line of those – but there it is. 

I also found the Civil War vet whose discharge papers my parents had framed and hanging on their wall back in the old house.  He was one of those 90-Day Wonders at the beginning of the war, when everyone thought it would be a short, glorious victory for their side and be done by Christmas.  His company served in some of the campaigns of the summer of 1861 before reaching the end of its service and being mustered out in August, whereupon he presumably went back to being a blacksmith since he does not appear to have thought enough of military service to reenlist. 

On the other side of my family, I found my great-uncle John and his wife, who it turns out are buried here in Wisconsin, not all that far from where Kim grew up.  I’ve been to that town, actually.  It has a bar with a jackalope on the wall.  I was there when my great-aunt was still alive, in fact, though I had no idea she was there or even what her name was, to be honest.  John died in the early 1970s and we sort of lost track of her after that. 

All of these people had siblings and inlaws and children, so there are all sorts of new avenues to explore now.

I can see this becoming a big project at some point soon.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Situation

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:


1. The GOP Class War is in full swing, as anyone with more than half a dozen brain cells can see when they look at the tax plan.  Taxes will go up for most people and down for the ultra-rich.  You can deduct your private jet but not office supplies for a classroom.  College students are pretty much screwed, because who needs social mobility or trained intelligence in an ancien regime society of nobles and peasants?  And the GOP knows this.  That’s why they’re shoving this through Congress without hearings, publicity, or even the barest pretense of constitutional democracy.  They want this in place before the American people can react to it – and, if the Wisconsin model is any indication, they will likely succeed.  Remember folks: democracy is for suckers and all hail your GOP feudal overlords.

2. For those who want numbers, just note that once der Sturmtrumper’s tax plan is fully phased in, everyone making less than $75,000/year will have less after-tax income (by as much as 1.5% of total income), while everyone making more than $100,000 will have more after-tax income (by as much as 0.6%).  And folks, 0.6% of a million dollars is a whole lot more than 1.5% of ten thousand dollars, so yes this is a vast giveaway to the already wealthy.  But the GOP doesn’t care.  The ultra-rich will get theirs, and the lessons of how the ancien regime ended will go unlearned.  For now.

3. Meanwhile, another little poison pill inserted into the GOP tax plan is another attempt at the failed Republicare.  They will repeal the individual mandate – the thing that makes the ACA actually fiscally responsible, because hey, fiscal responsibility is just so, so unlike anything the GOP actually wants to do – and then their sabotage will be complete.  But a few Republicans have noticed the flaw in this.  “You can make an argument that Obamacare is failing of its own weight, until we repeal the individual mandate,” noted Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC, a man who very carefully hides an actual brain underneath thick layers of invective and general unpleasantness, sometimes far better than is reasonable [see item #40, below]).  “I hope every Republican knows that when you pass a repeal of the individual mandate, it’s no longer THEIR problem.  It becomes our problem.”  And the vast majority of Americans – including the majority of Republicans – agree that the deliberate sabotage of the ACA is indeed on the GOP.  Well, that’s what you get when a President guts outreach for enrollment by 90%, cuts in-person sign-up by more than half, abruptly cancels billions in cost-sharing payments to insurers, severs partnerships with community groups working to increase enrollment, and generally does everything in its power to violate his Constitutional duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed.  Despite this, the ACA continues to work as designed, at least for now.    Congrats, GOP – you’re the party of “let grandma die.”

4. It appears Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has now been formally accused of violating federal law by State Department officials working for him.  He apparently sees nothing wrong with children being conscripted as soldiers, despite federal law saying otherwise.  Morals?  Not in this administration.

5. Why does the FCC hate small businesses?  In yet another power grab by the ultra-rich and their monopolistic companies, the FCC has decided that it will scrap net neutrality and destroy the internet as we know it.  This will make it possible for the big cable companies – you know, the ones whose customer service and consideration for the rights of consumers is legendary for its active non-existence – to block sites, censor your internet use, slow down anything you haven’t paid extra for, and generally treat the once-thriving world of e-commerce as their own private urinal.  I hope you have enjoyed finding new entrepreneurs online, because that shit stops now.  I also hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, because while I may well continue writing it there is no guarantee that your internet provider will let you see it.

6. Nobody wants this plan.  Consumers hate it, and tens of millions of them have deluged the FCC with comments opposing this extremist takeover of the internet.  Small businesses hate it, because it blocks them from reaching new customers.  Anyone with anything to say – especially if that anything isn’t precisely in line with the official stance of Big Monopoly or Raw Power – hates this because it amounts to a silencing of American voices.  The only people who want this are the already rich and powerful, and that’s enough for der Sturmtrumper and the GOP.

7. The avalanche of negative comments on the proposal was so vast that it required the FCC to upgrade its filing system and extend the comment period just to handle the volume.  To which der Sturmtrumper’s handpicked Commissioners replied that they don’t care.  Comments that “did not introduce new facts to the record but just stated an opinion … do not have much bearing on decisions,” which is just another way of saying that the views of millions of Americans don’t count at all when it comes to decisions made by people on the public payroll.  Remember, folks – all hail our GOP overlords, and please bend over and smile.

8. Also, the Party of Local Control That Hates Big Guvmint will force states to abandon their net neutrality laws too, because the will of the American people certainly counts for nothing when there is a chance to funnel money into the hands of the already wealthy and powerful.

9. New York Attorney General Schneiderman has estimated that hundreds of thousands of US citizens had their identities stolen and used in spam campaigns supporting der Sturmtrumper’s repeal of net neutrality.  When Jeff Kao, a data scientist and software engineer, actually went through and examined those comments, he found about 1.3 million false pro-repeal comments submitted to the FCC as a bare minimum, with the total number likely being much higher than that.  The 1.3 million came from one spam campaign.  There were probably others.  It is, he said, “highly likely that more than 99% of the truly unique comments were in favor of keeping net neutrality.”  Nobody wants this repeal except the corporate megadonors, which means of course that the GOP is all in favor of it.  You, citizen, don’t count.

10. It is possible, though, that the courts would strike down this reversal by the FCC.  Tim Wu, professor of law at Columbia University, notes that “government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without good reason, such as a change in factual circumstances.  A mere change in FCC ideology is not enough.”  There simply isn’t enough actual evidence to warrant this change, given the strong economic and social successes of net neutrality.  It is a shame that the courts have to be the last line of defense against corporatist monopoly, but that’s where we are now.

11. The reports on der Sturmtrumper’s tax plan are in, and my, my but don’t they all confirm every negative report that has been made of them.  The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan analysis group, notes that by 2027, when this bill fully matures, the majority of Americans (50.3%) will actually see their taxes increase because of this bill.  Almost every reputable economist on record has said that this will not grow the economy much if at all, let alone be a spur that would pay for the bill’s drastic cuts in federal revenue.  88% of those economists surveyed said that it would also vastly increase the national debt – particularly the critical “debt to GDP” ratio.  The Wharton Budget Model, used by the University of Pennsylvania to assess the budgetary effects, indicates that the federal deficit will increase by more than $1,300,000,000,000 in the first ten years of this bill’s operation without even including the massive debt-servicing costs it will engender.   But hey – those rich people need, um, more of something I’m sure.

12. And the Russian noose continues to get tighter and tighter, as Michael Flynn’s lawyers have now cut off cooperation with der Sturmtrumper’s legal team and he has agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the Russian collusion in the 2016 election, all of which is legalese for “Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller.”  Grab yo popcorn! 

13. Der Sturmtrumper’s name has surfaced in the Panama Papers, the trove of documents that details how the ultra-rich avoid scrutiny and taxation on their business dealings – how they shirk their responsibilities and dump them onto the rest of us, in other words.  His company was involved in the flipping of a condominium unit in a process that looks rather suspiciously like money laundering, which would be a fairly serious crime if proven.  Interesting times.

14.  The hits keep coming for the GOP “Reverse Robin Hood” Tax Plan.  Analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office – an office that the GOP has repeatedly tried to eliminate since it deals in actual reality and consistently refuses to go along with their ideological fantasies – reveals that the GOP tax plan would mean that Americans earning less than $30,000/year would see tax increases as early as 2019 and those earning less than $40,000 would see tax increases beginning in 2021.  People making less than $75,000 would see tax increases by 2027.  Meanwhile, people making over $75,000 would see small tax cuts, and people making more than six figures would see big tax cuts.  Plus the GOP plan would increase the national debt by over $1,400,000,000,000, which is more than the Wharton estimates.  And yet there are still people foolish enough to think that the GOP cares about fiscal responsibility.  It’s one of the most bizarre things about American politics these days.

15. The real kicker of this theft from working and middle-class Americans by the rich is that it is theft going well into the future.  It will not help the economy.  It will not create jobs.  And pretty much every serious economist out there (37 of 38 prominent economists, according to one poll) agrees that it is essentially useless for those things.  The main feature of this tax plan is cutting corporate taxes, but there is almost no consistent evidence that this will do anything other than boost profits for those corporations.  CEOs themselves are very clear on this – tax cuts won’t make them invest, won’t make them pay higher wages, and won’t make them create new jobs.  “From real world experience I can tell you that tax rates literally never came up in any discussion about hiring or pay levels,” notes David Mendels, formerly of Brightcove and Adobe.  And this is not a surprise to anyone who understands basic economics.  In a consumer economy, demand drives investment, wages, and jobs.  Say it with me once again, people: supply side economics does not work in a demand side economy.

16. At least some Republicans have figured out that none of this is good for the future of the party.  Thanks to their consistent effort at gerrymandering the electorate to new and dangerous heights, the only challenge that GOP officials face when it comes to most re-election campaigns is in the primary, where ever more radical candidates are pushing the party toward its lunatic fringe – the fringe that captured the presidency last year and which has openly declared war on the rest of the party.  So they end up with candidates who can, in fact, lose safe seats in the general election.  The fact that the Democrats have an actual shot at a Senate seat in Alabama is entirely due to the fact that the Alabama GOP stands squarely behind the child molester Roy Moore.  At some point, even Republicans have to question that.  Whether it will be this year is an open question – a lot of them seem to have no difficulties with voting for someone who molests children, which I suppose is indicative of their worth as human beings – but eventually.  Perhaps.

17. Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University, is blunt about it: the rich are at war with the poor and middle class, and the rich are winning.  “On top of a huge budget deficit, unprecedented inequality in America, largest wealth soaring at the top, they want more, and more, and more.”  As for the GOP “Reverse Robin Hood” tax plan, “Patriots should oppose this, period.  Because our budget deficit is already huge and rising and this is pure populism.  An unusual kind of populism.  Populism by the super rich.  But it’s pure populism.”  Asked about the tax cuts passed by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, Sachs said, “We cannot afford tax cuts.  The idea that somehow has gotten into our heads in recent weeks, that ‘oh, $1.5 trillion, that we can give away,’ is unbelievable in any serious country.  Unfortunately we are not seriously governed right now.”

18. Meanwhile der Sturmtrumper continues to rageTweet about pretty much whatever he thinks will distract people from the ongoing ethical, legal, and moral collapse of his administration and party.  His unwarranted attacks on CNN seem to be the latest excuse for his tantrums.  He claimed that Fox (which he insists is somehow an actual news organization) is “MUCH more important in the United States than CNN” but complained that outside of the US, CNN is more respected.  He feels this represents the US poorly.  All of this might have something to do with the fact that CNN actually delivers news instead of partisan propaganda and the rest of the world is miraculously able to see what right-wingers in the US refuse to notice. But be that as it may, CNN’s response (“It’s not CNN’s job to represent the US to the world.  That’s yours.  Our job is to report the news.”) was on point.

19. Former CIA and NSA Director and four-star General Michael Hayden, dressed down our Toddler In Chief over this assault on CNN.  “If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life.  Until now it was not possible for me to conceive of an American President capable of such an outrageous assault on truth, a free press or the first amendment.”  Not that der Sturmtrumper’s care about truth, a free press, or anything whatsoever to do with the Constitution as a whole or any particular amendment specifically, but there you have it, for whatever good it will do.

20. Is there anybody out there who is at all surprised that der Sturmtrumper took time out of a ceremony meant to honor Navajo code-talkers from World War II in order to make a racist joke about Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)?  Is anybody surprised that White House Mouthpiece Sarah “Huckabee” Sanders adamantly insists that there was nothing wrong with this?

21. American intelligence officials have warned our allies not to share information with the US that they don’t want getting back to Russia.  As reported by Vanity Fair – which is doing a surprising amount of hard news reporting these days, along with Teen Vogue, which is good since so many other “news” outlets seem to have abdicated that role – at a meeting in January between US and Israeli intelligence officers to discuss the decades-long cooperation between our two countries on intelligence matters, one American official announced toward the end of the meeting that “American intelligence agencies had come to believe that Russian president Vladimir Putin had ‘leverages of pressure’ over Trump.”  “Israel, the American officials continued, should ‘be careful’ after January 20 – the date of Trump’s inauguration.  It was possible that sensitive information shared with the White House and the National Security Council could be leaked to the Russians.  A moment later the officials added what many of the Israelis had already deduced: it was reasonable to presume that the Kremlin would share some of what they learned with their ally Iran, Israel’s most dangerous adversary.”  And lo and behold, der Sturmtrumper has fulfilled those warnings, giving away valuable intelligence secrets as if they were party favors and openly sharing them with Russian sources.  You want to accuse der Sturmtrumper of treason?  It would be a stretch, as the Constitution is fairly clear on the definition of that crime and on the surface this likely wouldn’t fit, but this would be a good place to start looking for evidence.

22. Meanwhile convicted criminal James O’Keefe continues his pathetic efforts to persuade right-wingers that they’re not nearly as stupid as convicted criminal James O’Keefe thinks they are.  His latest scam was to try to set up the Washington Post with a fake story about Roy Moore, presumably in the hopes that they’d run the story accusing Moore of further crimes and then convicted criminal James O’Keefe would pounce and declare them to be untrustworthy.  Except that the Washington Post practices actual journalism – something convicted criminal James O’Keefe wouldn’t know anything about – and refused to run the story on the uncorroborated say so of convicted criminal James O’Keefe’s paid stooge, Jaime Phillips.  Not that it took much for the Post to find out what was really going on – Phillips opened a GoFundMe account in her own name announcing her intention to do pretty much exactly the kind of false front nonsense that the Post found her doing – but you know, checking sources: it’s what journalism is actually about.

23.  Apparently there are a number of people who support the child molester Roy Moore who are trying to do stunts like that, because when you’re okay with molesting children there really isn’t anywhere further down the morality scale you can fall.  The Party of Values strikes again.

24.  As my dad always used to tell me, “Don’t talk to me about ‘values.’  Hitler had ‘values.’  I want to know whether you have morals.”

25. Not surprisingly, der Sturmtrumper – a man whom at least seventeen different women (including five different girls between the ages of 12 and 15) have accused of gross sexual immorality ranging from harassment to assault to actual rape – has publicly endorsed the child molester Roy Moore for Senate.  Birds of a feather and all that.  Yet the GOP wonders why the rest of us consider them immoral.

26. Speaking of which, President Pussy Grabber is now publicly disputing whether that is actually him on the tape where he declared that grabbing women “by the pussy” was a praiseworthy thing to do.  Seriously, can we just invoke the 25th Amendment now and get rid of this hallucinating buffoon?

27. When you think about moral codes, remember that blue states practice what the red states only preach.  States that vote Republican have higher rates of premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, shotgun marriages, and child weddings than states that vote Democratic.  They also have higher rates of adultery and prostitution, as well as lower rates of education.  Suddenly the child molester Roy Moore as a Senatorial candidate makes more sense, doesn’t it?

28. Barack Obama played 29 rounds of golf in his first year in office.  George W. Bush played seven.  Der Sturmtrumper has been at golf clubs 81 times in ten months, and while he has not publicly released the actual number of rounds of golf he has played, observers put it around 64.  He still has two months to go before his first year is up.  At this rate, he may well spend more time golfing than governing, which is pretty much the only thing saving the American republic at the moment.

29. On the “I’m just going to leave this right here” front, der Sturmtrumper’s ethics lawyer has resigned.  Nothing to see here, move along.

30. The Wisconsin GOP recently decided that small children – who cannot be trusted to sit unbuckled in a car, view actual human breasts even if those breasts are actively feeding them, or choose books that don’t make right-wingers nervous – should be allowed to carry rifles and hunt deer.  And of course the Wisconsin DNR almost immediately sold 10 hunting licenses to infants.  On the one hand this was probably safer than giving them to adults, since infants are notoriously poor at actually picking up and firing guns, though the DNR also gave 52 licenses to kids between one and five years old.  You are, statistically, more likely to be shot to death by a toddler than a terrorist in this country, and the Wisconsin GOP clearly approves of this trend.  We like when people kill people in America.  That’s why we give everyone guns.

31. That same Wisconsin GOP has also been seriously considering eliminating all of Wisconsin’s clean air laws, because apparently they’ve figured out a way to breathe money.

32. In case you thought that the rule of law was safe under GOP overlords, consider Wisconsin.  There are so many examples to choose from, but the latest one comes from a case where right-wing extremist groups are suing State Superintendent of Education Tony Evers because he dared to pass administrative rules that the law, the Wisconsin Constitution, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court all say he has the power to pass.  Evers, sensibly, chose to be represented by his own attorney, but Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) overruled that and said he had to be represented by the State Attorney General, Brad Schimel.  Bear in mind that Schimel is on the plaintiff’s side in this case, and Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) is essentially forcing Evers to be represented by a lawyer who actively opposes Evers’ position.  It is surely a coincidence that a) the case, if decided for the plaintiff, will drastically decrease the power of pretty much the only state official not currently subservient to Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries), and b) Evers is one of the leading candidates running against Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) in next year’s election.  So let’s recap that: Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries), in the face of law, Constitution, and Court opposition, has decided to intervene in a spurious case against a duly elected Constitutional officer, take the side of the extremists pushing this spurious case, and choose the attorneys for both sides in order to get the verdict he wants.  Weaponizing the law as a form of political intimidation is a hallmark of tyranny, folks.  Keep that in mind.

33.  Racine County, here in Wisconsin, saw its credit rating lowered because of all the debt that it will incur making Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) Fox Con deal – you know, the one where the state of Wisconsin is too poor to fund education or roads but has more than $3,000,000,000 to give to a foreign-owned company with a long track record of reneging on its promises? –  and may yet see it lowered further.  Because that’s what happens when the Party of Fiscal Responsibility is in charge.

34. In the midst of all of the crushing responsibilities of the Presidency, der Sturmtrumper took the time to send out three phenomenally racist videos (at least one of which has been previously exposed as an outright fabrication) that were originally posted by an extremist group known as Britain First, and then had his Deputy Press Secretary go out and tell people that even if the videos were fake he still felt this was okay because it somehow elevated the discussion – which says a lot about the kinds of discussions he was having prior to this, I suppose.  While former KKK leader David Duke thought this was fine and dandy, every responsible politician in Britain (one of our oldest and, at least for the moment, closest allies), from Prime Minister Theresa May to opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to London Mayor Sadiq Khan has flatly condemned der Sturmtrumper’s racist attempt to stir up violence and hatred as the disgrace that it is, and even Paul Joseph Watson – editor of the American right-wing extremist site Infowars – thinks der Sturmtrumper went too far with this.  When the Infowars guy thinks you’re too deep into Fascist propaganda, maybe you should rethink your life choices.

35. Naturally der Sturmtrumper has doubled down on his racist insanity and now risks a full-blown diplomatic incident with one of our most important allies.  Outrage in Britain is now in full bloom across the political spectrum and, since Britain does not have a specific equivalent to the American First Amendment protection to free speech however vile, it is likely that der Sturmtrumper’s sharing these videos has violated British law.  While he can’t be prosecuted for this, since he was spewing his filth here in this country rather than in Britain, it is entirely possible that he could be placed on a Watch List and barred from entry into Britain – a first for an American president.  And, honestly, who could blame them?

36. A few of der Sturmtrumper’s loyal minions are now sending anonymous threatening robocalls to people across the US and even in Canada who post “negative and derogatory” things about der Sturmtrumper, because that’s the kind of lowlife cowards that they are.  So far none for me but there will be plenty more of these posts that will have to be made, so I suppose there will be other opportunities.

37. And now it’s National Security Advisor HR McMaster who is on record as noting the distinct lack of intelligence of his boss.  In July at a private dinner with the CEO of Oracle (someone whose name has been thrown around as a possible candidate for positions in der Sturmtrumper’s administration), five witnesses have reported that McMaster described der Sturmtrumper as an “idiot,” a “dope,” and someone with the intelligence of a “kindergartner.”  McMaster has, of course, denied this.

38. Senate Republicans have revealed that der Sturmtrumper repeatedly asked them to cut the Russian investigations short, an intervention that is unusual enough to be highly suspicious.  Attempts by the executive to suppress legislative investigations into criminal acts by the executive are impeachable offenses, as Nixon found out, so we can just add that to the long list of things that would have had der Sturmtrumper tossed out on his ear months ago if the Republican party actually gave a damn about law, ethics, morals, or Constitutions.

39. Will Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson be dropped in favor of right-wing fanatic Mike Pompeo?  Will the phenomenally ignorant Senator Tom Cotton be selected to run the CIA in place of Pompeo?  Is this an actual news story or just more distraction and posturing?  Who knows with this crowd.

40. Why there is no hope for the GOP:  Senator Lindsay Graham in 2017 on der Sturmtrumper (“What concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label him as some kind of kook, not fit to be President.”) vs. Senator Lindsay Graham in 2015 on der Sturmtrumper (“I think he’s a kook.  I think he’s crazy.  I think he’s unfit for office.”).  When the allure of power makes you blind to things that were once obvious to you, you need to go.

41. I hope you had your popcorn from item #12, as today’s news brings reports that Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” with Robert Mueller’s investigations and is prepared to testify that during the 2016 election der Sturmtrumper explicitly “directed him to make contact with the Russians.”  We already know that there was collusion.  Now we’re just asking how much, what was promised, and how close to treason this came.  Meanwhile, the GOP continues to support their stooge.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

None Shall Pass

Amid an unrelated bureaucratic uproar the size of which beggars the imagination, Home Campus has decided that now is the perfect time to make people change their login passwords.

I know.

Apparently we’re supposed to do this every 180 days, though to the best of my knowledge the last time I actually did so was sometime in the latter stages of the Clinton Administration.  It has never been a problem before now, nor would it ever be a problem – forcing people to change passwords just ensures that they end up writing them down somewhere for others to find and use, and from what I’ve gathered it has very little if any positive impact on network security.

But we live in an age of Security Theater (remember to take off your shoes before entering the gate area, people!) and sometimes all you can do is clap along with the rest of the audience while the dancing continues. 

That and they actually threatened to cut off my access to my account if I didn’t change my password.  FOR REALZ this time.

So I did.

Now I have no idea how to get into anything, because it turns out that this password change only affected about half the systems that I actually use.  It is a game I play with myself these days, guessing which systems I can get into with the new password and which ones still take the old one, and then remembering that for the next time.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern that I can detect, but I keep playing.  If I win, I get to play again. 

And there are still a few things that I haven’t yet tried to log into, so more adventure awaits.

Theoretically, in six months I get to do this all over again, unless they forget about me for a couple of decades like they did last time.  Because of the nature of my employment history with Home Campus I do fall through a lot of cracks in the system and it would not surprise me a bit if they did forget about me.

I’d actually be okay with that, as this whole password changing thing is just one more thing I have to remember at a time in my life when I really should be allowed to slip gracefully into absent-minded peace.

But now I’m Secure.  I’m Hacker Proof.  I’m, well, not kidding myself about any of that, really, and I’m just hoping I can remember my various passwords long enough to be productive. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Door to a New Adventure

I suspect that the people who built my house were amateurs.

One reason that I reached this conclusion is that the place is sturdy beyond any rational need for it.  It has that “better get things nailed down securely so we never have to do it again” feel that you get when something is built by people who don’t know the shortcuts and decide that everything needs to be done as thoroughly as possible so they don’t have to worry about it anymore.  This isn’t a bad thing, however, so I don’t complain about it.

I do complain about some of the other things that lead me to this conclusion, though. 

For one thing, as we discovered during the Great Window Project of 2008-2009, there is a standard depth for windows in American housing construction and has been since the Civil War, but nobody told our builders this.  Honestly I’m not entirely sure where they found nonstandard windows, but they did and they all at one point matched.  Further, the wells were lined with cove molding just in case anyone wanted to try to take an accurate measurement of how wide the opening was.  This is why a project that would ordinarily take a professional like my old neighbor Adam a weekend to complete, at a rate of about one window every half hour, ended up taking the better part of a year.  It always took the two of us an entire afternoon to install two windows because of all the trimming and custom noodling around that had to be done.  But now we have nice windows, so there’s that.

For another thing, we also have a lot of doors.  There are three doors that lead to the outside, for example, only two of which can be used without serious injury or death since the third one leads from the upstairs hallway out to, well, the back yard one story below.  We call it “the door to nowhere.”  There are no stairs outside.  There really isn’t any place you could put stairs so far as I can see.  The house was moved here from another site back in the 90s, before we moved in, so it is possible that there was at one time a place to put stairs, but any set of stairs would have been in the way of something important (such as the bathroom window, either of them) no matter where you put it.  Mostly we regard door to nowhere as a large window, caulked and sealed, since both the internal and external doors have large glass panes in them and it brightens up the hallway, but we have on occasion opened the doors in order to get large things like box springs into the second floor since the stairs that actually do exist for that purpose are singularly ill-suited for it, which is just another issue that speaks to the dedicated amateurs who built this place.

The three outside doors are only the barest hint of our total doorosity, though.

We have, by my count, sixteen internal doors in this house.  We took four of them off and leaned them against the basement wall, because otherwise the house felt like an Advent calendar, but the other dozen are still in place.  None of them are interchangeable with any of the others.  They vary in width by as much as six inches and in height by up to a foot, and for the few whose dimensions are roughly comparable the hinges are either on opposite ends vertically or mounted on the wrong side of the door front to back.  Each door is unique.

It’s entirely possible that all this was due to some post-WWII shortage of housing materials and our builders simply made the frames for the doors they could find.  The house was built in 1947 or so, after all, at a time when materials were short and doors were supposed to be plentiful in houses to conserve heat.  I like to think it was just dedicated amateurs working as best they could, though, because it’s my house and I can have any theory I want for it after all.

We discovered the true extent of the door situation this past weekend when it became imperative that the door to Kim’s office (which also serves as our guest bedroom) be made to function as a door rather than a screen, and to do so with a quickness.

As of last week it was really more of a visual barrier, since it refused to close all the way (being rather too tall on the latch side) and, when it did close, it refused to latch (the strike plate being about a quarter inch too high for the door lock).  This was okay for people staying a couple of nights, since we come fully equipped with doorstops, but starting next week it would be unacceptable since there would be someone living there for the next few months, and people generally like their doors to be doors when they’re sleeping behind them.

Through a long and frankly implausible process that even now I am not really sure I understand, we will be hosting a foreign exchange student starting as early as this coming weekend.  I know that she’s from Belgium, she already attends Local Businessman High with my daughters (who know of her, though don’t actually know her), and she’s a gymnast.  She’s been staying with friends of ours, but they weren’t supposed to host her this long (the hurricanes this past summer flooded out a lot of hosts, apparently, so the foreign exchange people have been scrambling to find places to put kids). 

So here we were.

In need of a more permanent guest bedroom, with a door that could actually be shut.

Through a process of elimination involving removing the door that was already hanging, hauling up from the basement each door that might conceivably fit into the now vacated the doorframe for that room, attempting to place the new door on the hinges, muttering animatedly and not all that politely, and then returning the rejected door back to the basement, I determined that the proper door was already hanging on that frame and would need to be reshaped.

This, it turned out, was easier said than done, especially for someone of my dubious Home Repair talents.

Fortunately it was a freakishly warm day so the various methods that I tried to make the door slightly shorter were accomplished in some comfort out in the driveway, and when all was said and done a whole lot more was said than done but enough was done that the door actually fit and shut all the way now.  It’s a bit ragged at the top, but it does what a door should do.  Or at least it did once Kim and I got the strike plate moved up that quarter inch.

So now we have a functioning door to what will be our new student’s bedroom.  Kim has been diligently moving her stuff out and setting up shop in my office, amid the clutter and the books.  And soon, there will be more people here.

Another adventure awaits.

Friday, November 24, 2017


My goal today is not to go out except to visit friends.  And take care of the chickens, because those need to get fed.  I know it’s Black Friday and as a patriotic American I’m supposed to run out and load up on stuff or else the terrorists win, but the simple fact is that I don’t need any more stuff.

And for that I am thankful.

We went up to my in-laws for Thanksgiving yesterday.  My sister-in-law cooked the turkey – one of the ones Lauren raised as part of her 4H Poultry project – and it was very tasty if a bit bittersweet.  It was also huge, coming in at 35lbs and none of it added water, so it fed the lot of us.  And there were a lot of us – there were more kids there than there were people at some of the Thanksgivings I remember growing up, which is what happens when you come from a tight-knit but rather small family.  We brought pizzelles and pies and salad, and other people brought all sorts of other things, and we ate and talked and played Cards Against Humanity with three generations of family and it was a grand time with good people.

And for that I am thankful.

We came home and poured ourselves into bed afterward, the end of a long if happy day.  Our children were snug in their beds and I held onto my wife and we fell asleep and all was right in our corner of the world.

And for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for so many things in this world.  For the family and friends who make it worthwhile.  For the safety and material comfort I enjoy, in a world where those are denied to far too many.  For the experiences I have had, the love I have shared, the laughter and even the tears.

I try to remember these things.  It can be hard.  There are too many people working too hard to undo them, many of them in positions of power these days, and while I can count my blessings there are many who cannot. 

But it is right to take the time to celebrate and remember the things you have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Oh, the Places You Will Go

And so it begins.

We’ve been visiting colleges with Tabitha for a while now, particularly as her senior year approached and then started.  She and I spent a weekend in October on a tightly-scheduled three-city tour of campuses, in fact, and last month I devoted an entire afternoon to the mysteries of the FAFSA and then wrote about it here.  You hafta FAFSA, as they say, though you don’t hafta enjoy it.

She’s been sending in applications over the last few weeks, with more to go out in the very near future.  There’s quite a list of places she’d like to apply to, and our basic position has been that she should apply to all of them and see what happens.  She has good test scores and grades, and a list of extracurricular activities that would impress anyone.  I figure she has a good chance of getting in most places, and why not apply?

I do think it’s harder to get into most colleges today than it was when I was applying.  I’m looking at the kinds of things they ask for and the things people tell me that these colleges are expecting and you know, I don’t think I could have gotten into my alma mater if I had to meet those standards.  It was a simpler time.

As to the money, well, again, apply.  The sticker price can be shocking, but you never know what financial aid they might give you.  As my dad always said, “Go ahead and apply.  If they want you, they’ll buy you.”

So wheels are spinning, is what I’m saying.

Today she got her first official acceptance.

We knew it was an acceptance for a couple of reasons.  First, it came in a big, richly colored, folder-sized mailer rather than a simple business-like envelope.  And second, yesterday we got an email from this particular college giving us a head’s up on the financial aid package that would be coming our way soon.

Way to tip your hand, guys.

But you know, this is marvelous news!  And it’s an important thing.  Tabitha has worked hard to get to this point and while this is just the next step rather than the end it is important to take time to recognize the achievement in front of you.

Congratulations, Tabitha.  I’m proud of you.

I also know that next year is going to be really, really strange.  And when Lauren goes through this same process in a couple of years, it is just going to be even more strange.  But you know, that’s why you raise kids – so they can grow up and become independent, mature adults who can go out and make their way in the world on their own.

Still going to be a wreck, though.

So I’ll celebrate today, and let the future worry about itself when it gets here.

It’s a good day.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter.  Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one.  Can’t hurt; might help.  Here’s the most recent list:


1.  Election night was perhaps the first real sign that der Sturmtrumper’s toxic regression of American politics might be turned around by patriotic Americans concerned about the depths of depravity to which this country has fallen in the last twelve months.  His favorite candidates were rejected across the board.  The shockingly gerrymandered assembly in Virginia came very close to losing its GOP majority, something nobody ever thought possible.  It was a sweep.  But this can only be a beginning.  The GOP is nothing if not adept at clinging to illegitimate power and will likely pull out all of its tricks – voter suppression, scare tactics, further gerrymandering, misinformation and outright fabrication, and so on – to keep its hold on government, and there can be no letting up.  But for one night, it is right to celebrate the victory.

2. In other election news, Maine residents voted 59% to 41% to approve expanding their Medicaid program under the ACA, a clear rebuke to their Teabagger dictator of a governor who – among other things – has refused to expand the program.  But do you think the GOP governor cares about democracy or about what the American citizens he works for actually want?  If you do, you haven’t been paying attention.  No, Gov. LePage – who has vetoed five separate bills by the Maine legislature to expand Medicaid – absolutely refuses to implement the legally binding results of that referendum.  Because what business is it of yours, citizen, to have any say in your own government?  That’s what your GOP rulers are for.

3. One of the most satisfying victories in the recent election night was the election of Virginia state delegate Danica Roem, an openly transgender woman who defeated the self-described “chief homophobe” of the Virginia Commonwealth, Bob Marshall.  Marshall was the bigot behind Virginia’s bathroom bill, a copy of the one that disgraced North Carolina not so long ago, and he kept up a constant stream of slander and abuse aimed at Roem for the entire election.  And how did Roem respond?  When asked her opinion of Marshall after her victory, she answered, “I don’t attack my constituents.  Bob is my constituent now.”  That, folks, is class. 

4. Speaking of elections, Pennsylvania election officials finally wrapped up their probe into all that illegal voting that the GOP alleges is so significant in our politics these days.  Remember when der Sturmtrumper claimed that the fact he lost the popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes last year was due to all those illegal aliens casting ballots?  Of course you do!  He says that pretty much every hour on the hour.  It turns out this is not true.  Who knew!  Besides anyone with any contact with reality in all its technicolor glory, I mean.  Pennsylvania simply confirmed that.  After examining over 93,000,000 votes between 2000 and 2017 they found a grand total of 544 ballots cast by noncitizen immigrants, most of whom were simply mistaken about whether they could vote and who were otherwise properly registered with state authorities.  For those who can’t do math and wish to call honest mistakes “fraud,” that’s a fraud rate of 0.0006%.  That’s fewer than the people who just turn in blank ballots.  And yet Kris Kobach has a job.  MURCA!

5. Der Sturmtrumper’s “election integrity” commission – the voter suppression committee led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, mentioned above – has already been sued fifteen times for violating pretty much every government transparency and privacy protection law on the books (translation: for acting like the unelected dictatorship that they were appointed to be).  And now the committee is being sued by one of its own members.  Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat appointed to the commission by der Sturmtrumper in May, has filed suit in federal court for the committee’s violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972, a law that requires presidential advisory committees to operate in a transparent and bipartisan manner.  Apparently refusing to give documents to Democrats on the committee, obstructing their participation, withholding agendas and results from them, declaring that the committee is “on hold” but holding meetings in secret anyway, and generally working to shut out anyone not likely to rubber-stamp Kobach’s radical anti-democracy views is a violation of federal law.  Who knew?  Meanwhile, one of the other members of Kobach’s hit squad on voting, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, has publicly called on der Sturmtrumper to exclude both Democrats and “mainstream Republican officials and/or academics” from having any say in the commission’s work because what if they bring actual facts or reality into the discussion and disrupt the voter suppression that is the commission’s designed purpose?

6. So it turns out ol’ Roy Moore – the Dominionist theocrat twice thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for willfully violating federal law, and now the GOP candidate for Senator from that misbegotten state – stands accused by several women of sexually molesting them, one when she was as young as 14.  This, of course, puts him squarely in the mainstream of the Party of President Pussy Grabber, and it is grimly amusing to watch the GOP reaction to the revelation that their star boy is a pedophile and a predator, too many of whom are standing by their pervert for now and even publicly justifying his conduct.  And his base of supporters seems to think the accusations are some kind of endorsement, which in the modern GOP perhaps they are.

7. Just in case you think I’m exaggerating that last point, I offer you Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler, whose defense of Moore essentially amounts to “It’s okay – it’s in the Bible.”  Or, in his own words, “Take Joseph and Mary.  Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.  They became parents of Jesus.  There’s nothing immoral or illegal here.  Maybe just a little bit unusual.”  Uh, first of all sexually assaulting a 14-year-old is ALL SORTS OF ILLEGAL AND IMMORAL, THANK YOU VERY FUCKING MUCH, and it was illegal, immoral, and punishable by the courts even in Alabama at that time.  Second, perhaps this idiot should read the Bible more closely, particularly the part about “virgin birth,” and see how that compares.  And third, you know what else in in the Bible?  Slavery.  Rape.  Murder.  Any number of things that really should not be taken as a model of civilized behavior but which are apparently okay in the Alabama GOP, and apparently the larger GOP as well.

8. A few other quotes of relevance here from the Party of Perverts and Predators:

“It was 40 years ago.  I really don’t see the relevance of it.  He was 32.  She was supposedly 14.  She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”  (Alabama Marion County GOP Chair David Hall, who apparently did not read what Moore actually did to that child)

“The other women that they’re using to corroborate: number one, one was 19, one was 17, one was 16.  There’s nothing wrong with a 30-year-old single male asking a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, or a 16-year-old out on a date.”  (also David Hall, who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between asking someone out and sexually assaulting a child)

“I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug [Jones, the Democratic candidate].”  (Alabama Bibb County Republican Chair Jerry Pow, explaining that he’d vote for Moore even if Moore did sexually assault a child)

“Yeah!” (Alabama Covington County Republican Chair William Blocker, on whether he’d vote for Moore even if there were hard proof of sexual assault by Moore on a 14-year-old girl)

“Other than being with an underage person – he really didn’t force himself.”  (Alabama Geneva County Republican Chairman Riley Seibenhener – or, in other words, “Yes, but aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”)

As Daniel Dale, the correspondent for the Toronto Star who interviewed all these Shining Exemplars of Morality, put it, “Journalism In The Trump Era: begin the day quoting guys about tariffs, end the day quoting guys who prefer child molesters to Democrats.”  And make no mistake – they do.  The modern GOP would vote for Satan himself balls deep in a kindergartner before doing anything that might jeopardize their shriveled grip on power, and they’d slander anyone who criticized them for doing so.  They’re already doing so. 

9. Not universally, it has to be pointed out.  There are indeed GOP officials and elected politicians who have not failed the “child molester” test (why this needs to be specified is a damning indictment in itself, but let’s take our victories where we find them) and who have been clear that Moore’s actions cannot stand.  Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, said, “Roy Moore’s defenders should ask themselves if they would be so quick to excuse him if the victim was their daughter or if the offender was a Democrat.  He is unfit for office and should step aside.  Americans are better than this.”  Retiring Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) simply said, “This cannot be who we are,” and Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) suggested that the Senate could simply expel Moore if he actually does win despite being a child molester.  Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) withdrew his endorsement, and even Mitch McConnell – the least honorable man in Washington DC – said that Moore should step aside, though he, like many Republicans, couched it in rather evasive “if this is true” sort of language.  To his credit also, McConnell has not ruled out simply not seating Moore if he should win, which the Senate does have the power to do, or seating him and then immediately expelling him (which would not be the first time a Senator has been brought forward for expulsion on charges similar – though less serious – than this).  Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), however, refused to be evasive and clearly demanded that Moore drop out – “This man is despicable and should step down” – and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has said Moore should “step aside.”  One national GOP strategist simply noted that he was “worried, but this is an opportunity to show a majority of Americans that the Republican Party does not stand for pedophilia and all these bigoted comments that he stands for.”  As for that opportunity, well, the jury is still out on that one, isn’t it?

10. As Jen Psaki, former White House Communications Director under Obama, said, “Moore is a test for the moral compass of the Republican Party.  Is it going to push him out of the race and applaud the bravery of four women in Alabama, following the lead of Mitt Romney and John McCain, or is it going to hide behind carefully worded statements out of fear of Steve Bannon and the Trump movement?”  I can tell you which one my money is on, but sure, let’s give it a chance to play out.  Who knows, perhaps I’ll be surprised.  I would be very, very glad to be wrong on this one.

9. Even beyond the whole pedophilia and sexual assault aspect of his character, Moore is just the gift that keeps on giving for those who wish to prove that the GOP is the party of bigots, fools, and people who have never bothered to read the Constitution or the law, or spell anything more complicated than “KKK.”  “The transgenders don’t have rights,” he said in a press conference on November 8.  “They’ve never been denominated as having rights by the US Supreme Court.”  He’s not just a pervert and a pedophile, folks!  He’s so much more!  You can’t make this stuff up, folks.  This ought to be proof positive of dementia and in any civilized country Moore would have spent the night in a padded room being fed soft foods.  Instead he remains the nominee of the once-proud Republican Party for an actual seat in the US Senate.  Hold onto your hats, boys and girls – the Fuckwit is strong with this one.

10. Dean Winslow, one of der Sturmtrumper’s nominees for a high Pentagon position, may well have talked himself out of a job by pointing out the obvious in the wake of the Texas Church Massacre.  When asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) whether the criminal behind that massacre should have received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, which might have kept him from legally purchasing the assault rifle he used to gun those church members down, Winslow noted that “I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of this committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15.”  Given that der Sturmtrumper and the rest of the GOP see no reason why anyone in the US can’t have any gun they want at any time they want it, it’s kind of refreshing to hear someone in Winslow’s position making that case.

11. The American Foreign Service Association – the professional organization for America’s diplomatic corps – just published some bizarre and frightening statistics.  After a year of der Sturmtrumper’s willful demolition of American diplomatic power and prestige, the number of career ministers (the equivalent of 3-star generals in the diplomatic service) is down 42% and the number of career ambassadors (4-star generals) is down by 60%.  And the number of entry-level hires who might one day work their way up to those levels is down from 366 in 2016 to 100 in 2017 thanks to a hiring freeze imposed by Exxon’s Own Secretary of State after he was confirmed.  The number of people who took the Foreign Service Exam, which you need to pass to become a foreign service officer, declined by more than half in that time as well.  The few people left are demoralized and looking for ways out before the whole thing comes crashing down, and both Republican and Democratic veterans of the State Department agree that Rex Tillerson will be remembered as “one of the worst secretaries of State we’ve ever had” (Eliot Cohen, who worked under George W. Bush) or possibly “the worst secretary of state in history” (Ilan Goldenberg, who worked under Barack Obama).  This is of a piece with the general New Gilded Age thinking of the modern GOP, but still – you’d think they’d at least be careful to preserve American power and prestige.  You’d be wrong, but you might still think that.

12. The Russian noose gets tighter and tighter and yet, at the same time, keeps expanding to include more and more of der Sturmtrumper’s close associates, minions, and flunkies.  This is a fascinating quality and one that should be studied.  Surely it has broader applicability in industry.  For politics, though, it means at this point that even more of his aides are getting sucked into the corruption vortex, the latest being Stephen Miller, the guy who was perhaps most instrumental in getting der Sturmtrumper to fire James Comey in order to try to hide all this collusion with an enemy power.  Miller is an “innermost circle” kind of guy, and if he’s involved directly you know that der Sturmtrumper was involved directly.  He’s also Our Confederate Attorney General’s boy, which just expands the noose that much further.  Eventually there will be nobody left in the White House who hasn't demonstrably sold out to the Russians.

13. The basic problem with the GOP tax plan is that it is a frontal assault on American citizens in the name of corporate wealth.  As John Cassidy put it in the New Yorker, there are two principles that they claim to find indispensable in guiding this bill – middle-class tax cuts and corporate tax cuts – but “these principles have run into the laws of arithmetic, and the fact that there isn’t enough money in the Republicans’ own budget, even using the fuzzy fiscal math the Party favors, to provide big giveaways for all businesses and all households.  Something had to give, and between businesses and households, House Republicans went with the businesses.  From what we’ve seen of the Senate bill, so far, it does the same.”  The wealthy 1% – who already control nearly a quarter of all the wealth in this country, while the bottom 90% share a slice of the pie about the same size as the 1% have – and big corporations will get a windfall while everyone else gets comprehensively fucked.  Families with children and incomes between $40k and $75k – the middle class, in other words – will see their taxes go up to pay for this.  It’s just math, people.  It’s not complicated.  I know the GOP doesn’t believe in science or observable reality, but come on – numbers too?

14.  In case you’re wondering whether the Republican War on Women ever went away, there is always State Representative Scott Allen of Wisconsin to remind you that Republicans consider women to be nothing more than incubators and livestock.  The Wisconsin State Assembly – a body so horrifically gerrymandered that the US Supreme Court is actively looking into it, and so corrupt that their response to photographs of them engaging in illegal activity was to put paper up on the windows so they couldn’t be photographed again – recently shoved through a bill restricting abortion coverage for state employees because of course they would.  Abortion (which, I remind you, is legal under federal law, state law, and the US Constitution, and supported by large majorities of the American population) would not be covered by state employee health plans except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.  And Representative Allen thought that was far too permissive.  “Labor force shortages are tied to population declines,” said this latter-day Solon who has apparently never heard of the free market, educational opportunities to train workers, or the idea of increasing wages to attract talent, and to whom the experience of countries like Bangladesh where dense populations of prospective laborers continue to live in poverty and economic stagnation.  “Labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth. And limited economic growth poses a problem when government tries to pay for public services and infrastructure.  In spite of this, Mr. Speaker, ironically, the Democrats continue their effort to support the abortion industry.”  So, in sum, women should be forced to have children for the labor market, apparently.  Breed, you damned livestock, breed!

15. Der Sturmtrumper’s Asian tour is going about as well as you’d think it would.  Kim Jong-un, the psychopath running North Korea, called him an old lunatic, and der Sturmtrumper’s response was to ask, “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat’?”  Did I miss the part where der Sturmtrumper denied being a lunatic, or was that simply conceded?  And seriously?  Third graders think that exchange was childish.

16. Other highlights from der Sturmtrumper’s tour: he believes he’s significantly improved relations between Japan and South Korea in the 60 hours he spent combined in those two countries; he trusts Vladimir Putin more than he trusts the US intelligence agencies working to defend this country against foreign threats such as, oh, Vladimir Putin; he thinks the main reason we have bad relations with Russia is the investigation into his collusion with them (as opposed to, say, the Crimean invasion, their appalling record on human rights, and the entire Cold War); he’s still fighting the 2016 election a year after it ended; he thinks nobody else in history has ever gone on a 12-day foreign trip; and so on.  Seriously – someone needs to give this guy a placebo Twitter account and adjust his meds until reality can break through his bubble.

17. It didn’t take long for two former high-ranking officials from the American intelligence community to respond to der Sturmtrumper’s preference for the reassurances of an enemy power over the assessment of our own intelligence services.  Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan flatly accused der Sturmtrumper of toadying to Vladimir Putin and constituting a threat to American security.  “I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint,” said Brennan.  Clapper added, “Yes, I do think that both the Chinese and the Russians can play him.”  Guess what, you Trump voters – you put a patsy in the White House and the rest of us get to watch American power and influence dribble away with each passing rageTweet session. 

18. Good question. 

Granted, not all of the GOP is fine with it (as noted above and below - I will give credit where due, thank you).  But a curiously broad overlap with the benighted faction of that party that pushed the disgraceful bathroom bills is fine with it, nonetheless.  Maybe they were afraid that others would treat young girls as they treated young girls and didn’t want the competition?  Or, maybe it was just the standard bigotry and nonsensical fear-mongering.  You make the call.

19. The whole idea of adult men – often in their 40s or even older – sexually pursuing teenaged or even pre-teen girls is common in the evangelical right wing circles where Roy Moore is popular.  As Kathryn Brightbill puts it, “We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage.  That segment is evangelicalism.  In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.”  Evangelicals frame it that way, too – girls courting men.  Imagine!  These men groom underage girls for sexual relations – the word you’re looking for here is “predator” – and see nothing wrong with it.  And then they have the absolute gall to lecture the rest of us for our sins!  To which we reply that the said predators and the horses they rode in on are cordially invited to find some other way to entertain themselves.  Child molesters are the lowest of the low and deserve every malediction and punishment a people can pour out.

20. “The allegations against Roy Moore are merely a symptom of a larger problem,” Brightbill continues.  “It’s not a Southern problem or an Alabama problem.  It’s a Christian fundamentalist problem.  Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian, who leads the organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) believes that the sexual abuse problem in Protestant communities is on par with that in the Catholic Church.  The evangelical world is overdue for a reckoning.  Women raised in evangelicalism and fundamentalism have for years discussed the normalization of child sexual abuse.  We’ve told our stories on social media and on our blogs and various online platforms, but until the Roy Moore story broke, mainstream American society barely paid attention.  Everyone assumed this was an isolated, fringe issue.  It isn’t.”

21. Yet if you had money to bet, you’d still put it on the good people of Alabama voting for a child molester to represent them.  And you know?  Maybe he does.

22. Scratch that.  Definitely he does.  A new poll says that 37% of evangelicals in Alabama say that they are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore now that he has been outed as a child molester than they were before.  That’s higher than the number of evangelicals who said it would make no difference to them if their elected representative was a child molester (34%) and the number of evangelicals who found child molesters less to their taste than non-child-molesters (29%).  Isn’t that just so, so very Christian of them?  Overall, nearly three in ten Alabama voters (29%, including both evangelicals and non-evangelicals) said they were more likely to vote for the child molester now that they knew he was a child molester.  This isn’t a man who should be in Congress.  This is a man who should be rotting in jail.

23. Roy Moore has now threatened to sue the Washington Post and, presumably, half the news media outlets in the country, for reporting that he is a pedophile and a predator.  No, no he won’t, and if you think otherwise you’re not paying attention.  This is pure theater for his supporters.  He has no case, first of all.  The depth of the news reports – multiple sources, cross-referenced, etc. – and the consistency of the stories are damning, and even the moral lepers rushing to Moore’s defense are mostly arguing that child molesting is somehow okay rather than arguing that he didn’t do it.  Second, even if does have a case – even if every single one of the accusers is complicit in some bizarre conspiracy to say untrue things about him – the newspapers reporting this are still not going to lose a lawsuit because they’ve done their homework and Moore won’t be able to show any actual malice or disregard for the truth.  Third, Moore is a candidate for public office and his actions and past are therefore legitimate subjects of inquiry, so there is no expectation of privacy here.  And fourth – and this cannot be stressed enough – he has no case at all.  There’s no upside to making those accusations, as those women are discovering now.  They won’t be rich or comfortable.  They’re already being persecuted, in fact.  They are being hounded, bullied, and threatened with incarceration (seriously – some numbnut Alabama GOP official wants to bring them up on charges for not accusing Moore sooner, as if his own vindictive malice wasn’t a clear sign of why they hadn’t).  When people go out of their way to make their lives miserable in order to get a story out, that’s usually a good sign that they’re telling the truth.  So Moore can make his grandstanding announcements for the benefit of the ignorant and willfully uninformed voters that are his base, but no lawsuit will ever appear. 

24. Now that Mitch McConnell has publicly and flatly declared “I believe the women” (and again, credit to him for doing so), the barriers for Republicans climbing on the anti-Roy-Moore bandwagon are falling.  Senator Todd Young (R-IN) said “Roy Moore should immediately drop out of the race.  The appearance of grossly reprehensible behavior disqualifies him from service in the United States Senate.  If he does not step aside, we need to act to protect the integrity of the Senate.”  Young further said that the accusations against Moore are “far more persuasive” than Moore’s denials.  Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) added, “The allegations leveled at Roy Moore are disturbing.  I have serious concerns about his prior conduct and fitness for office.  He should immediately withdraw from the race.”  Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) said, “I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office.  If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”  Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) notes, “In light of the most recent allegations, and the cumulative effect of others, I believe Roy Moore would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside.  If he continues this will not end well for Mr. Moore.”  Even with the fact that Graham lists the GOP before the country, it’s a pretty damning statement.  Hell, even Paul Ryan – a man so spineless it’s a wonder he can stand erect – has flatly declared that “He should step aside” because the allegations are “credible.”  Will wonders never cease.

25.  You know, if this sort of reaction catches on with the wider GOP and becomes permanent and, dare I say, leads to a rather less brutal attitude toward women in general, I may just have to revise my opinion of them a bit.

26. Of course they said much the same things about der Sturmtrumper too, once upon a time.  They do seem to have gotten over it, however.  So we’ll see what happens when the time comes, won’t we.

27. The floodgates are opening and more and more women are stepping forward to describe their abuse at the hands of Roy Moore.  We’re up to five now, and I doubt this will be the end of it.  For crying out loud, this guy was apparently banned from a mall in the 1980s for harassing teenaged girls.  How bad do you have to be to get banned from a mall in the 1980s?

28. In other news, the corruption of der Sturmtrumper’s regime just keeps getting deeper and deeper.  Apparently Michael Flynn is being investigated for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for his ties to Turkey.  Flynn registered as a foreign agent in March, long after he should have done so, and most times this would be the end of it – the federal government tends to want transparency more than prosecution, so as long as violators come clean and do not file misleading or inaccurate registrations (such as the ones Paul Manafort and Rick Gates filed, which are part of the charges against them), that’s generally where the matter rests.  But another part of FARA makes it a felony to hold any public office while registered as a foreign agent, and Flynn’s position in der Sturmtrumper’s regime would therefore make him a felon.  That carries some serious penalties, and gives Robert Mueller some equally serious leverage over Flynn.  When Flynn cracks, the whole thing may well come tumbling down.  And not a moment too soon.

29.  If you wanted to know just how petty and just how authoritarian der Sturmtrumper can be, you have only to look at his current demands for the AT&T/Time Warner acquisition, most of which involved punitive actions against CNN.  It’s not a coincidence that CNN has been one of the most barbed critics of der Sturmtrumper’s junta.  “There’s no question what is happening here,” said Josh Marshall of TPM.  “It’s the President using his vast powers to try to damage a news organization that won’t come to heel.”  And as an American citizen, that should scare you.

30. Every time I open my web browser I am hit with more evidence of just what a morally bankrupt troll Roy Moore is.  The Guardian is now reporting that Moore has repeatedly argued against the “rape-shield” rule meant to protect the victims of rape, particularly child rape.  In one case where a defendant admitted that he had raped a 12-year-old girl, for example, Moore argued that the defense should nevertheless have been allowed to discuss the girl’s sexual past, as if that would somehow mitigate raping a child.  In another case, he argued that a man convicted of forcing two 15-year-old girls to commit sexual acts with him should have been able to argue that the victims were bisexual and in a relationship together – something a lower court had already ruled as “at best, speculative” and a line of irrelevancy that would have “confused the jury by diverting its attentions to issues that were not germane to this trial.”  But hey – what’s a little child rape after all, when there are right-wing fundamentalist principles at stake?

31. There are times when it is hard to maintain a devotion to the Constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and the fate of assholes like Moore and those who continue to support him in the face of his crimes is definitely one of those times.

32. Moore’s lawyer, "Trenton R. Garmon, JD MA," according to the identifiers under his signature, sent what might be the most incoherent, error-riddled, borderline incomprehensible letter ever written by a certified lawyer in American history, demanding, well, we’re not sure.  Might be some kind of tantrum directed at news organizations reporting on Moore’s child molesting ways.  Might be asking for recipes.  Hard to tell really.  As Joe Patrice of Above the Law said, “I know 14-year-olds who write better.  Sadly, Roy Moore might too.”

33. White House economic advisor Gary Cohn apparently lives in some kind of alternative reality where giving piles of money to people who already have more money than they know what to do with will in some way affect their behavior in a positive way.  When he asked a group of CEOs to raise their hands if they’ll boost investment with the windfall tax cuts they’re scheduled to receive from der Sturmtrumper’s boneheaded tax plan, a grand total of, well, not many, actually raised their hands.  “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Cohn asked.  Because that’s a really stupid thing to expect, that’s why.

34. The latest distraction technique being pushed by der Sturmtrumper and his minions and lackeys is the idea that Hillary Clinton, during her time as Secretary of State, somehow sold 20% of America’s uranium supply to the Russians in exchange for over a hundred million dollars being funneled back to the Clinton Foundation.  The fact that this is ludicrously false hasn’t stopped the tale from being spread like wildfire across the far right, because really what are they going to do – accept reality?  It’s such a ridiculous bit of nonsense that even Fox News has debunked it.  Shepard Smith points out a number of things:  “First, the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction. … Further, neither Secretary Clinton nor the committee [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS – the group that did make the decision] as a whole could stop any deal of this kind.”  And most of the money that ended up in the hands of the Clinton Foundation was given by a guy who sold his stake in the uranium company three years before the deal and a year and a half before Clinton even became Secretary of State.  So, yes, another bogus distraction from the people who desperately want you not to notice their crimes.

35. This of course did not go over well with your average Fox viewer, who reacts very poorly to his (almost always his) precious ideological bubble being perforated by actual reality and facts.  Poor Shepard Smith, doomed to a career of pointing out the obvious to the oblivious.

36. This is part of a larger effort by der Sturmtrumper to attack his 2016 opponent on purely political grounds, a first in American history.  In a democracy, the winners win and the losers go home and that’s the end of that.  In a tin-horn dictatorship, the winners persecute the losers for having the temerity to challenge their all-powerful authority.  Guess which one der Sturmtrumper thinks he’s running.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

37. And just in case you were wondering how low der Sturmtrumper can go, the next plan is to reverse the ban on elephant trophies and start encouraging the kind of big game hunting that most people thought was uncivilized half a century ago.  Bravely striding ass-backward into stupidity, that’s our Fearless Leader.

38. Here in Wisconsin, where the Right Wing Revolution has been in process for over half a decade now, we’re seeing the fruits of what happens when extremists seize power.  One of the first things that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) did after being installed into office was launch a frenzied assault on the middle class.  Act 10, as it was called her, gutted collective bargaining rights for public workers, slashed their benefits, and generally made it clear that the Wisconsin GOP regarded its own workforce as little more than leeches.  This was especially true for teachers, who have been demonized, belittled, and treated as if they were expendable cogs.  Add to that the fact that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) slashed over $2,000,000,000 out of education in this state from top to bottom – cut the university system to shreds, took money out of the public schools and gave it to unaccountable private con job charter schools – so the teachers couldn’t actually do their jobs no matter how hard they tried.  And you know what?  Strangely enough, this has made Wisconsin’s once-proud public education system corrode and decay.  Median teacher compensation has dropped by nearly 13% ($10,843) since Act 10 was passed, turnover rates have nearly doubled, and student performance on the standardized tests that are such the vogue these days has dropped.  Huh.  You call people names, slash their pay, take away their job security, and they leave and you’re worse off?  Who could have seen that coming?  Except anyone with a brain, of course.

39.  Yeah, well.  Education just makes the peasants uppity.  Can’t have that in the New Gilded Age, now, can we?

40. Al Franken too?  Well, hell.