Friday, December 1, 2017

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Situation

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LucyInDisguise said...

5. I, for one, would be willing to pay hard cash for the privilege of reading this. Serious.

20. Crickets

24. The Truth will set you free.

26. 25th Amendment? The IdiotInChief never got all the way through the Preamble, let alone Article 2. The Amendments are way past that … and #25 is near the end of that list.

Oh, wait. Us, not him. Nevermind.

35. Always thought those blokes could be a levelheaded group. Even though it would be a phenomenal embarrassment to me as a Citizen of the United States, I would so love to see him banned from the UK. Actually can not stop giggling at the idea.

41. Super Duper Extra Butter (artificially flavored artificial butter) microwave popcorn by the 24 pak box load. With fun size Hershey’s Almond bars on the side.

But it ain’t helping.


David said...

Hi Lucy -

5. Well, thanks! I hope it doesn't come to that, though. It shouldn't. I have no idea why any corporation is allowed to charge money for allowing us access to the taxpayer-funded and -created internet in the first place, let alone why they should be given complete control over it.

All of American prosperity has come from public money given to private interests. Western settlement. Railroads. Highways. Internet. All of it.

24. My dad was a keen observer of reality.

35. The British government has its own issues right now, as it sets out with all deliberate speed to screw up a Brexit that so many of the people who voted for it didn't really want and can't really accept. But the US, in perhaps the ultimate self-defeating "hold my beer" moment in history, went one better and elected this moron. The British are very good at dealing with morons far more decisively than we are, and I hope they tell him to stay home and suck eggs.

41. Popcorn, beverages, comfy chairs, and the mounting sense of existential dread that comes when you realize that der Sturmtrumper's minions, lackeys, and slack-jawed supporters neither understand nor care about his crimes. Sigh.