Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Yeah, this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Professor Freedom said...

I am going to borrow your "Dunning-Kruger poster child" bit. You'll get full credit, or course.

David said...

Borrow away! I'm happy to have that out there in the public domain.

LucyInDisguise said...

Yep. You're definitely better at this. Either that, or we're both getting a little, uhhh, is 'shell-shocked' the phrase I'm looking for?

At least Doug Jones pulled it of by a greater margin than what would trigger an automatic re-count.

Someone still needs to explain to me how 49% of the voters in Alabama thought Moore should go to Washington. Maybe they were voting to expel him from the state? I don't think that's how that works.


David said...

Yeah, it's amazing how evenly split Alabamans were on the issue of child molestation.

And how much in favor of it white male evangelicals were. Hmmmmm.

I don't think we're shell shocked. "Mad as a boiled owl" comes to mind. Eh - we'll fight the good fight until it's over, and then fight on.

LucyInDisguise said...



David said...


LucyInDisguise said...

Wait. I think you may have just lost one of your Gold Stars on review:

37. Cite? Better yet, Link? Mine eyes have placed a request indicating that they would like to actually read that fact sheet. 'Cause reasons. Not that I'm incredulous, it's mine eyes. They simply do not believe. And I'd like to do the math for myself 'cause they probably did not show their work. + Reasons #67 & 68.



David said...

Here you go.

Item one specifically notes that those tax rates apply to lower and middle-income Americans, yet the top tax rate in that list applies to people making $450,000. That doesn't look lower or middle income to me.

LucyInDisguise said...


Here is your Gold Star back:


(Please be cautious when applying to forehead. Some of the points may be sharp. Do not eat while applying. Wear protective eyewear and hearing protection.)


James A. Brown said...

I, for one, love your political posts, and hope you'll continue them.

David said...

Thanks, James! I appreciate it. My guess is that I will be writing these for the foreseeable future.