Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Party on Halloween

It’s Halloween, and this means only one thing in our house.

Well, two things if you include all the costumes, candy, and assorted ghoulishness that most people think is the main focus of the day.  We like that stuff too, particularly the candy.  We get a lot of trick-or-treaters at our house every year and we always try to buy slightly more than we give out, particularly of The Good Stuff (i.e. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which everyone in the house can actually eat as they contain no tree nuts or gluten and only acceptable levels of salt). 

Reese’s: the king of candy.

No, that’s all background here, since the main event is Lauren’s birthday.

She’s hitting her Wisconsin Quinceanera, which would look more impressive with the tilde over the n but which we find just as festive either way.  This year there will be friends over to hand out candy to the younger kids, pizza to fill up their starving teenaged bellies, and probably more laughter than is recommended in these parlous times but what is a celebration for except to run roughshod over such recommendations, anyway?

Eventually we’ll go out to dinner to celebrate, just within the family, but that won’t be tonight.

It always amazes me how my daughters have grown into such fine people.  Maybe it shouldn’t.  It was all there from the beginning.  But we celebrate anyway, because that’s what should happen.

Happy birthday, Lauren.

I’m proud of you.

Sunday, October 29, 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. One of the more interesting arguments I’ve seen for der Sturmtrumper’s impeachment was published by CNBC in the wake of his explicit sabotage of the ACA.  Abbe Gluck, professor of law at Yale and the article’s author, notes that under Article II of the Constitution, the president has a duty to “take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  “That means,” she said, “he must make sure our laws are implemented in good faith and that he uses his executive discretion reasonably toward that end.”  Executive Branch agencies are similarly bound.  Yes, presidents have discretion on how to enforce laws – note Obama’s decision to focus on deporting criminals rather than children, a decision which enraged the so-called “family values” right wing – but when a president explicitly sets out to destroy a law that was duly passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, this is a violation of his oath of office.  His own statements are clear on this.  His stated goal is to destroy, not execute, the law.  This is not discretion – this is an impeachable offense.  Whether it will result in any action from a supine GOP Congress that thinks this sort of thing is just fine is, of course, another matter.

2. If you’ve ever wondered why the fastest growing religious preference in America is unaffiliated – agnostic, unchurched, however you want to call that – you need only look at the continuing blasphemy that is the “Christian” right.  A movement born in the 1970s from the panicked reaction of white Evangelical Protestant men to the idea that blacks, women, and anyone not a white Evangelical Protestant man should be treated as full-fledged American citizens, the Religious Right has been steadily losing its hold on the first part of its name and subsuming it to the second.  And now with its enthusiastic embrace of der Sturmtrumper, Former President Steve Bannon, and the rest of the fucking Nazis who eagerly seek to turn this country into a Fascist wasteland, the conversion is complete.  As Michael Gerson – a former official in the George W. Bush administration – noted, “At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voters Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.”  “There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives,” Gerson points out.  “Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury.  For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, ‘economic nationalism’ is the ‘centerpiece of value voters.’ I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.”  Is it any wonder that Americans of actual Christian faith reject this?  Is it any wonder that Americans who can think in more than 2-second sound-bite slogans think this is not how they want to spend their Sundays?

3. According to CNN, the US is now at record levels of economic inequality.  The top 1% now own 38.6% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 90% split 22.8%.  For those who can’t do math, that means that the top 10% of the US controls 77.2% of all wealth in this country – more than three out of every four dollars.  This is a higher level of inequality than we had in 1929, and surely there are people who know how well that worked out last time.  We’re well into Gilded Age territory here.  But sure, tell me how the rich need more tax cuts.  Go ahead.  I’ll be sure to carve time out of my busy schedule to laugh at you when you do.

4. Der Sturmtrumper still wants to build his Big And Exceedingly Manly Wall between MURCA and all those drug-dealin’ brown people in Mexico, though he does seem to have dropped the insistence that Mexico somehow be made to pay for it.  The US Customs and Border Protection agency recently released a video of various prototypes of the wall, as viewed from above by a drone.  Think about that for a second, won’t you?  As viewed from above.  From a drone.  Yeah, that wall’s going to be really good at preventing people from flying drugs over it, right?  It’s hard to write satire anymore.

5. Try not to think too hard about the fact that der Sturmtrumper just signed an Executive Order making it easier for him to recall retired US servicemen and servicewomen back to active duty and what that might mean for his future plans.  It will only give you the willies.

6. Of course he did screw up in the process, so there’s that.  The new EO is an adaptation of an older one that was announced before the US Coast Guard was moved out of the Department of Transportation and into Homeland Security, and nothing of that switch made it into the new EO.  This gang can’t even do dictatorship right.

7. More and more thinking conservatives are realizing that there is no home for them in the modern Republican Party.  As Max Boot put it in the Salt Lake Daily Tribune, “The lobotomization of the Republican Party appeared complete last year when the same GOP paladins who had denounced Donald Trump as a ‘lunatic trying to get ahold of nuclear weapons’ (Marco Rubio), as a bigot who was guilty of ‘the textbook definition of a racist comment’ (Paul Ryan), and as a ‘narcissist,’ ‘serial philanderer,’ ‘pathological liar,’ and ‘bully’ (Ted Cruz) nevertheless endorsed him for the most powerful position in the world. … But the Republicans’ race to the bottom – the absolute lowest moral and intellectual depths – wasn’t over last year, and it’s not over now. … They are a profile in cowardice, these Republicans, and they are making a mockery of their oaths ‘to support and defend the Constitution.’  If they truly believe that Trump is not fit for office, then they have an obligation to impeach and remove him.  Instead they choose to act as if Trump is their partner in governing.  In the process, the entire Republican Party is making itself ever-more complicit in Trump’s crimes.”  This from a guy who was a proud Republican for thirty years prior to the current debacle.

8. Continuing this theme is Peter Wehner, a former Bush Jr. official, who sounds the alarm for an increasingly divided and reckless Republican Party in the New York Times.  “A year after President Trump’s stunning electoral victory, the Republican Party is in a very strange place. It’s politically dominant but increasingly unpopular, particularly among young people and nonwhites of all ages, whose level of unhappiness with Mr. Trump and his administration is toxic.  Republicans have all the power but can’t seem to get much of anything done. There are huge internal fissures that are growing rather than shrinking. Just the other day, the president’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, with whom Mr. Trump is still close, made his intentions clear: ‘Right now it’s a season of war against the G.O.P. establishment.’ When Mr. Bannon looks for targets as he prosecutes his ‘season of war,’ it is people like me he has in mind. And Mr. Bannon is right in this respect: Neither of us wants to be — or can be — a member of a party the other gets to define.  … [T]here’s really no choice about challenging the blood-and-soil nationalists.  If they were to triumph – if the tribalistic, angry, anti-government wing of the party turns out to be the vanguard rather than an ugly and unfortunate parenthesis – then the Republican Party would collapse intellectually and morally, and a lot of lifelong Republicans would head for the exits.”  Wehner is a bit late to the party for this observation – my guess is that the wannabe neo-Fascist wing of the GOP has already triumphed, and the only question is whether a) this triumph can be reversed or b) those lifelong Republicans will stand up to it or, like the collaborationists of Vichy France, join in.

9. So it looks like the GOP Class War is in full swing, now that the Senate has voted in favor of stealing from the poor and middle class in order to give more to the rich.  Thought you’d deduct those state and local taxes from your income tax?  Think again!  Relying on Social Security or Medicare to avoid the poverty that historically was the lot of the elderly prior to the New Deal and the Great Society?  No, no, not for you, good citizen!  Planning to save on your own for retirement by putting piles of money into your 401k?  Not so fast!  The GOP wants those capped!  Because poor people are malleable people, desperate for scraps from the rich!  But you know, that can be taken too far.  When the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich. 

10. I’m not a great fan of Florida in general – it’s too hot, and it’s become the place where the nation’s lunatics gather to make headlines now that California has grown up – but the reaction in Gainesville to Nazi speaker Richard Spencer’s talk at the University of Florida deserves All The Credit.  Mockery is a powerful tool against puffed up fools, and it was wielded effectively – particularly during the Q&A session (one person asked why white supremacists think they’re superior given the particularly degenerate nature of white supremacists, which is a fair question really).  The Alt-White really needs to be driven from civilized society, and if pointing and laughing will do it then I say good for those who point and laugh.

11. Der Sturmtrumper apparently plans to intensify the Republican War on Women, if a memo leaked from his headquarters is any guide.  His administration plans to gut evidence-based pregnancy prevention and family planning programs in favor of ideological approaches that have been proven repeatedly to be failures, such as the utterly ludicrous “abstinence only” idea that you have to be completely blind to reality to take seriously.  Abstinence pledges – a key part of that form of miseducation – actually make teenage sex more likely rather than less, and communities that rely on abstinence-only education have significantly higher rates of STDs and teenage pregnancy than communities that use reality as a guide.  He plans to cut Title X, the only federally-funded family planning initiative, as well as the USAID’s family planning budget and the World Health Organization’s program to keep girls in school rather than pregnant and poor.  The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program will be cut as well, despite the fact that under the TPP teen pregnancy has dropped from 34 births per 1000 teenage girls in 2010 to 22 in 2015 – a 35% drop to an all-time low.  Some of that money would be redirected toward childcare programs, which pretty much is an admission that teenage pregnancy rates will soar in the wake of these policy changes.  This is a moral abomination, brought to you by the people who so loudly claim morality for their very shiny own.

12. On a weekend where all five living ex-Presidents were working to raise money for the hurricane relief that der Sturmtrumper finds so distasteful when it comes to American citizens in Puerto Rico (but somehow less so when it comes to American citizens in Texas), der Sturmtrumper went golfing for the 75th time in his 39 weeks in office.  Because priorities, man.

13. Senator John “No Fucks Left to Give” McCain seems to have been liberated by his recent cancer diagnosis.  If you doubt that, check out his recent interview with C-SPAN where he rather pointedly noted that during the Vietnam War the US military “drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”  Der Sturmtrumper, still recovering from the bone spur that kept him out of Vietnam but somehow never managed to interfere with his leisure activities, no doubt took the offense that was meant.  But really, what’s he going to do?  He’s already threatened McCain for McCain’s takedown of his cowardly and un-American foreign policy, and McCain’s response (“I have faced tougher adversaries”) was just priceless.  It’s astonishing that the Party of Patriotism sees nothing wrong with a draft dodger slandering a war hero, but then moral principles just aren’t their strong point recently anyway.

14. And of course this slides right into der Sturmtrumper’s shameful treatment of war widow Myeshia Johnson, whose husband died in Niger.  Leaving aside the whole issue of what on earth US forces were doing in Niger in the first place (seriously what the hell?  Why isn’t this an issue?), this is morally bankrupt.  First he essentially blamed Sgt. Johnson for dying, then he goes Full Bore Asshole on the widow and her friend for pointing this out.  And der Sturmtrumper’s superpatriotic minions of doom have no problem with this.  This is why real Americans consider those minions to be false patriots at best and subversives at worst. 

15. Of course this isn’t the first time der Sturmtrumper has turned his juvenile rage on military heroes.  Anyone remember the Khan family, whose son was killed on duty with the US Army and who der Sturmtrumper slandered during the campaign?  No?  Anyone?  Hello?  Is this thing on?

16. It’s interesting that neither the Khan family nor Johnson are white.  Go ahead and pretend that’s a coincidence, why don’t you.

17. “President Trump is the most gifted politician of our time and the best orator to hold that office in generations,” said White House Policy Advisor Stephen Miller.  Do you get the feeling that they’re not even trying to hide the lies anymore?  Seriously – I don’t know how much antifreeze you have to drink in order for that bit of nonsense to start sounding like a coherent description of the world as we know it, but it’s more than I’m willing to have with my breakfast.

18. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced that he would not seek re-election, and did so in what amounted to a brutal takedown of der Sturmtrumper and his enabling minions.  Pointedly referring to der Sturmtrumper, he noted that “We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.  We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people we have all been elected to serve.  None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.  …  Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenances as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.  And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: it is dangerous to democracy.  Such behavior does not project strength – because our strength comes from our values.  It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness. … I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.  … The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly wrong.”

19. Meanwhile, der Sturmtrumper continues his war on Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), calling him all sorts of things that would be fascinating to overhear on an elementary school playground but which seem rather out of place coming from an elected official.  Corker’s response?  #AlertTheDaycareStaff.  Also this: “You would think he would aspire to be the president of the United States and act like a president of the United States, but that’s not going to be the case, apparently.  I’ve seen no evolution in an upward way.  In fact, I would say he’s almost devolved.”

20.  With Corker and Flake now pretty much opposed to der Sturmtrumper, who precisely does he think is going to carry his water for whatever random legislation he demands today?  He’s running out of stooges.  Or, rather, he has a lot of them, but his margin of error is disappearing before his eyes.

21. Here in Wisconsin we’ve been living under Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) misrule for the better part of a decade now, so I already know how this GOP nirvana will end.  One of his first big initiatives was to scrap the state agency in charge of economic development and replace it with a private one that would, um, well, not do very much as it turned out.  The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) gave money to cronies and random businesses, did not ask for information about how many jobs they created with it, and failed to conduct even basic due diligence as to what happened with the public’s money once it disappeared into the pockets of Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) supporter’s pockets.  And not surprisingly, job creation fell by 70% last year in Wisconsin.  The middle class has gotten precipitously smaller since he took over.  And we’ve been ranked 50th in entrepreneurial start-up activity for years now, and no doubt this has contributed to the fact that in six years Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has created less than 3/4 of the jobs he said he’d create in four.  It takes effort to convert a thriving state into a basket case, but the GOP is up to the task.  Just ask Wisconsin.  Or Kansas.  This is the model the GOP is now pushing onto the rest of the nation, and if the US is stupid enough to follow Wisconsin and Kansas down this rabbit hole than we deserve everything that happens to us.

22. One of the achievements that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) is most proud of is his $3,500,000,000 giveaway to Foxconn, a foreign company with a track record of overselling its promises and underselling its performance for those places stupid enough to give it money.  How our illustrious governor found $3,500,000,000 is an interesting question, given that he has cut over $2,000,000,000 out of k-12 and university education during his Reign of Error due to what he claims are tough financial times.  Using Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) own numbers, the Fox-Con will not repay Wisconsin’s investments until the early 2040s at best.  Of course we have no idea about that, because WEDC Secretary Mark Hogan says he absolutely will not disclose the terms of the Fox-Con to the public until after the deal is signed.  Because the public certainly has no right to know how public money is being spent, after all.  And, in keeping with GOP practice in this state since 2011 and in the US at large for the last several years, they know very well that an honest accounting of their proposal would never fly with those affected by it and they simply hope to ram it through the legislature before anyone catches on (see for example the Wisconsin budget of 2011, the Republicare debacle of 2017, etc.).  You, good citizen, count for less than nothing to the GOP and should just bend over and take it from your betters.

23. And on that note, we have EPA Administrator Scott “Who Needs All Those Trees Anyway?” Pruitt, whose most recent assault on the environment he was hired in theory to protect was to reverse salmon protection regulations in Bristol Bay, Alaska – a move that would effectively replace clean water and one of the largest Sockeye salmon fisheries in the world with an open pit mine.  Pruitt did this after meeting with the head of a mining company.  He did not consult: any EPA scientists (reality?  Not our concern); any Alaskan officials (so much for states’ rights); any fishermen (hey, small business?  Who needs ‘em?), or the local community (see above, re: bend over, good citizen).  Honestly, you couldn’t write villainy this cartoonish as fiction if you tried.

24. In an era where it is considered heretical among right-wingers to mention the reality of climate change, let alone actually believe the mountain of unrefuted evidence supporting it (well, unrefuted by any reputable study, since the 3% of scientific papers that claim to do so have all been examined and found deeply, fundamentally flawed and worthless), it is perhaps not surprising to note that nobody on the right wing seems to care that the US has spent about $350,000,000,000 over the last ten years mitigating the catastrophic effects of that climate change, money that could have been spent on jobs, education, or just providing every American with a year’s supply of Happy Meals.  It’s telling that groups as disparate as seed companies (who have moved the gardening zones in response to shifting climate) and the Pentagon (which has been wargaming the resource conflicts climate change will create for almost two decades now) are far more scientifically literate than the entire GOP.

25. So apparently der Sturmtrumper is working to reverse the name change that turned Mt. McKinley into Denali, on the grounds that Obama did it.  There really isn’t anything else in his little head besides undoing everything Obama did, is there?  Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick it’s like having a junior-high trendoid in charge.  “Can’t like that anymore!  The popular kids like it now so I must find other things!  Preferably dysfunctional and irritating things, but any different thing will do!”  I knew people like that back in the day, and I never could convince them that they were being controlled by the popular kids just as much as if they were conforming.  When you let other people set your agenda – negatively or positively – you’re just another robot.

26. Der Sturmtrumper is complaining bitterly that Democrats – and, in particular, Democrats associated with the Clinton campaign – helped to finance the research that led to the Steele Dossier (you know, the one that documented so much of der Sturmtrumper’s misdeeds regarding collusion with Russian intelligence?).  He regards this as somehow unsavory.  Apparently he missed a few memos on this, since almost nothing in the new reports is any news.  First of all, this is called “opposition research,” and it has been a standard activity in American politics for decades, practiced by both Republicans and Democrats alike.  Why this is so shocking to der Sturmtrumper is anyone’s guess.  Second, the history of this funding is interesting for several reasons.  The initial funding came from a large GOP donor during the presidential primaries, and when that funding dried up once der Sturmtrumper became the GOP nominee (i.e. once the GOP saw no further material advantage to exploring der Sturmtrumper’s criminal activities) the Democrats agreed to continue the funding.  And once the election was over, the FBI thought so highly of the results that it agreed to continue funding the inquiry once the Democrats bowed out.  So to pick up the story in the middle and then drop it there is a bit rich, really.  As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo noted, “Is it really a scandal that Democrats helped fund research into Donald Trump’s illicit ties to Russia after Republican donors decided they didn’t care anymore?  Not really.  They country owes the Democrats a debt of gratitude for keeping Steele’s research going.  The FBI had apparently missed a lot of what he found.”  And third, almost all of this was known before the election, which means that once again we are being gaslighted into paying attention to a non-issue designed to distract from the larger criminality of der Sturmtrumper’s regime.  Try to keep up, folks. 

27. And for those of you who thought der Sturmtrumper would somehow “drain the swamp” and usher in a new era of respect for everyday Americans, there is always the resolution passed by the Senate in the dark of night on October 24 overriding a rule created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that prevented financial firms from forced arbitration agreements.  The resolution also gave immunity to those firms for illegal fees charged to consumers and strips the CFPB of its power to rein in abusive arbitration clauses.  Banks win, you lose, and if they cheat you well, that’s too damned bad isn’t it, citizen?  Move along, nothing to see here.

28.  One of the interesting facts about that particular vote is that the Senate is specifically set up to privilege rural areas over urban ones, and the 50 Senators who tried to keep the rules protecting American citizens were outvoted by 50 Senators who represented more than 30,000,000 fewer people than the first group of Senators.  (For those keeping score Vice President Toady had to break the tie.)  This is perfectly in line with an administration that lost the popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes but was installed into power by the Electoral College – another explicitly anti-democratic system that privileges rural areas over urban ones.

29. The new Republican tax plan will eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes – a widely popular tax break used by over 40 million American citizens.  Corporations, however, will still be able to deduct those taxes.  And that’s all you need to know about who the GOP is working for.

30. Der Sturmtrumper’s approval ratings continue to be historically low, and even Fox can’t hide that anymore.  They conducted a poll this month and found that only 38% of people willing to talk to Fox (i.e. a poll that skews heavily in favor of the GOP) will admit to approving of der Sturmtrumper’s conduct or qualifications, while 57% disapprove overall and 49% “strongly” disapprove.  His support is dropping among white men without a college degree and evangelical Protestants – the two groups that put him in office – but within the GOP he still has 83% approval.  What I find shocking about this is not the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans has come to the obvious conclusion about this petit-Fascist wannabe, but that nearly 2 in 5 Americans is okay with his conduct.  That’s a bad sign for the survival of the republic.

31. It must be that 38% who think he’s doing an “excellent” or “good” job handling the humanitarian crisis of Puerto Rico, though even 6% of those bail on this issue, leaving him with 32%.  Folks, if you can look at the stark abandonment of American citizens and the morally bankrupt crony capitalism that is on display regarding the “recovery” efforts (hello, Whitefish Energy with your 2 full-time employees at the point when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and your financial ties to der Sturmtrumper and his cabinet!), then you are the problem.

32. If you look at the Whitefish Energy contract (Article 59, Section 1) it specifically states that “In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA Administrator, the Comptroller General of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost or profit elements of the labor rates specified herein.”  In other words, they can charge anything they want and the taxpayers who foot the bill have no right to question them.  But hey – that’s the GOP for you: taking care of the rich while the rest of us pay for it.

33. This from Rev. Mark Sandlin:

A world where we celebrate politicians who rob from the poor and give to the rich, yet we denigrate NFL players respectfully taking a knee to call attention to racial inequality is a world doomed to self-cannibalism. A world where women are so sexualized and objectified that many men act as if they have a right to impinge upon them physically is bad enough, but we live in a world where most men get away with it. A world where love that doesn’t fit some people’s puritan ideals is made illegal and used to push people to the margins of society is a dark reflection of some people’s inability to extend compassion past those who are just like them.

We are building a world devoid of mercy, empathy, hospitality, and love. We are building a world devoid of one of the very things that makes us most human.

Our humanity.

And if we don’t want this, we’d better start acting like it.

34. Listening to the Alt-White with their little chants and their hallucinatory view of history is a painful thing for an intelligent person.  Seriously – how bone-ignorant do you have to be to think that the US has ever been an all-white country?  How much rat poison do you have to eat before you think that this has ever been an English-only country?  It takes a special kind of stupid to think those things at all, and a special kind of tunnel vision to think that saying them in public makes you look like anything other than a fool.  Here’s a hint, Alt-White folks: we’re not laughing with you.

35. Apparently Robert Mueller has filed charges which will be revealed on Monday.  A couple of things about that.  First, the obvious, the Russian noose continues to get tighter and tighter.  Mueller is not a slipshod grandstander and these charges will be fairly airtight.  He will get his first moves nailed before moving on.  Second, for that reason the charges will likely come against low-level people.  You have to build cases up to the top, and you start at the bottom.  Mostly likely it will be Manafort, though it may be someone else too.  It says something about der Sturmtrumper’s administration when news breaks that criminal charges are being filed and you have no idea who is the one being charged.  Third, the Distraction Machine is in high gear, spewing out lies and diversions to get you to look elsewhere.  The initial effort seems to be to accuse the Clinton campaign of exactly the crimes that der Sturmtrumper has committed, which is a pretty standard tactic and should be ignored as the desperation move it is.  Try to keep your eyes on the prize, folks.  Der Sturmtrumper and his minions would very much like for you to focus somewhere else, because that’s pretty much his only chance at beating this rap.  And fourth, remember that this is only the beginning.  Der Sturmtrumper will still be in office on Tuesday.  The road is long and paved with assholes, but if real Americans maintain their focus and drive we may yet arrive at our destination with the republic preserved.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

You Hafta FAFSA, Whether You Want To Or Not

I spent a significant chunk of yesterday filling out a FAFSA.

For those of you fortunate enough not to recognize that acronym immediately, that’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – it’s the form you have to fill out in order to get money for college.  You have to fill it out even if you are not likely to get any federal student aid, since scholarships, states, and colleges all use that information for their own purposes.

They don’t make this particularly easy, mind you.  Filling out a FAFSA – even if, as is the case for me, advising students on how to do it is literally part of your job – is a cumbersome and frustrating affair.  The full manual for it (which you can get online) runs to about 65 pages and manages to be completely detailed and yet still somehow uninformative (what counts as an asset again?), which is a neat trick.  So you bludgeon your way through it and hope for the best.

I suspect that’s part of the process, weeding out the unmotivated.  “If we make this sufficiently cumbersome, a lot of people won’t ask us for money at all!”  It’s the same philosophy that big box stores use when it comes to giving you rebates on the products they sell.

I thought about all that a lot while I was filling it out.  We’re kind of in that uncomfortable space where we probably make too much money to get much in the way of financial aid but not so much money as to be able to actually afford to send our kids to college without it.  It turns out that working in the university system is actually pretty poor financial planning that way.  Who knew?

But Tabitha is eagerly looking forward to higher education and we’re going to do whatever we can to make that happen.  So: FAFSA.

I learned a few things.

First, if you have been diligent about saving money for your child’s college education, this will be held against you.  That comes under “parental assets” and will decrease the amount of need-based financial aid you will receive.  I’m kind of glad we went to visit our friends in Europe now, since that money went toward experiences that were both fun and, in their ways, educational, and can’t be used to diminish any aid we receive.

Second, there is a lovely little feature called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that allows you to switch over to the IRS computers and have your tax information entered automatically into your FAFSA, thus saving you the immense paperwork that happens when your manually entered tax information contains a typo of any kind – trust me, having watched students go through the verification process, I understand far better how sausages are made.  Unfortunately, if you are on the IRS’s “Someone Tried to Steal Your ID” list – a large and growing list these days – you can’t use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  This was an unwelcome discovery.

Third, they want to know where you’re going to send this information.  This makes sense, but there are just so many code numbers the human mind can handle and after a while you begin to wonder if it would be easier to send your FAFSA to every university in the country.  And this is why they limit you to ten. 

But it’s in and we’ll see how it goes for now.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Finding The Way

Helen owes me a drink.

Helen is our GPS gizmo.  She sits in the minivan most of the time, but we pull her out when we need to and let her direct us to wherever we wish to go when we don’t know where precisely that is.  She’s named after Helen Keller, and there’s a reason for that.

It’s fall and Tabitha is a high school senior, and that means that it is officially College Visit Season.  We’ve been plinking about with that for a while now – a couple this past summer, a few the summer before that – and now we’re coming down to crunch time.  So she and I headed out Thursday evening for one last round: a three-campus, two-state, 51-hour tour that put about 750 miles on the van.

We had a grand time, the two of us.  You don’t usually get that kind of close time with teenagers, who are often a blur across the landscape, so it was a treat for me that way.  I have good kids.

We spent Thursday night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, enjoying the company and the dinner and generally being well cared for.  And then Friday morning we headed up to the Small Liberal Arts College.

Tabitha really likes SLACs.  They’re cozy and come with a ready-made community for you to fit into.  They generally take good care of individual students, since there are few enough of them to do that.  They can be limited by that small size, particularly for someone whose interests are both broad and changing, but everything is a trade.

It was fall break at the SLAC, so we almost literally had the place to ourselves.  We found the Admissions Office, and since the normal student guides were out we ended up having an Admissions Officer give us the first part of the tour.  They have a very nice campus, complete with the only on-campus cemetery I have ever seen.  The Admissions Officer didn’t comment on it, so I guess after a while you stop noticing it.  We had a short interview with a second Admissions Officer, and then she gave us the rest of the tour.  That’s where we encountered the only student left on campus, though we never actually saw them.  Someone was playing that organ in the music recital hall, though. 

We said our goodbyes, hit the drive-through burger joint for lunch, and made the three-hour trip to the Mid-Sized Public University with four minutes to spare.

MSPU turned out to be much more impressive than we thought it would.  They have all of the majors that Tabitha is currently considering (which SLAC didn’t), a gorgeous campus, and a nice town to put it all in.  Our tour guide was a cheerful young woman who never once stopped to breathe yet somehow managed to keep a constant stream of information coming at us for over an hour, and you have to appreciate that kind of enthusiasm.  The place is built onto the side of a mountain, but you can just think of it as a free workout session if you’d like.  On the whole, MSPU ended up rather high on the prospective list after that visit, much more so than before we visited.

We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town before we left.  We were pretty much the only customers there when we walked in, but by the time we left the place was packed with young adults in concert black – apparently an acapella concert had just ended and the choir felt for burritos.  Can’t blame them, really.  They were good burritos.

We then drove another hour and a half to the Big City In Another State, found our hotel (the single most hipsterish hotel I have ever been in), and crashed for the night.

The next morning our goal was to visit the Big University Campus in that city.  I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, since when my alarm went off at 7am it was midnight dark, lashing rain, and flashing lightning.  Fortunately the storm blew over quickly and by the time we had to go on our tour there was only a light, intermittent rain.  BUC was a great place and we were both impressed by it, even on a grey, rainy October day.  Our tour guide – another cheerful young woman, but with a sarcastic side that Tabitha and I appreciated greatly – gave us a nice look-round.  They have a curling club.  They have All The Majors (and then some) and a high standard of academic rigor, they have a pretty good affordability rating according to our college savings account balance, and they are out of state which means that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) can’t destroy them before she graduates.  I wish I were kidding about that last one being a factor we take into account these days.  I really do.

After it was over we strolled back toward the hotel, stopping off for a nice lunch along the way.  If you're going to go to college in a city, you should make use of the city - it's a great resource.  We then found our car and headed out of the city.  This is easier said than done, for this particular city is designed specifically to thwart foreign invaders by being completely unnavigable by outsiders.  The last time I tried to get out of that city – pre-Helen – it took me over an hour to find an entrance to a highway I could see from my hotel, and by the time I did I was in a completely different city altogether.  Helen was my ticket out this time.

Also, it wasn’t enough just to get out of the city.  We still had to get to a friend’s house up that way.  We’d been there a couple of weeks ago and left a few things that we thought we could just pick up rather than have him find a post office (few and far between in that part of the world) to mail them back to us.  He wasn’t actually home this time, but he told us to go on in and get our stuff.  So we entered his coordinates into Helen and, trustingly, headed out.

And this is where the fun began.

She took us by a rather northerly route through a number of increasingly small towns and smaller roads, until we ended up in a Tourist Town on the river that we needed to cross.  It’s a small town on a big river, and it was therefore with some dismay that we made the turn to get onto the bridge and saw the big chain link fence across the entry and the sign saying “Closed.” 

Okay, now what?

Well, we could see another bridge to the south, so we headed that way until we found a way onto it.  And having crossed the river (much to Helen’s dismay, as she kept shouting at us to turn back and use the [closed] bridge.  Not gonna drown today, Helen!  Not today!) we then re-entered our friend’s address, Helen having conveniently forgotten it in the confusion.  Conveniently

She then took us on a northwestern course on a small state highway that ended abruptly in an orange sign and a pile of dirt with no detour posted.

Half an hour later, after some more traditional map-reading, no small amount of expert-level profanity (isn’t it great when your kids get older and you don’t have to hide that stuff from them anymore?) and a fortuitously placed gas station so we didn’t get stranded in the wilderness to be picked clean by vultures and wolves, we found our way again.

We collected our stuff, and drove home.  It was nice to be back.  I am owed a drink, though.

Maybe two drinks.

Tuesday, October 17, 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.  In what has to be the least competent bullshit PR manufacture of fake outrage ever perpetrated by a supposed grown-up, Vice President Mike “Toady” Pence flew to Indiana on the taxpayer’s dime, pretended to go to a football game, and then walked out in high dudgeon because several Americans were peacefully exercising their First Amendment right of political protest.  He and der Sturmtrumper later publicly admitted that this was a set-up from the word Go, that Pence – whose testicles are apparently sitting in a jar on the Oval Office desk – was simply following orders from der Sturmtrumper. 

2. Let’s walk through that, shall we?  A sitting vice president, on orders from his boss, spends nearly a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer funds that might have been better used for, say, working to give American citizens in hurricane-damaged areas access to electricity, food, and clean water, to go to a sporting event.  This event was long-planned as a tribute to a once-in-a-generation athlete who played for the home team and whom Mike “Toady” Pence insists he is a big fan of.  Pence and der Sturmtrumper know full well that there will be Americans exercising their Constitutional right to peaceful political protest at this game.  So they deliberately upstage the tribute in order to score petty points with their drooling base over a non-issue that is specifically designed to distract Americans from the failure of der Sturmtrumper’s administration to achieve even basic bureaucratic competence.  Have I missed a step here?  Is there more to this?  Or have I pretty much gotten the message here?

3. Hah. 

Do you think der Sturmtrumper will fire THIS “son of a bitch” for protesting on the job?  Not that he can, legally, but still.  Just one more example of how flexible the right wing can be when they’re not hampered by principles or morals.

4. Good thing the Party of Patriotism and Fiscal Responsibility is in charge, so they can waste money grandstanding against the Constitution.

5. Speaking of fiscal responsibility, the analyses of der Sturmtrumper’s budgetary war on America are coming in, and they are not pretty.  Here in Wisconsin, 61% of the value of the proposed tax cuts will go to the top 1%, while the bottom 60% will split 12% of the value (the bottom 20% only get to divide up 1% of the value of the cuts, so shop early!).  Millionaires – 0.5% of the state’s population – will get 54% of the value of the tax cut.  To put some dollar amounts on this, the bottom 20% of the population will see a tax cut of $60 per person.  Don’t spend it all in one place.  The top 1% will see $75,550 in cuts per person, which is more than the bottom 50% even earn.  And 13% of taxpayers would actually have to pay more in taxes.  Meanwhile this will cost the US about $5,600,000,000,000 over the next decade or so, according to nonpartisan analysis.  You know, it takes a twisted kind of genius to raise taxes on more than one American out of every ten and still blow a hole in the national debt big enough to float an aircraft carrier through.

6. No, that metaphor was not accidental. 

7. The fucking Nazis continue to march in Virginia.  A pop-up rally of a couple dozen of them disgraced the park where one of them murdered a peaceful protester back in August.  Remember, folks – this country used to give medals to people who shot Nazis and we called those people The Greatest Generation for doing so.  We used to understand that Nazis were scum.  The fact that there are people in political office today who coddle Nazis is a sign that the American republic is faltering badly.  Seriously – fuck the Nazis.

8. It’s been fun watching the conflict between Republican Senator Bob Corker – a reliably conservative but not mindlessly partisan politician – and der Sturmtrumper over the last few days here.  Corker, who was once briefly considered as a running mate for der Sturmtrumper before that prize fell to the Toady, has announced his retirement from the Senate after two terms in office, and apparently this was enough of an issue to der Sturmtrumper – who, as president, is in theory the leader of the GOP, as much as that collection of driftless con artists can be said to have a leader these days – that he launched several of his patented Twitter ragefests from the White House shitter.  Corker responded by saying, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.  Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”  Note carefully that not a single Democrat was involved in this exchange.  Not sure who der Sturmtrumper thinks is going to support anything he wants, at this rate.

9. Corker also noted for the record that der Sturmtrumper is treating the presidency like “a reality show” – “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something” – and this should be a cause for alarm among American citizens who actually have a clue about reality.  Der Sturmtrumper’s reckless disregard for anything beyond his own ego is leading the US down “the path to World War III,” with his juvenile threats toward other countries, and it is only through the heroic efforts of senior officials in the White House that der Sturmtrumper hasn’t already brought himself and the US to grief.  “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” he told the New York Times.  Corker singled out James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and John Kelly as the thin blue-suited line separating the United States from the unmitigated psychosis of der Sturmtrumper unleashed.

10. Corker also said what pretty much every intelligent observer already knows – that the GOP knows full well what a disaster der Sturmtrumper is as a political leader, and is simply unwilling to face it.  “Look,” he said, “except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we we’re dealing with here. … [O]f course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”  The thing is, of course, that the GOP still thinks they can harness der Sturmtrumper and use him to implement their agenda.  The stakes for that particular gamble are rather high, and even if they win the rest of us still lose.  We lose either way, not that this bothers the GOP.

11. Robert Reich spoke with a friend of his – a former GOP Congressman – who, like many Republicans who are not constrained by political ambition, is willing to be honest about der Sturmtrumper and what he is doing to both their party and my country.  It’s worth quoting in full:

Me: So what’s up? Is Corker alone, or are others also ready to call it quits with Trump?
He: All I know is they’re simmering over there.
Me: Flake and McCain have come pretty close.
He: Yeah. Others are thinking about doing what Bob did. Sounding the alarm. They think Trump’s nuts. Unfit. Dangerous.
Me: Well, they already knew that, didn’t they?
He: But now it’s personal. It started with the Sessions stuff. Jeff was as loyal as they come. Trump’s crapping on him was like kicking your puppy. And then, you know, him beating up on Mitch for the Obamacare fiasco. And going after Flake and the others.
Me: So they're pissed off?
He: Not just that. I mean, they have thick hides. The personal stuff got them to notice all the other things. The wild stuff, like those threats to North Korea. Tillerson would leave tomorrow if he wasn’t so worried Trump would go nuclear, literally.
Me: You think Trump is really thinking nuclear war?
He: Who knows what’s in his head? But I can tell you this. He’s not listening to anyone. Not a soul. He’s got the nuclear codes and, well, it scares the hell out of me. It’s starting to scare all of them. That’s really why Bob spoke up.
Me: So what could they do? I mean, even if the whole Republican leadership was willing to say publicly he’s unfit to serve, what then?
He: Bingo! The emperor has no clothes. It’s a signal to everyone they can bail. Have to bail to save their skins. I mean, Trump could be the end of the whole goddam Republican party.
Me: If he starts a nuclear war, that could be the end of everything.
He: Yeah, right. So when they start bailing on him, the stage is set.
Me: For what?
He: Impeachment. 25th amendment.
Me: You think Republicans would go that far?
He: Not yet. Here’s the thing. They really want to get this tax bill through. That’s all they have going for them. They don’t want to face voters in ’18 or ’20 without something to show for it. They’re just praying Trump doesn’t do something really, really stupid before the tax bill.
Me: Like a nuclear war?
He: Look, all I can tell you is many of the people I talk with are getting freaked out. It’s not as if there’s any careful strategizing going on. Not like, well, do we balance the tax bill against nuclear war? No, no. They’re worried as hell. They’re also worried about Trump crazies, all the ignoramuses he’s stirred up. I mean, Roy Moore? How many more of them do you need to destroy the party?
Me: So what’s gonna happen?
He: You got me. I’m just glad I’m not there anymore. Trump’s not just a moron. He’s a despicable human being. And he’s getting crazier. Paranoid. Unhinged. Everyone knows it. I mean, we’re in shit up to our eyeballs with this guy.

12. Of course the problem with relying on people to constrain der Sturmtrumper, as The Atlantic has pointed out, is that this means there are a lot of people in the federal government circumventing Constitutional processes for the good of the nation.  Such as the military.  Or, to quote directly: “Good news: The people containing the commander-in-chief have to a considerable extent succeeded. The United States has not launched a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, abandoned Estonia to the Russians, cancelled NAFTA, or started a trade war with China—each and every one of those outcomes a seemingly live possibility if you heeded Trump’s own words.  Bad news: the national security services are apparently coping with Donald Trump in ways that circumvent the president's constitutional role as commander in chief. … The military and intelligence agencies are learning new habits of disregard for presidential statements and even orders that those agencies deem ignorant or reckless. By and large, those agencies’ judgments are vastly to be preferred to the president’s—but that does not make these habits any less dangerous.”  One of the critical factors in the historically rather unlikely survival of the American republic has been its strict subordination of the military and related services to civilian control.  When they are forced by the instability of the civilian leadership to use subterfuge or even outright defiance against that leadership for the greater good of the nation, that sets a very bad precedent.  What happens when the next president isn’t psychotic, criminal, or treasonous the way this one is, but simply follows policies that the military does not like?

13. If you’ve ever wondered just how little the abortion issue actually matters to the right-wing extremists who push it as if it were somehow the most important issue on earth, consider Colorado.  That state has managed to cut abortions by 42% over the last five years.  How?  By giving out free birth control.  You’d think this would make the anti-abortion zealots happy, but it does not – they’re the same idiots campaigning to get rid of this program, because it’s not about abortion and it’s not about human life.  It’s about restricting individual liberty and denying women the right to control their own bodies.  We have reached the point where The Handmaid’s Tale is starting to look like a documentary.

14. Of course der Sturmtrumper – a man whose ego has its own staff, including a social secretary and a fluffer – couldn’t let Senator Corker’s words go by without lashing out like the bewigged toddler that he is.  He’s decided that Corker’s height – 5’7” – is enough of an issue to insult him with, though how this is relevant he refused to explain. 

15. Given that Corker is a key senator in his own party, one who has far more friends on Capitol Hill than der Sturmtrumper does, who will remain in office for another fifteen months, and who has the power to toss der Sturmtrumper overboard without fear of consequences, der Sturmtrumper’s decision to go after him like that is, um, blisteringly stupid.  Par for the course, really.

16. The Washington Post, in an article trying to understand der Sturmtrumper’s recent all-out assault on his own government, noted that his own staff and confidants describe him as a “whistling teapot,” someone who has to vent or explode.  Given that so many of his recent tantrums have been directed at the GOP he supposedly leads as president, it’s not surprising that there may well be consequences for all this acting out.  “We’ve been watching the slow-motion breakup of the Republican Party,” said Patrick Caddell, a veteran pollster and ally of Former President Steve Bannon, “and Trump is doing what he can to speed it up.”  Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of old white men.

17. For those of you who don’t understand the intimate connection between the right-wing assault on the social safety net in this country and their complete embrace of aggressive, systematic racism (and who haven’t read the iconic Lee Atwater quote on the issue, which should be carved into granite slabs and placed at the entryways of every news outlet and public building in America), there is always statistical analysis.  A marvelous study published by the Urban Institute this past summer points to a simple correlation.  As Paul Krugman noted when describing the study, “We are uniquely unwilling to take care of our fellow citizens.  And behind that political difference lies one overwhelming fact: the legacy of slavery.  All too often, white Americans think of the social safety net not as something for people like themselves fallen on hard times, but as a giveaway to Those People.  This isn’t idle speculation.  If you want to understand why policies toward the poor are so different at the state level, why some states offer so much less support to troubled families with children, one predictor stands out: the African-American share of the population.  The more blacks, the less compassion white voters feel.”  This is perhaps why only 2 of the 11 states of the treasonous former Confederacy bothered to implement the ACA – a far lower percentage than in the US as a whole.

18.  Am I the only one who thinks that the recent spat between Ivana and Melania Trump over who is the real First Lady is just the most pathetic thing since the last drowned raccoon he saw by the highway?

19. Further thoughts on the dysfunctionality of der Sturmtrumper’s approach to, well, everything come from GOP pollster Whit Ayres: “Donald Trump got elected with minority support from the American electorate, and most of his efforts thus far are focused on energizing and solidifying the 40 percent of Americans who were with him, primarily by attacking the 60 percent who were not.  That is great for his supporters, but it makes it very difficult to accomplish anything in a democracy.”  This is perhaps why der Sturmtrumper is doing his best to remove any trace of democracy in the US.

20. And, like magic, der Sturmtrumper’s Fascist tendencies come burbling right up almost as soon as I typed that last item – and yes, as a historian, I actually do know what Fascism is (hint: it’s a coherent ideology, not a synonym for “shit I personally don’t like” the way most Americans use the term).  According to NBC, the proximate cause of Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Tillerson labeling der Sturmtrumper a “moron” (a “fucking moron” in other news reports) was der Sturmtrumper’s saying he wanted to increase the American nuclear weapons stockpile nearly tenfold – a multi-trillion dollar waste of time that would do nothing to increase American security.  When this was pointed out, der Sturmtrumper took to his Twitter feed and threatened to withhold broadcasting licenses from NBC (or, more accurately, its affiliates, since NBC itself doesn’t have such a license to begin with).  The fact that this is exactly the sort of state-sponsored retaliatory censorship that the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to prevent didn’t seem to occur to der Sturmtrumper and has yet to occur to his supporters, who so far seem okay with it.  But this is classic Fascism, for those keeping score at home.

21. According to Vanity Fair, more and more prominent GOP leaders are coming to the conclusion – obvious to the rest of us years ago – that der Sturmtrumper is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”  The article’s author, Gabriel Sherman, “spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,” a person close to Trump said. “He saw the cult of personality was broken.”  At the current rate, it will be a race to see whether he is impeached, removed because of the 25th Amendment, or annihilates himself and the rest of us in some paranoia-fueled nuclear war.  But he doesn’t finish his term.

22. One of the more interesting features of der Sturmtrumper’s proposed tax plan is that it will expand the use of “pass-throughs” – entities that pass income through to their final recipient in order to lower the tax burden on that recipient.  This was a key feature of the tax plan that Sam Brownback – the only governor in the US more beholden to the Koch Brothers than Wisconsin’s own Governor Teabagger – shoved through the Kansas legislature in 2012, and it was such a dismal failure that even the GOP recognized it.  The tax plan overall reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year (about 8%) and forced Kansas to shorten school years, stop repairing their highways, and cut aid to all but the rich.  It also didn’t do anything to stimulate jobs, the way that the magical thinking supply-siders insist that such things ought to do.  The Kansas legislature, still controlled by Republicans, finally repealed Brownback’s plan this year because it didn’t work.  And now it’s coming to the nation as a whole, because learning from catastrophic error just isn’t the sort of thing that the modern GOP does.

23. Der Sturmtrumper has pulled the United States out of UNESCO, because it’s somehow too anti-Israel for him.  So let me get this straight – a cultural organization dedicated to peace, culture, scientific progress, educational opportunities, and human rights is too anti-Israel for der Sturmtrumper, but actual fucking Nazis marching through the streets of America is just fine?  I certainly hope there were high quality illegal drugs involved in this decision, because otherwise it’s just more evidence of insanity.

24. Der Sturmtrumper is also threatening to pull disaster relief aid from Puerto Rico, despite promising Texas that such aid would be infinite and ongoing.  Can you guess what the difference is between PR and TX?  Here’s a hint: it’s not citizenship, since Puerto Ricans are in fact American citizens.  Guess again!

25.  One interesting little observation I read recently was that since Puerto Ricans are, in fact, American citizens and Puerto Rico has effectively been destroyed, it is entirely likely and 100% legal that there will be something of an exodus of Puerto Ricans (predominantly Democratic-leaning) into Florida.  Assuming the GOP hasn’t eliminated the right to vote for anyone not in the GOP by that point, the consequences of that might be interesting.

26. Has anyone bothered to tell der Sturmtrumper that he is the president of the US Virgin Islands?

27. You know, if you have to sabotage something in order to kill it, that’s a pretty good sign that it wasn’t failing to begin with.  And having failed to shove Republicare down the throats of an unwilling America (seriously, not even Republicans wanted that fetid pile of ideological dung), der Sturmtrumper has decided to go it alone by systematically destroying the things that make the ACA work and then complaining that it is now broken.  This is the standard GOP operating procedure, I have found – having lived in Wisconsin for some time now and watched Governor Teabagger (a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) rip apart a world-class educational system for ideological gain.  Find something that benefits someone other than the wealthy.  Break it.  Demand “reforms” that effectively kill it and then turn it into something that only benefits the wealthy.  Profit.  It’s not a difficult pattern to figure out, really.

28. Almost 70% of the people who will be hurt by der Sturmtrumper’s unilateral decision to end the cost-sharing subsidies that help to make the ACA function live in states that voted for him.  Not that he cares.  The casual cruelty of this president and those who continue to support him really does boggle the mind.

29. For a guy who claims to be such a businessman, der Sturmtrumper really didn’t impress those people who tried to teach him how to be a businessman.  William T. Kelley taught Marketing at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania when der Sturmtrumper was a student there.  He literally wrote the textbook on marketing.  Long before der Sturmtrumper even thought of entering politics, he told a friend – repeatedly – that “Donald Trump was the DUMBEST GODDAM student I EVER had,” an arrogant and empty-headed cipher who somehow felt he already knew it all.  We now know this as Dunning-Krueger Syndrome.  Maybe we’ll need to rename it after der Sturmtrumper.

30. Of course, this is the guy who tried to say that advances in the stock market somehow meant that the US was paying down the national debt under his watch – two things that have nothing whatever to do with each other, for those of you keeping track at home – and then less than 48 hours later gloated about how his sabotaging of the ACA made healthcare industry stocks plummet.  By his own logic, if one can dignify the random verbal diarrhea that spurts from his mouth as such, this should be increasing the debt, right?  And even in the realm of reality, where the stock market and the national debt aren't connected, I’m not sure why a guy who is theoretically so pro-business leading a party that is theoretically so pro-business should be celebrating the plunging stock values of an entire industry, particularly when that plunge is his fault. 

31. Not only is der Sturmtrumper killing the healthcare industry – one-sixth of the economy, if I recall correctly – he is also doing his best to destroy the tourism economy.  According to Forbes Magazine, while tourism in the rest of the world has increased by 4.6%, tourism here in the US has dropped by 1.4% since der Sturmtrumper was inaugurated.  That’s a 6% relative drop, and it began January 28, a week after the inauguration.  Der Sturmtrumper has not seen a quarter with a rising tourism number for the US.  This should not surprise anyone, since his belligerently ignorant stance on anyone not white, Protestant, wealthy, and and/or wrapped in a Confederate flag is well known to the world at large.  Tourism is the seventh largest employer in the US and over 80% of the companies involved in it identify themselves as small businesses.  The drop so far this year means $2.7 billion in lost revenue.  Such a businessman, our little Sturmtrumper.

32.  GOP Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada has been surprisingly blunt about der Sturmtrumper’s sabotage of the ACA.  “It’s going to hurt people,” he said.  “it’s going to hurt kids.  It’s going to hurt families.  It’s going to hurt individuals.  It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues.  It’s going to hurt veterans.  It’s going to hurt everybody. … This is going to make it much more difficult for those people out in the rural counties and in the urban areas to be able to obtain affordable insurance.”  So there are a few Republican leaders who understand the reality of the situation.  Whether they have the clout to turn their party away from its war on the American people will be interesting to see.

33. In case you’re wondering why people who pay attention to things consider the GOP to be far more corrupt than the Democrats, well, it’s just math.  Since 1964 there have been 25 years where the Democrats have held the presidency and 28 years of Republican control.  Counting only the executive branch officials that would be relevant by that metric (i.e. not Congress or judicial officials), Democrats have seen a total of three criminal indictments (2 under Clinton, one under Carter – which, if you do the math, means 0 for Johnson and 0 for Obama), one conviction, and one prison sentence (both under Clinton).  Meanwhile, Republicans have seen 120 criminal indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences.  Break that down and you have 16 indictments, 16 convictions, and 9 prison sentences for George W. Bush, 1 indictment, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Bush Sr., 26 indictments, 16 convictions, and 8 prison sentences for Reagan, 1 indictment, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Ford, and 76 indictments, 55 convictions, and 15 prison sentences for Nixon.  The entire Democratic total is less than a third of Bush Jr’s total.  But go ahead, tell me there’s no difference between the parties.

34.  The more we discover about Russian interference with the American political process on behalf of der Sturmtrumper and his minions, the worse it gets.  It’s not that they particularly like der Sturmtrumper or his pets, but rather that they find such people to be, in the gloriously apt Leninist phrase, “useful idiots.”  According to Jonathon Morgan, a former State Department advisor on digital responses to terrorism, “The broader Russian strategy is pretty clearly about destabilizing the country by focusing on and amplifying existing divisions, rather than supporting any one political party,” and this has only intensified since the installation of der Sturmtrumper’s regime.  Russian intelligence has pretty effectively compromised Facebook and Twitter, and has made serious inroads into other social media platforms as well.  You know, folks, it’s looking increasingly likely that the US recently lost a war we didn’t even know we were fighting, and now we have our own Vichy regime telling us that this is just fine.  It’s not fine, in case you were wondering.

35. Is it normal for a sitting US Secretary of State to appear on CNN to reassure us that he still has his testicles?  Asking for a friend.

36. Der Sturmtrumper’s assassination of the ACA will likely come back to haunt him, as it is now pretty clear that he owns the wreckage of the American health care system.  He thinks it will force Democrats to bargain with him, but they know very well that it just means the GOP will face the full effect of having forced insurance premiums to skyrocket.  Don’t think that the larger GOP hasn’t figured this out, either.  But, split between their extremist right wing working to burn the US down and piss on the ashes and their saner Wall Street wing that just wants a stable system they can profit from, look for them to be as effective as ever when trying to come up with a solution. 

37. All of this means that the House of Representatives is in play for the Democrats in 2018.  Do you have any idea how stupid that is?  The House has been so thoroughly gerrymandered by the GOP that even a remote possibility of it turning Democratic is an achievement of political boneheadedness of Biblical proportions.  I’m not saying it will turn Democratic, or even that such a thing is likely.  But it’s possible, and that’s astonishing.

38. Senator John “No Fucks Left to Give” McCain has apparently been liberated by his impending retirement.  Accepting a Liberty Medal in Philadelphia, he rather pointedly noted that, “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”  Now if only we could hear things like this from GOP leaders who were not retiring, we might make progress.

39. As if on cue, Former Representative David Jolly (R-FL) chimes in with a description of der Sturmtrumper as “unstable,” “risky when it comes to matters of national security,” and “an ill-tempered, unqualified and at times dangerous leader.”  In an interview on MSNBC Jolly said, “I personally as a Republican in the past few weeks have wondered, is the republic safer if Democrats take over the House in 2018.  I raised that issue with the leading Republican in D.C. last week, and the remarkable thing is he had been thinking exactly the same thing.  This is a president that needs a greater check on his power than Republicans in Congress have offered.  … We do know that we have a president who very well might put this nation at risk and this Republican Congress has done nothing to check his power.  Democrats could, and we might be better off as a republic if they take the House in 2018.”  Again, if only we could get this kind of honesty from sitting GOP elected officials, there might be progress.

40. Did you know that it is “National Character Counts Week”?  Der Sturmtrumper said so himself.  And this is why it is so, so hard to write satire these days.

41.  Looks like der Sturmtrumper’s latest attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US has met the same fate as all the previous ones, being blocked by a federal judge who has actually read the Constitution.  Not that I expect this will be the end of it.  You can’t fix stupid, only block it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

News and Updates

1. It’s grey and cool and rainy here, which is about as perfect as October weather can get as far as I am concerned.  This is weather made for mugs of tea and good books, and there should be more of it.

2. This whole week has been Homecoming Week over at Local Businessman High School.  I don’t remember Homecoming being such a big deal when I was that age, but then that was a thousand years ago in a whole other time zone, so perhaps things are different now.  All week long there have been Spirit Days, which have nothing to do with either ghosts or distilleries but rather mean wearing this or that themed clothing choice – but not that choice, or they’ll send you home (sometimes it’s clearer than others that most people don’t have enough to do).  We feel very spirited now, though some of that may have involved distilleries too.

3. The LBHS Homecoming Parade was yesterday, and they managed to get a nice break in the rain for it.  Lauren marched in the band, rattling away on the snare drum, while this year Tabitha chose to go with the Art Honor Society’s float (as opposed to the various other clubs whose floats she could have joined).  I found my usual post by the Mexican bakery and watched it all go by.

4. They did not get a break from the rain for the actual Homecoming football game, however.  We don’t normally go to the games, since Tabitha is resolutely uninterested and nobody we know is on the team, but now that Lauren is in the band we have gone to see her perform.  For the past two weeks the band has been having evening rehearsals to get their Homecoming show down correctly, so this year we went.  Except that the break in the weather that the parade enjoyed was by that point long over.  We got to the bleachers with about 8:30 left on the game clock for the first half (an eternity in American football) and stood up in the high bleachers in the driving rain while they finished out the half.  The band then formed up on the track for their show and played their first couple of songs in a light drizzle, but by their third song the deluge had begun once again and by the time they were finished with their performance we were well and truly soaked.  But it was nice to see Lauren jamming away with her bandmates, and they did a good job with their performance.  She said that the rim shots were particularly interesting in the rain, as they invariably led to a fountain of water shooting up from the drum head.

5. Our friend Nadja stopped in for the night as well last night – she lives in Minnesota and was on her way to Michigan and this was a convenient rest stop.  It was good to see her!

6. We definitely needed good things this week.  It’s been a long and frankly rather grim week down at Home Campus, and there’s a lot I could say about that but this is neither the time nor the forum for it. 

7. I have a new phone – the MotoG5 that several friends recommended in response to an earlier blog post here – and I can now make it do pretty much everything that I used to be able to do with my old phone.  I can make phone calls.  I can text.  I can use Chrome.  And that’s about it.  I have been repeatedly told by many people that there is a whole world of apps and possibilities out there, and perhaps someday I will get around to exploring it.  But since I’ve never before done any of those things, I don’t miss them now, and this gives me very little incentive to explore them further.

8. Why don’t gizmos come with manuals anymore?  My new phone came with an insert that had fewer words than Governor Teabagger’s (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) fabled 66pp Jobs Plan during his first run for office – a plan printed in a font so large that few if any pages had more than half a dozen words on them.  The phone insert also assumed that you already knew how to operate the phone, which makes me question why it was there at all.  I spent an afternoon plinking around the internet, which led to a) me finding an actual manual for my phone online that I could read at some point, and b) completely screwing up the settings on my computer somehow and having to do a factory reset on some of them.  These may or may not be connected.

9. Here I was all set to let my interest in American football continue to fade to black the way it has been doing over the last few years, and then two things happen.  First, many NFL players have moved to the front lines in the war to defend the Constitution, with the silent, non-disruptive protesting of institutional racism that they have been engaging in during the national anthem of late and the hysterical, authoritarian reaction those protests have generated.  I do feel some obligation as an American citizen to support those protests, to be honest.  It’s what any true patriot would do.  And second, my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, has chosen this year to actually be good, and it’s always more fun to watch a good game (even if they lose) than the circus of failure that had been on display for much of the last decade.  I don’t think I would have forgiven them if they were good last year, for long and complicated reasons that I don’t plan to go into here, but this year it’s kind of nice.  So I am momentarily more interested in American football than I expected to be, and so far it’s been fun.

10. Although with the NHL season now begun and the Premier League in full swing, American football is still fighting an uphill battle for my attention.  But it still in there fighting, which is more than I thought would be true by now.  Sometimes you surprise yourself.

11. Whoever thought of aging full-bodied red wine in whiskey barrels should get a medal.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Halloween Has Begun

It’s October, and among other things that means that it’s Halloween season.

It gets harder and harder to keep the seasons straight these days.  For one thing, it was 80F this past week, which in Wisconsin in how we define June.  By this point in the calendar year we should be wearing jackets, drinking hot beverages, and getting the snow-blower ready for the winter.  Instead we’re cutting the lawn in our t-shirts and picking jalepeno peppers and tomatoes out of our gardens.  Good thing the climate isn’t shifting, because otherwise?  I’d be worried. 

For another thing, the local supermarkets have had Halloween candy prominently displayed on the end caps for so long that the initial display candies have gone stale.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to react very well to spooky orange marketing in August.

But it is actually October now, which means that we can legitimately begin to speak of Halloween.  And for us, this means a trip to Michigan over the Columbus Day weekend. 

No, no.  It makes sense.  Hear me out.

Every year around this time, Kim’s brother Dave and his wife Karen put on a Halloween Bash at the little place they own in southern Michigan.  They always schedule it for this weekend because their schools are off on Monday so they can make it a big thing, and even though our schools are open today (hey, Columbus never made it this far north, what can we say?) we like to go and take part.  We don’t get to see Dave, Karen, or Emily very often, and it’s good to take our opportunities when they arise.

We’ve been going since 2008, and it’s been fun watching the event shift around as the kids all get older.  When we started going there were puppet plays and karaoke and face-painting, and the Haunted Trail was the hit of the evening.  These days what happens is that we pull up at the swamp (excuse me: “wetland”) where the house is and Tabitha and Lauren jump out of the car and disappear into the cloud of teenagers that flows through the property like fog on a chilly night, and we collect them sometime the next morning.  In between those points the adults eat, talk, and drink and generally do all the Boring Adult Things that somehow become more interesting once you age out of your teens, and everyone has a good time.  They still have the Haunted Trail, though.  It’s really impressive.  You should go see it.

Dave also set up a Zombie Reagan Memorial, which actually had a Reagan figure spinning in its grave as quotes from der Sturmtrumper were displayed on the surrounding wall and a clip of an Obama speech pointing out just how far from Reagan the current occupant of the White House actually is played over a speaker.  It was, for him, a labor of love.

This year Kim couldn’t make it because she had chemistry labs to supervise – the joy of teaching an Online chemistry class is that you have to gather the people together for the hands-on part at some point – so for the first time it was just me and the girls heading out of Our Little Town.

We arrived slightly earlier than most people, so I told the girls to make themselves useful and drove back to the hotel to check myself in, because I have long been too old to sleep on the ground anymore.  This turned out to be an adventure for two reasons.  First, Kim had actually made the reservation back when she thought she’d be coming, which meant it was in her name.  It took me the better part of half an hour to convince the desk clerk that he should honor that reservation even though it was merely her husband trying to stay the night.  And second, that part of rural Michigan is a maze, as far as I am concerned, so I rely on our GPS to get me there and back.  Helen – as in “Keller,” if you’re keeping track – got me there and back for both of the round trips I took between the house and hotel, but directed me in three different ways for the four separate trips.  She’s good for tourism that way, I suppose.

When I got back, Tabitha and Lauren were helping Neil build the bonfire.  Every year we have a conflagration of a bonfire, which you can do on a wetland since nothing else is likely to burn – especially if it rains earlier in the evening, which it did this year, and Neil is the architect of it all.  He’s good at it.  I joined in, as did a couple of other folks, and the whole thing came together nicely.

And then the teenagers disappeared, the adults ate, talked, and drank, and a good time was had by all, even as it rained for a bit.

When the rain let up, we went out back to the bonfire and set it off.

It was a windy night, which is why you’ll note the immense number of embers flying up out of the bonfire – a new feature this year that led to a few holes in sweatshirts and some minor blisters.  Also, our car is now covered in ash.  But it was a glorious fire.  There’s something about a flame that compels attention, and it was nice to stand and watch.

Eventually I went back to the hotel and collapsed.  The girls slept over, though as usual precious little sleep was actually achieved by anyone.  Today came fast and hard, but it was worth it.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Vaudeville at the Barbershop

I got my hair cut today.  This happens every so often.  Probably not as often as it should, to be honest.

For one thing, as a middle-aged white guy what happens if I go too long between haircuts is that I slowly begin to look like Benjamin Franklin, which was a difficult act to pull off in the 18th century and an impossible one to pull off now.  Franklin had some very interesting habits that don’t make it into the standard fifth-grade civics textbooks, let’s put it that way.  I’d probably be arrested.  On the other hand, though, he lived to a ripe old age and had what can only be described as a fascinating life, so maybe?

For another thing, it had been so long since the last haircut that when I went in to see if my favorite barber was there it turned out that she had left some time before.  This meant I had to break in a new one, and I never really know what to say when they ask, “How would you like it?”  Umm, shorter?  Try to make it not look like a comb-over?  More of the same only less?  So mostly I end up saying things like, “See if you can make me look good.”  And when your new barber is a fairly hip young man, perhaps he can be forgiven for trying his best to make me look like a fairly hip young man.  That’s what looks good to him, really.

I have never been hip, even when I was young and cared.  It was a valiant effort, though.  You have to give the guy credit for that.

So now my hair is much shorter than it was and I no longer look like Ben Franklin adapted for the 21st-century stage.  I’m much cooler, literally if not really figuratively.

What I love about going into real barber shops – as opposed to salons or chain hair-cuttery places – is that they always have something of an edge to them.  They are not polite places, and you either laugh along with people busting your chops and give back what they throw at you, or you go somewhere else next time.

The first real job I got after I graduated from college was as a residential counselor in a home for delinquent teenagers.  I lasted three weeks before I figured out that this just wasn’t for me.  But one of my favorite experiences while was there was taking one of the kids - a young African-American man - to get his hair cut.  I was the only white guy in a black barbershop, and those guys thought my pasty suburban self sitting in their shop was just the funniest thing they had seen in weeks.  It wasn’t mean-spirited, but it wasn’t gentle either.  And even as the subject of much of it, it was funny.

Today there was a guy a couple of chairs down from me jawboning back and forth with his barber while I was there, and it was all I could do not to fall over laughing, which would have been bad considering there was a guy working on my head with multiple sharp-edged tools at the time.

“How come nobody ever says babies are ugly?!  Some babies just ugly!”

“You ain’t never gonna say that about no babies.  Give it up.”

“Naw, man.  If my own kid was ugly, I’d come out and say, ‘That is an UGLY baby!’”

“The hell you would!  That baby’s mama kill you right there.”

“But I’d be right!”

“Don’t matter!  You bring in your own son and say he's ugly and you’ll never get a haircut in this place again.  They cut your hair, I quit right then.”

“I would!”

“No dad says his kid is ugly.  That’s what uncles are there for.”


“That’s what uncles are there for, man!  If I’m your brother and you bring your ugly kid in, I’ll be the one tell you that kid is ugly.”

“Oh no you won’t!  I can say that about my kid, but nobody else can!”

And on and on.  Seriously – these guys should take that routine on the road.

You’ll never get this kind of entertainment at the local Chain Hair-Cuttery, no matter how hip you end up looking.

Monday, October 2, 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.  Every time I sit down to write these lists I think to myself, “I am so damned tired of politics right now and I would very much like to stop thinking about it.”  And you know, I could.  I have that privilege.  I am a straight white middle-class man who is very much not the target of any particular hate group at the moment (unless you count the fact that I am educated and work at a university, which both seem to raise the ire of the ignorant).  I could sit this out.  But that really isn’t how things work.  From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.  I am awash in unearned privilege.  It has served me well, and so I stand and shout because there are too many people in this country who don’t have the privilege of being able to ignore what is happening to the American republic and who don’t have the opportunity to shout.  I have no illusions as to the world-changing nature of blog posts, but it is important to do what you can, when you can. 

2. I can’t be the only person who was both amused and horrified by the recent story in Business Insider that documented the heroic efforts of der Sturmtrumper’s staff to provide their boss with the kind of basic information about world events, national security, and public policy that any semi-competent Congressional intern already knows.  On the one hand, I’m glad they’re doing it, and I hope it has some impact beyond making everyone involved just that much older.  On the other hand, you’d think a President would come into the office knowing these things.  But then you’d be wrong.

3. Der Sturmtrumper’s performance at the UN was yet another international disgrace and would likely cause him political problems if it weren’t for the fact that his political base has no idea what the UN is or why it matters and probably doesn’t care very much about the fact that the rest of the world now regards the US as something of a cross between a laughingstock and a heavily-armed drug addict.  You know, folks, there are more people outside of the US than in, and eventually they will decide that they don’t need us anymore.  And when that happens, there will be precious little we can do about it.

4. It looks like the most recent iteration of Republicare is also likely to go down in flames [EDIT: and, indeed, it did], and really it couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate bill.  By all accounts it is even more pointlessly cruel, politically untenable, structurally unsound, and poorly reasoned than the previous ones, which is probably why it was put together in secret and scheduled for a grand total of 90 seconds’ worth of consideration before a vote would be taken.  They know very well this cockroach of a bill couldn’t survive the light of day – hell, most REPUBLICANS don’t like it – but then the modern GOP really isn’t about democracy or public service in any meaningful way and hasn’t been for more than two decades.  They weren’t even pretending.  The senators who said they were going to vote for this abomination unto the American people basically said that they knew that it was a horrifyingly bad bill that the overwhelming majority of American citizens wanted nothing to do with but their donors wanted it and the rich deserve the tax break and fuck you that’s why, and they were refreshingly honest about it. 

5. The fact that this bill was opposed by every single professional medical organization, hospital association, and insurance organization in America – seriously, if you haven’t read the joint statement released by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the BlueCross BlueShield  Association, you need to do so now, as it is a masterpiece of bureaucratic knife-fighting – did surprisingly little to dissuade the Republicare warriors that their chosen method of declaring war on US citizens was perhaps immoral, unwise, poor business, and generally the opposite of what intelligent human beings would even consider let alone actually enact.  Nor did it seem strange to the backers of this bill that the only way they could gain the support of wavering senators was to promise not to have the bill apply to their states.  In this way it reminded me of the suicide squad in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was trained to infiltrate the enemy base and then, with startling efficiency, commit suicide.  Have at it, boys.

6. Seriously, I question the patriotism of anyone who could support such a rabidly anti-American bill.

7. The Russian noose continues to tighten, as it becomes more and more clear that Robert Mueller is going to follow the strands of corruption and impeachable offense as far as he needs to follow them.  He’s pretty close to breaking Manafort (currently the subject of a FISA warrant, which is not something one obtains lightly) and one suspects that Flynn won’t be too far off.  Look for der Sturmtrumper to make ever wilder and more dangerous moves to distract from this as the rope burns get fiercer.

8. Such as, oh, getting involved in a pointless war with a nuclear power over what is essentially a middle-school name-calling contest.  Remember when it was North Korea that was run by the unstable and immature psychopath?  Good times, man.

9. And in the middle of all this, der Sturmtrumper decides that the most pressing problem facing the United States is the peaceful exercise of 1st Amendment rights to political protest by professional athletes.  The level of stupidity that it would take to see this as a problem in the first place is utterly staggering, and for the President of the United States to make it the subject of yet another of his shitstorm Twitter ragefests is compelling evidence of mental disorder.

10. Just to point out a few things:  The proper treatment of the US flag is covered in federal law under 36 US Code, Chapter 10.  Section 171 of that part of US code does not require any particular behavior during the national anthem.  It says that anyone not in uniform “should” stand at attention, face the flag, and place their hands over their hearts, but this is not required and therefore by definition any protest that takes the form of people not so standing is by definition legal.  To treat it as a crime is therefore overstepping the bounds of the law.  Furthermore, the US Supreme Court [West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943)] explicitly ruled that nobody can be forced to take part in patriotic displays, on not only Constitutional grounds but also on the rather commonsense grounds that forced patriotism is not patriotism but authoritarianism.  As for the flag, 36 US Code, Chapter 10, Section 176 specifically deals with “Respect for [the] flag,” and lists several ways the flag can be disrespected – none of which include people kneeling during the national anthem.  Subsection (c) notes that the flag should never be displayed horizontally (as it is before football games when giant flags are stretched out across the field).  Subsection (d) says the flag should never be used as apparel, bedding, or drapery – so all those “patriotic” shirts, bathing suits, sheets, and so on?  Disrespectful.  Subsection (i) notes that the flag “should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever,” which pretty much rules out all those Fourth of July ads you see every year.  It also declares to be disrespectful any use of the flag on paper napkins or “anything that is designed for temporary use,” so you might want to rethink those picnic supplies next year.  Subsection (j) says that you can’t use the flag as a costume or athletic uniform. 

11. Also, in case you’re wondering, 36 US Code, Chapter 10, Section 176, Subsection (k) specifically says that a flag that is too worn out for display should be destroyed, “preferably by burning.”  So all of you who think that flag-burning is such an insult?  You’re on the wrong side of federal law and you’re the ones disrespecting the flag.  Irony’s a bitch.

12.  Another thing that might be of interest to discerning Americans is the fact that der Sturmtrumper’s demand that the NFL “fire” any protesting player is a clear violation of 18 US Code Part 1, Chapter 11, Section 227, which also states that any violator “may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”  So add that to the list of impeachable offenses, I guess.  It’s getting long.

13. Hint: nobody who displays a Confederate flag on their person, vehicle, or social media has any right whatsoever to criticize anyone else about their patriotism or their respect for the American flag, anthem, or veterans.

14. When you get into a political argument with someone who is willing to use their spouse’s death as a club to beat you over the head with, there really isn’t much point to responding.

15. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is once again pointing out the severity of the Russian assault on American democracy, noting that Russian interference in 2016 was enough to cast doubt on the legitimacy of der Sturmtrumper’s victory.  Think about that, folks.  It is possible, even likely, that American democracy has been suborned by a hostile foreign power, and an entire political party has no problem with that because they won.

16. The US Department of Homeland Security has notified 21 states that their election systems were the targets of Russian hacking last year.  Wisconsin naturally chose to cut six jobs from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is charged with overseeing the security of its election system.  But surely that’s just a coincidence, right?

17. In keeping with the general lawlessness of the modern GOP, one of der Sturmtrumper’s closest advisors – Roger Stone – is now publicly warning Americans that if Congress were to follow the law and Constitution and impeach der Sturmtrumper for his many and varied crimes, there would be “an insurrection like you’ve never seen,” and that any politician who voted to hold der Sturmtrumper accountable “would be endangering their own life.”  Yeah, that’s going to help.  Thanks.

18. So der Sturmtrumper’s son-in-law – you know, the one he’s been farming out pretty much every federal initiative short of an actual land invasion of a Third World country to be named later – has been using a private email server to conduct government business, and if you think the same chuckleheads who have been shouting “Lock her up!” at Hillary Clinton for her emails are going to give a damn when it’s one of their own then you haven’t been paying attention.  Remember the Republican Standard: rules are for other people.

19. But wait!  There’s more!  According to the New York Times, not only has Jared Kushner been using a private email server for federal business, but so too were Steve Bannon, Reince (No, Really, That’s His Name) Priebus, Gary Cohen, Stephen Miller, and, perhaps not surprisingly, Ivanka Trump as well.  Seriously – rules are for other people, not Republicans.

20. No, I don’t think any of that was criminal.  Sloppy as hell, and unprofessional – which pretty much describes the Sturmtrumper administration completely, when you think about it.  But then I didn’t think it was criminal when Hillary did it either, and – the real point here – they did.  It’s the rank hypocrisy of it, much the way you can set your watch by the revelations that the most viciously homophobic GOP legislators (almost always male, strangely enough) are so often arrested with underage boys.  Rules, &c.

21. So der Sturmtrumper has decided that a third try at his Muslim Ban is just what we need now.  Naturally he did this on a Sunday night, without any noticeable discussion or press, after a full day of shit-stirring about useless issues designed to rile up his base (**cough**cough**NFL anthems**cough**cough).  Because I suppose he thinks we’re too limited to notice two things at once?  Maybe he is, but I’m not.  This is just as much of a dipshit idea as it was before, only now he doesn’t even have the excuse of ignorance, having had the first two slapped down fairly abruptly.

22. Acting DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg is now planning to resign, because he has concluded that der Sturmtrumper has no respect for the law.  To which the rest of us say, “well, yeah.”

23. In the wake of the total devastation of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, der Sturmtrumper has pointedly refused to waive shipping restrictions that limit trade between coasts of the US to US-flagged ships and allow food, fuel and supplies to reach the island on any available ship, regardless of flag.  While the Jones Act has been temporarily waived to help Houston and Florida after their hurricanes, the poor, brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people of Puerto Rico just don’t rate, I suppose.  [EDIT: Apparently somebody must have told the GOP that Puerto Ricans are actually American citizens and therefore have the right to sue in American courts, because suddenly all of the criticism of their intransigence actually seemed to matter and they’ve lifted the Jones Act for Puerto Rico.  How much praise one should give people for being publicly shamed into doing what they should have done automatically because it is the right and moral thing to do is an interesting question.  Discuss.]

24. According to a UW Madison study, nearly 17,000 registered voters in Dane and Milwaukee Counties – the counties where Madison and Milwaukee are, and strongly Democratic – were deterred from voting by the draconian Voter ID law rammed through the Wisconsin Legislature by Governor Teabagger.  When you add up the rest of Wisconsin, as many as 23,000 fully qualified voters, American citizens who are legally and Constitutionally qualified to vote in all elections, had their votes suppressed by Wisconsin’s draconian Voter Elimination Act.  Given that der Sturmtrumper won Wisconsin by less than those 23,000 votes, it is fairly clear that the Republican war on voting is working as designed.  Pretty soon there will be no need to vote at all, and your GOP masters will simply inform you of any changes in overlords.  Or not, as they see fit.

25. If there has been one salutary effect of der Sturmtrumper’s war on the NFL, it has been the countless Actual Military Veterans who have stepped up to tell him to go to hell, pointing out that their service was to the Constitution and ideals of the United States and not a piece of fabric or the political views of an authoritarian minority.  That’s what happens when a toy soldier like der Sturmtrumper runs into the real thing, I suppose.

26. And now the IRS is sharing information with Robert Mueller about several key officials in der Sturmtrumper’s campaign.  So at least someone in America may soon see der Sturmtrumper’s tax returns.

27. Michael Hayden, a retired 4-star general who has led both the CIA and the NSA, weighed in on der Sturmtrumper’s War On The NFL as well.  “As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight,” he said.  “It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner.  I never imagined saying this before Friday, but if now forced to choose in this dispute, put me down with Kaepernick.”  So yes, the people with Actual Clues are weighing in, thank you.

28. In the latest “Fourth Amendment?  What Fourth Amendment?” news, apparently der Sturmtrumper’s DHS is planning to start collecting all social media information on anyone who has ever immigrated to this country, including permanent residents and – the real kicker – naturalized citizens.  Because what is the Constitution besides a piece of inconvenient paper when it comes to authoritarian dictatorships?  Remember when conservatism meant smaller, less intrusive government?  Good times, man.

29. Roy Moore – the so-called-Christian and criminal theocrat who was twice thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for gross insubordination and Dominionist subversion – won his primary against the guy der Sturmtrumper actually wanted, which is less of a victory for humanity than you’d think.  Moore is the man who defied federal courts on human rights, on religious freedom, and on pretty much any issue that didn’t conform to his blasphemous ideology, and he’s just one forgone conclusion of an election away from being a Senator now.  As Charles Pierce said, “I’m out of empathy for this stuff. I’m out of pity. I’m out of patience. And, not for nothing, but Moore’s opponent is a guy named Douglas Jones. In 2001, Jones convicted two men for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, one of the iconic white supremacist terrorist acts of that period. One of those bastards already died in prison and the other keeps getting denied parole. If you’d rather be represented in the Senate by a lawless theocratic lunatic, rather than a guy that finally got justice for four murdered little girls, well, you deserve anything that goddamn happens to you.”

30. It appears that der Sturmtrumper spends his private time mocking the physical appearance of both John “Zero Fucks Left to Give” McCain and Mitch McConnell.  On the one hand, McConnell is the sleaziest man in Washington DC and that’s saying something.  On the other hand, going to war with the leaders of what is, theoretically, his own party is probably not all that wise.  But then nobody ever accused der Sturmtrumper of being smart.

31. The Children’s Health Insurance Program expired on September 30th, and the GOP Congress didn’t bother to do anything to save a program that provides 9 million children with health insurance, because fuck you that’s why.  The program goes back to the 90s, so it’s not like it has Obama cooties on it.  Some folks in Congress – Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) – were working on something, but not successfully.  This is what happens when the GOP spends all its time working to take away healthcare from everyone else too, I suppose.

32. So, having failed to gut American healthcare, der Sturmtrumper and his minions, cronies, and lackeys turn their attention to looting the treasury through what they euphemistically refer to as tax “reform.”  As always, the sum total of their creativity can be expressed in a simple declarative sentence: “Give more money to the rich because something something something Laffer curve mumble mumble magic beans something something prosperity out of nothing mumble mumble SQUIRREL!”  Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but this is stupid.  Say it with me, folks: Supply side economics does not work in a demand side economy.  Never has.  Never will.  All it does is transfer wealth out of the hands of the poor and middle class and into the hands of the already wealthy, and if your goal is an ancien regime society of nobles and peasants you can’t ask for a better plan than that, but if you’re looking for a strong middle-class democracy then you should search elsewhere.

33.  There’s a reason the American middle class got smaller under Reagan and Bush Jr, and why it has gotten precipitously smaller in Wisconsin since the election of Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries).  There’s also a reason why it got bigger under Bill Clinton, who raised taxes on the wealthy and was rewarded with an economic boom that was in fact greater than the one in the 1980s.  Again: supply side economics does not work in a demand side economy.  It really is that simple.

34. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe Bruce Bartlett, who was a key economic advisor for Ronald Reagan and developed the now-bog-standard GOP tax mythology of “tax cuts = prosperity” while working for Representative Jack Kemp.  That “mythology” (his word, I will point out) is nonsense.  “That’s wishful thinking,” he wrote in the Washington Post.  “So is most Republican rhetoric around tax cutting.  In reality, there’s no evidence that a tax cut now would spur growth.”  As Bartlett points out, the economic growth of the 1980s was due to any number of factors and was in fact less in terms of percentage of GDP 35.9%) than the growth of the 1970s (37.2%), when taxes were supposedly holding back the economy.  There is, he writes zero – absolutely none – evidence that the tax cut of 1986 did any economic good whatsoever, and for all the tax cuts imposed by Bush Jr the economy grew by only 19.5% of GDP, which you will note is just about half of what it was in the 1970s.  And when Obama let some of the Bush Jr tax cuts expire he was rewarded with the longest consecutive month streak of economic growth in American history.  Reality: not the friend of the GOP.

35. If you’re wondering why the GOP tax plot is the unholy mess it is, you might want to ask der Sturmtrumper’s economic advisor Gary Cohn, who thinks that the average American family brings in almost twice what the actual median income for a family of four is and that you can buy a car or a kitchen for $1000.  It’s this kind of delusional thinking that has been sabotaging the American economy since 1981.

36. Perhaps this is why the GOP tax “plan” is a half-baked incomplete outline full of nonsense, magical thinking, elisions, empty rhetoric, and gaps.  Not that this deterred them on health care.  What details there are point to a vicious and open war on everyone not already wealthy, one that will see vast transfers of wealth up the social ladder.  But then, how hard is it to predict the future when these nitwits keep doing the same thing over and over?

37. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, der Sturmtrumper’s Magical Tax Plan O’ Wishful Thinking will cost the US $2.4 trillion in its first ten years, with an additional $3.2 trillion in the next ten years.  The bottom 95% of earners will see a 1.2% increase in their after-tax earnings, while the top 1% will see an 8.5% increase.  The top 1% will see a tax cut that is roughly 80x the tax cut of the average person.  And by 2027 about a quarter of taxpayers will see their tax bills increase.  Yeah, this is pretty much More Of Same.  The basic GOP position on wealth is that if we give the rich more, the crumbs they drop for the rest of us will be bigger.  You know, I’m not sure how much antifreeze you have to drink in order to make that idea make any sense at all to you, but it’s more than I am willing to consume.

38. You have to give Wisconsin’s Own Republican Senator Ron Johnson – the dumbest man in the legislature now that Rick Santorum has retired – some credit for being honest, at least.  When the rest of the GOP makes comfortable mooing sounds about actually giving a damn about the American people, Johnson just comes right out and tells us to go to hell.  He actually came right out and told a high school student in a public forum that not only was health care a privilege reserved for the wealthy, but so too were food, clothing, and shelter.  Think about that for a moment, why don’t you.  Suddenly the GOP platform makes a whole lot more sense, doesn’t it?

39. Certainly der Sturmtrumper’s reaction to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Puerto Rico makes a lot more sense in light of Johnson’s frank declaration of Republican priorities.  Let’s start with the fact that he thinks dedicating a golf trophy to people who are without food, electricity, or shelter is at all appropriate, let alone beneficial, and then move on to the immoral and utterly un-American treatment of American citizens by what is supposed to be their own government – how der Sturmtrumper has attempted to bully and shame American citizens for expecting their own government to help out in time of catastrophe, which is after all THE ENTIRE FUCKING PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT.  There is no further evidence needed to prove the utter moral leprosy of der Sturmtrumper and anyone who continues to support him in light of these events.

40. And, yet again, I wake up to find that there has been another mass shooting in the US, another slaughter of the innocent by some penis-deficient white man (you knew he was white even before seeing a picture because he was described as a “lone wolf” instead of a “terrorist”) compensating for his shortcomings with high-powered weaponry, another mass murder by firearm that somehow, some way, magically seems to keep happening in the only industrialized democracy on earth that refuses to put any meaningful limits on guns but is so rare elsewhere where such restrictions are in place.  I am So Fucking Tired of this shit.  And yet I know nothing will happen.  We as Americans have decided that this is an acceptable price to pay for access to guns, and we will continue pay it until such time as we grow up and decide otherwise.  Take a long hard look, my fellow Americans, at what political party stands in the way of regulations on weapons of mass murder – even regulations that are supported by over 80% of the population, which by definition includes members of that party – and which party does not.  Any surprises?  Thought not.

41. Of course nothing will come of this reckoning.  Don’t be stupid.  The debate over regulating guns in the US ended after Sandy Hook.  We had someone walk into an elementary school and slaughter nearly two dozen first-graders and the only result of that was we went out and bought more guns.  So the next time some yellow-bellied coward tries to take away your Constitutional rights in the name of security because all those brown-skinned foreign terrorists who hate us for our freedoms are Coming After Us, ask them what those terrorists can possibly do to us that we don’t already do to ourselves with gleeful abandon and greater efficiency.  And if you get an answer that makes any grammatical sense, count yourself lucky.

42. When Americans decide that they value their children more than they value their guns, things will change.  Until then, they won’t.  It really is that simple.