Tuesday, May 30, 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 just fired the head of the FBI.  He was crazy, a real nut job. … I faced great pressure because of Russia.  That’s taken off.”  Words of wisdom from der Sturmtrumper, who clearly doesn’t understand the concept of “obstruction of justice.”  Nor does he understand the idea of keeping his mouth shut and not doing his opponents’ jobs for them, and for that I suppose we should all be grateful.

2. How bad is it for der Sturmtrumper when even his allies are convinced he is on Russia’s payroll?  Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Majority Leader of the House, is actually on tape saying that directly to Paul Ryan.  They’ve resorted to the standby defense of every politician caught saying something he shouldn’t have said (“just a joke, folks!”) but after a while that defense gets a bit thin.

3. Der Sturmtrumper, following in Nixon’s footsteps in this as in so many other ways, spent some time abroad this month to try to deflect attention from the mounting crisis at home.  And his “big foreign trip” (his own words) was received with the same outright derision that he faces here whenever serious people pause to consider him.  “The dominant reaction to Trump right now is mockery,” said the editor of the conservative German journal, National Interest.  “The Trump administration is becoming an international laughingstock,” added Michael Werz, an expert on German politics here in the US.  Werz has been amazed by “how rapidly the American brand is depreciating over the last 20 weeks.”  Remember when all der Sturmtrumper’s supporters were howling about how weak a Hillary Clinton administration would make us look to the world?  Once again, the best way to understand who the GOP is these days is to see what they accuse their opponents of being.

4. This is why, of course, NATO spent so much time child-proofing their meetings with der Sturmtrumper.  “The president of the United States has a 12-second attention span,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg after meeting with him in the Oval Office.  Unprepared, ill-informed, a loose cannon – this is the American president these days.  NATO therefore took serious steps to minimize the demands on der Sturmtrumper at their next meeting this month – keeping their remarks to 2-4 minutes, limiting the opportunities for der Sturmtrumper to speak and go off the rails, finding some symbolic little thing that they can give to der Sturmtrumper so he can proclaim victory on Twitter.  The man is a menace to American security and a threat to US interests around the globe.  ISIS couldn’t have found a better way to attack the US than to get der Sturmtrumper into office.

5. Der Sturmtrumper managed to piss off Israel on this trip even before he set foot in the country.  He wasn’t allowed to land his helicopter on the World Heritage Site of Masada for fear of damaging it, so he took that off his agenda, and his visit to the Holocaust memorial was cut to a drive-by.  I guess he decided not to antagonize his neo-Nazi endorsers from last year, though he may want to think hard about US security and how it relates to the middle east sometime. 

6. The House GOP threw the rules into the gutter on the 19th in order to defeat a measure that would have promoted more equality for American citizens.  An amendment that would have stripped bigoted language from the NDAA had the votes to pass (217-206) when time was called, but rather than close the vote the GOP leadership held the vote open (a direct contradiction of Paul Ryan’s vow to obey House rules in such matters) while they pressured weak and spineless members to change their vote but also they refused to have vote switchers march to the front of the House and do so publicly as is normal procedure.  Even many Republicans thought this was beyond the pale – “This is bullshit,” said Robert Dold (R-IL), and Charlie Dent (R-PA) told Kevin McCarthy, the Majority Whip, to “get lost” when he tried to pressure Dent to change his vote.  At some point things will get so bad that the GOP will collapse and we may then get a grown-up conservative party in this country, but today is not that day.

7. The winner for this year’s “Most Blatantly Symbolic Geological Event” contest has already been declared, with the prize going to the giant sinkhole that suddenly appeared in front of der Sturmtrumper’s Florida compound.  Sorry folks – nothing can top that.  Try again next year.

8. Continuing on the theme of der Sturmtrumper’s unique ability to alienate strong US allies while kowtowing to enemies, both Israel and the UK are now so thoroughly disgusted by his toddler-level inability to keep from blabbing things that grown-ups understand should be kept confidential that they are revamping their intelligence-sharing programs with the US.  This leaves the US at a disadvantage in this hostile world, with gaping holes where we should have knowledge of possible threats on the horizon or actual threats here in our midst.  Think about that, folks – our strongest allies no longer trust the US with intelligence because the president is a child and his enablers and sycophants see nothing wrong with that.

9. As if on cue, der Sturmtrumper called his new BFF, Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, whose version of the War on Drugs has seen roughly 3000 Filipinos murdered by police, and casually mentioned that the US has nuclear submarines stationed off the coast of North Korea – highly classified information that has made those submarines targets in ways that submarines are not generally supposed to be.  The whole point of a submarine, after all, is stealth.  Honestly, they should just replace his computer with an Etch-a-Sketch and set him up with a beauty pageant somewhere.

10. Der Sturmtrumper has released his “budget” upon the world and it is every bit as cruel, stupid, and destructive as expected.  Just to start with big-picture Stupid bit, there is the simple fact that supply-side economics does not work in a demand side economy and giving away wealth to the already wealthy is not going to do a damned thing for anyone else other than to make them poorer.  This has been proven statistically in any number of actual studies over the last half century, but the GOP does not deal in reality and so they will make the average American pay for welfare for the rich one more time, because doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the hallmark of right-wing thinking in the US.

11. The more you drill down into this budget proposal, the more Stupid you find.  Der Sturmtrumper (or, more accurately, his minions – there is no way he has read, let alone understood, more than half a dozen words in this proposal, and if you tell me he wrote any part of it whatsoever I will hire someone to follow you around and laugh at you full time) assumes that somehow, magically, the American GDP will accelerate from its post-recession average of 2%/year to an annual rate of 3%/year – a 50% increase in the rate of expansion of the GDP, if you do the math – and it will continue to do so for the next ten years.  This on top of what is already the longest continuous stretch of economic growth in American history (thanks, Obama!).  “It assumes you’re going to go 206 months without a recession, which has never happened,” said former Reagan budget director David Stockman.  It also assumes that the labor force will grow at about 1.5%/year and hourly productivity will expand at more than 2%/year, despite the fact that those figures over the last decade have averaged 0.5% and less than 1% respectively.   “Without violating some of the most basic laws of economics and history, we are not going to get the kind of growth that will yield a balanced budget in ten years,” said Steve Bell, former staff director at the Senate Budget Committee.  Most people grow out of magical thinking by the time they hit fourth grade, but the American right wing can exist only within that bubble and so does not.

12. It’s worth noting that this budget will also collect a higher percentage of the GDP in taxes than Obama’s budget currently does, even with the welfare for the rich. 

13. Assuming the magic works, pigs start flying, and entropy goes into reverse, der Sturmtrumper’s minions estimate that this budget will generate two trillion dollars of extra revenue over the next decade.  They use this made-up number to justify the massive tax cuts for the wealthy and claim that this will be revenue-neutral and pay for itself.  The extra revenue, in other words, will pay for the tax cuts.  Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that rational economics hasn’t been invented yet and this is even remotely plausible.  It still doesn’t balance the books – you’re still not going to get a balanced budget at the end of it.  There is a deficit that needs to be eliminated.  Oh, but the minions say, that two trillion will pay for that!  Except that the two trillion is already paying for the tax cuts, and one of the first things that most people learn when it comes to money is that you can only count income once.  They’re lying to you, folks, and they don’t care if you know it.

14.  As for Cruel and Destructive, well, destroying the social safety net in order to provide lucre to the already wealthy is pretty much all you need to know.  As a historian it is interesting to be living through the re-imposition of an ancien-regime society of nobles and peasants onto what was once a thriving middle-class democracy, but two things here.  First, nobles by definition are a very small class, and most of the people who currently think they’re going to be part of it are going to be very surprised to find themselves turned into peasants when it inevitably works out that way.  And second, the ancien regime didn’t end very well in most places, often spectacularly so.  That ought to be a lesson, for those with the wit to see it.

15. I suppose I could go into the details of this budget – the slashing of health care for all but the wealthy, the destruction of American R&D, the blindly anti-science assault on progress, the weakening of American security and leadership, and so on – but really, nothing is all that surprising here.  This is what happens when the ignorant and the callous rule.

16. The Russian noose continues to tighten around der Sturmtrumper’s neck.  Now we have credible reports that der Sturmtrumper tried to get the DNI and the head of the NSA to publicly deny the existence of evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian intelligence.  Both Daniel Coats and Admiral Michael Rogers, respectively, refused.  Meanwhile senior administration officials were apparently working to pressure the intelligence community to get the FBI probe of Michael Flynn dropped.  More and more comes to light with each passing day, and eventually even the most slavish of der Sturmtrumper’s supporters will have to face the fact that their guy is at best a subversive and at worst an actual traitor.  And then they will have to decide if they care.  My money is on no, actually, but we’ll see.

17. American spies were monitoring Russian intelligence and political officials last summer as they discussed how to exert influence over der Sturmtrumper and his minions, but at least we didn’t elect the woman, amiright?

18. And in Mississippi, where the 19th century never seems to have ended, a state representative named Karl Oliver publicly declared on his Facebook page that people who remove monuments celebrating the treason of the Confederacy “should be LYNCHED!”  Two of his fellow GOP legislators – John Read and Doug McLeod – liked the post.  This, it turned out, was too obscene even for the Mississippi GOP – several of whom were rather publicly unhappy at Oliver – and of course Oliver beat a hasty retreat from this once it hit the media, but that’s what happens when people like that get caught.  They’re sorry they got caught.  

19. Der Sturmtrumper really, really wanted to get into the front row of that picture, so naturally he shoved aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro.  Because that’s what happens when you elect a child.

20. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Montana GOP House candidate Greg Gianforte decided that assaulting a journalist was a good idea, and to be honest given the rhetoric that comes out of der Sturmtrumper and his minions these days I can see where he got that idea.  He was charged with assault and several major Montana newspapers took the unprecedented step of rescinding their endorsement on the grounds that he was a mindless thug who shouldn’t be walking the streets unsupervised let alone representing them in the seat of power, but his campaign recorded more than $100,000 in donations after the assault was made public and the good citizens of Montana did in fact elect this criminal as their representative.  So the GOP is now openly electing criminals because, well, why bother to hide it, really?  The GOP base certainly approves.  They elected a president who openly bragged about sexual assault, didn’t they?

21. This just made my day when it came across my Facebook feed.

It’s a variation of a joke that goes back at least to Barry Goldwater.  “They told me that if I voted for Goldwater the war in Vietnam would escalate.  I did, and it did!”  It often gets attributed to William F. Buckley, since he was a conservative who could actually put together complete sentences and logical arguments (and don’t we miss those!), but it seems to have been fairly common back in 1965 and I’ve heard variations of it targeted at everyone from Reagan to Obama.  Doesn’t make it any less true in this situation, though.

22. Apparently the GOP now wants to make it legal for them to cold call your cell phone and leave you a voicemail without your phone ever ringing, because they’re the party of less intrusive government or something.  The sheer power-mad hypocrisy of the GOP knows no ceiling and, apparently no floor – there is nothing so petty that it won’t be tried.

23. So der Sturmtrumper wants to stop the sales of German cars in the US.  Does he realize how many of those cars are made here in the US?  Probably not.

24. How bad are things when reporters start to feel sorry for Sean Spicer?  The man is a devout Catholic and was probably the staffer most hoping to meet with the Pope, yet he was bundled aside and never got to do so.  Even the White House press corps – a group that has no love for Spicer and even less cause to have any – thought that was petty.  It “speaks to a small-mindedness I find incredibly depressing” said NY Times reporter Glenn Thrush, whose clashes with Spicer have become staples of Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Spicer on Saturday Night Live.  But that’s der Sturmtrumper for you.

25. Tourism to the US has dropped 11% compared to last year when der Sturmtrumper was just a fringe candidate wallowing in his own corruption and ignorance.  Meanwhile, tourism in the rest of the world has increased by 6%.  Do the math, and that’s a 17-point relative decline over this time last year.  And honestly, who can blame the tourists for not wanting to visit this country right now?  Between the random unlawful searches of phones and other devices, the decline of the rule of law, and the general rise of militant ignorance and head-in-the-sand America-First disease, I certainly wouldn’t advise people to come here right now.  This is a shame.  We’re a great country currently ruled by a criminal junta, and it’s costing us both respect and money.

26. Remember when der Sturmtrumper fired all the US attorneys and all the right-wingers said this was Perfectly Normal because those attorneys are always replaced by incoming presidents?  We’re well past 100 days into this authoritarian regime, and they still haven’t been replaced yet.  What’s the excuse now?

27. Der Sturmtrumper’s recent European Vacation was an unmitigated disaster for American security and leadership.  He was humiliated on an international stage by foreign leaders who understand how utterly hollow and easy to manipulate he is, and those leaders are now talking openly about going it alone without American leadership since none of that leadership is left anymore.  Under this president the US is no longer the leader of what was once called the free world, and as long as he remains in power we will never be again.  We have sacrificed whatever moral authority we once had on the altar of right-wing nonsense, and we are poorer for it.  When you elect a clown, you get a circus.

28. Jared Kushner – the utility infielder of der Sturmtrumper’s administration and family – seems to have been working for the Russians for quite some time now, if all those “secret backchannel” stories have any weight to them at all.  Remember when conspiring with Russian agents in direct contradiction of federal law was treason?  Poor Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – born seventy years too soon.

29. The thinking conservatives who remain in this country are starting to realize that they have nobody representing them at all.  Steve Schmidt managed John McCain’s 2008 campaign – you know, the one that foisted Sarah Palin off onto the world? – and his verdict in the wake of the Montana Debacle is fairly clear.  “The MT incident is one more example of the rotten, fetid and corrupt culture that has metastasized around an intellectually bankrupt GOP and conservative movement,” he wrote on May 25.  “The rotten culture is derivative of an epic leadership deficit on the part of the GOP’s elected leaders and the voices of the conservative media complex.  The disintegration of the conservative movement and GOP on a moral and values basis is not just tragic but terrible for the country.  The work of restoring trust, credibility and decency will take many years.”  If they’re lucky.

30. According to Newsweek, nearly half of the 31 million followers on der Sturmtrumper’s Twitter account – just over 15 million – are fake.  That’s 49% fake followers, for those mathematically inclined.  This is a sharp increase since the inauguration in January, when only (“only”!) 32% of his followers were fake accounts.  In April 2016, when der Sturmtrumper was still a long-shot candidate for the presidency, only 8% of his followers were fake.  It must be nice to live in a bubble.  More to the point, that’s a lot of amplification for whatever lies, idiocy, and misdirection der Sturmtrumper wishes to unleash upon an unsuspecting public.

32. I’m not really sure why I persist in noting all of these things here.  Perhaps it is simply that I want it documented that I refuse to accept this monstrous administration or its actions.  This is my country, and I will not see it torn down in the name of shallow greed and malevolent ignorance without protesting.  Perhaps that is enough.  For now.

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