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.
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.