Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bowl On, Columbia, Bowl On

I am nothing if not consistent.  At least when it comes to bowling.

Lauren’s Community Marching Band (as distinct from the Local Businessman High School marching band that she also plays in) had one of its fundraiser events tonight.  Like all nonprofit organizations the CMB is nonprofit in every conceivable sense, which means that it is a constant race between raising money and going bankrupt.  I remember this cycle well from when I used to run the museum, so I am generally pretty sympathetic to fundraisers.

Tonight was the Bowl-a-Thon.  For a slightly greater than nominal amount of money (it was a fundraiser, after all) you could reserve a lane at one of our local bowling emporia and spend a quality evening taking out your aggressions on ten stoic pins by heaving a ball at them.  Win all around, I say.

I’ve always enjoyed bowling.  I realize that this is pretty definitive proof that I am Not Cool, but then I have never been cool – not even when I was young and cared – so I’m okay with that.  I do things that I enjoy, and I let others worry about cool. 

My dad would take my brother and me bowling when we were kids.  He was a pretty straight-line bowler.  It was something of a realization for me that you could get bowling balls to curve, once someone taught me how.  I still remember the first time I actually beat my dad bowling – he did not go easy on us, since that would take all the fun out of winning, but he wasn’t exactly PBA material so we always had at least a chance to win.  It’s a nice balance that way, one that I tried to replicate with my own kids.  You’ll have to ask them if I succeeded.

In high school I was captain of the bowling team for two of the four years I was on the team.  And let me tell you a more powerful “chick magnet” you will never find!  I tell you that, except that it wasn’t true.  We just liked to pretend that it was, as we were as big a collection of nerds as you would expect of the bowling team, and proud of it.  The one woman on the team would just roll her eyes at us when we said that, which was our signal to sit down and be quiet since she could have easily pounded the lot us into a pile of mush oozing out of our rented shoes, and that’s just not how you want to be remembered.

I had the lowest average of any captain in the Central League: 157. 

I did roll a few games over 200, though, and once I got as high as 232, but there’s a reason why those games stick out as much as they do.  They weren’t common.  Mostly I remember having fun no matter what the score was, which is all you can ask of an activity, I think.

I also learned that authority figures generally have No Sense Of Humor and will, for example, put on their deepest and darkest Frowning Faces if you try to keep score at a bowling match in Roman numerals.  Even if the other captain agrees to it!  It is a lesson that has stuck with me even to this day, though what practical use it has been I could not rightly say.

We got there tonight and it was a madhouse – crowded, loud, and full of people having fun and spending money, which is generally what you hope to see in a fundraising event.  Kim, Tabitha, Fran, and I were on Lane 1 (Lauren disappeared into the crowd with her friends the instant we got there) and we got in a pretty decent three games.  Everyone broke 100 at least once.

My average for the night?  158.


We also came home with Valuable Prizes, as they were pretty much constantly drawing winners from the bucket for door prizes, raffle prizes, silent auction items, and 50/50 raffles.  So win!  It’s nice to see that the community supports the CMB enough to donate such prizes.

One thing that has changed since my high school bowling career, though?  Back in the day, there was no need for ibuprofen afterward.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I've Got Big Bags

We’re trying to put Midgie on a diet.

Midgie came to us from the pound, and we don’t know a whole lot about her life prior to being picked up by the humane society.  I’m guessing it wasn’t happy and that it involved a great deal of hunger.  She’s still, 6.5 years later, pathetically grateful to be here, and she’s still ferociously aggressive about her food – or at least as ferociously aggressive as a cat with no teeth can be.

For one thing, we finally had to separate her food from Mithra’s because otherwise Midgie would just guard the bowl and not let Mithra eat.  We even had to set up two water bowls.

For another thing, we’ve had to ration their time to eat as well.  Most cats – such as Mithra – will eat until they are full and then go do something else, and they therefore tend to keep a fairly constant weight to them.  Midgie will eat until there is no food left, which means she tends to inflate like the national debt after yet another shortsighted giveaway to the already wealthy.

This is not good, for cat or country.

Lately we’ve noticed that even these restrictions are not really helping.  But this is MURCA, which means that there are roughly a hundred million different kinds of cat food available for every specific cat-owner need.  One of these varieties is basically diet cat food – long on bulk and short on calories, designed to fool your cat into thinking that she’s full even as she slowly loses weight.  Silly cat!  So easily fooled!  I’m glad nobody has thought to try this with human food.


Anyway, I bought a small bag of the stuff a while back, thinking that if Midgie didn’t like it I wouldn’t be stuck with a ton of it going to waste.  Really, though, who was I kidding?  She hoovered it up without a second’s hesitation and asked for more.  Finicky, she is not.

When the small bag ran out I went back to the Pet Food Warehouse Store to get another bag.  This time I figured I could get a bigger bag without worry.

You really need to envision the Pet Food Warehouse Store at this point.  It’s a cavernous place, roughly the size of Vatican City but with fewer tourists.  It has sealed grey concrete floors that can accommodate the fleets of dogs that are always welcome there without getting stained, and the unfinished commercial ceiling is roughly a half a mile above your head.  Floodlights beam down on you, even in the middle of the day, because otherwise you’d need a miner’s headlamp to get around.  It’s designed to make everything in it look small, in other words, and it works like a charm.

So I go in and start looking around for the specific food that seems to be working for Midgie, and eventually I find it.  There are three different bag sizes, and I do the math.  The big bag is in fact the most economical – something that is not always guaranteed, by the way.  Ketchup and mayonnaise, for example, are almost always more economical in the middle size for some reason.

Being the Smart Shopper that I am I hoist up the big bag and lever it onto the cashier’s counter, and – having paid for it – I hoist it back up and tumble it into the car.

It’s only when I get it back to the house that I realize I’ve been Warehoused.

This is a Tribal Size bag of cat food.  It could feed a horde of cats.  You could take this bag and a feline army and invade Russia in winter and come out well fed.  It’s very much like back when Tabitha was little and we’d go to Sam’s Club for toddler supplies and she’d convince us to buy her some M&Ms and we’d pick out what looked in the store like a reasonable sized bag of candy only to come home and realize that we’d ended up with a burlap sack of M&Ms straight off the freighter, not that anyone complained too hard about that, though, now that I think about it.

I’ve divvyed the cat food into four large plastic containers now and there is still more left in the bag.  This is the TARDIS of cat food bags.  We may never see the bottom of it.

Not sure this is really going to accomplish the goal, all this food, but we’ll see.

Friday, May 18, 2018

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. Der Sturmtrumper cycles through stories faster than he cycles through lawyers.  Ty Cobb – he of the early-20th-century name and late-19th-century mustache – has gone the way of most folks in this woebegotten administration and has been replaced by, of all people, Rudy Giuliani.  Then Giuliani went on television and essentially destroyed der Sturmtrumper’s stories regarding several different legal messes.  He confirmed that he was the one who leaked the questions that other Sturmtrumper lawyers wrote based on Mueller’s enquiries, and he admitted flat out that this was an effort to slander Mueller.  He stated unequivocally that the reason der Sturmtrumper fired James Comey was to obstruct justice, though his explanation is now the third different one offered by that camp.  And he said that yes, in fact, der Sturmtrumper had paid off Stormy Daniels – that Michael Cohen did not do that out of the goodness of his heart and on his own dime, a story that had never passed the laugh test – and that this was “funneled” through a law firm to avoid campaign finance laws.  So, money laundering in other words.  FFS, even Laura Ingraham, a right-wing extremist if there ever was one, thought Giuliani screwed the pooch on this interview.

2. One from the Captain Obvious files: former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tom Price – whose tenure went about as well as everyone else’s in the current administration – has now admitted publicly that the GOP slash and burn attack on the Affordable Care Act will in fact raise premiums for Americans who want health insurance, just as the CBO said it would.  This contradicts what Price said last summer, of course, but he’s no longer on der Sturmtrumper’s payroll so perhaps he can skip the toadying now and admit what everyone else already knows.

3. Here in the hinterlands, we have Teh Crazy coming out of our ears.  Wisconsin GOP state senatorial candidate Kevin Nicholson apparently thinks that military veterans are obligated to be conservatives and that any who aren’t are simply insane.  “I question their cognitive thought process,” is how he put it, as if there were any other kind of thought process.  He also thinks that the Democratic Party has “wholesale rejected the Constitution and the values that it was founded upon.”  Speaking as someone who literally has a PhD in the political thought of the Founding Fathers and who studies the Constitution for a living, I get really tired of idiots like Nicholson, to be honest.  If any party has rejected the Constitution it is the modern GOP – a relatively recent development, actually.  I thought Reagan was a disastrous president at the time and most of the evidence that has come to light since then bears this out, but he wasn’t a threat to the republic.  Even George W. Bush was within the normal bounds of American politics (though Cheney skirted them a bit too close for comfort).  But not now.  To support a wannabe Fascist like der Sturmtrumper over the Constitution is the essence of the GOP today and veterans who have sworn to uphold the Constitution really have nowhere else to go but the Democrats, sadly enough.  I miss having a grown-up conservative party.

4. It has been once again drawn to my attention that my repeated statement that this country used to give out medals to people who shot Nazis and we called those people The Greatest Generation could be misinterpreted.  I thought I was clear enough, but I guess not.  I have already responded to this in detail but let me try once again.  I do NOT advocate that we sink to the level of bestial evil that the Nazis embody and just randomly start shooting them on principle.  The whole point of life is to be superior to the Nazis.  Admittedly this is a low bar, and one that far too many people are failing in spectacular ways these days.  But there it is.

I am simply reporting the historical fact that we used to recognize evil when we saw it and we treated it accordingly, and the world was objectively a better place for it.  We did not say that there were “fine people” on the Nazi side, because that simply is not and can never be true, by definition.  We did not tolerate them as social or moral equals.  We recognized their ethical deformities and we cast them from civilized society. 

I advocate that we go back to treating Nazis that way, immediately and without exception, including every misbegotten waste of oxygen who sympathizes with Nazism in any form.  We should stigmatize them, belittle them, hold them in the deepest contempt, and make them understand that there is no place for them in America or any part of the civilized world.  You cannot be a good American and a Nazi – hell, you cannot be a good human being and a Nazi.  There was a war about that.  The whole world was there.  For anyone to suggest otherwise is a clear sign that they have no place in civilized society and should be treated accordingly.

5. “Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.”  (Capt. John Parker, April 19, 1775, Lexington MA)

6. Am I the only one who thinks it’s funny that Melania’s parents visited the US Citizenship Office while der Sturmtrumper ramps up his attack on “chain migration”?  Maybe it's just me.

7. Who says the New York Times doesn’t have a sense of humor?  Take this lead paragraph from an article on der Sturmtrumper’s idiotic social agenda: 

The administration of Donald Trump — who had a child out of wedlock after cheating on his first wife, and is in a legal battle with a porn star who says she had sex with him not long after his third wife gave birth — is promoting abstinence with a zeal perhaps never before seen from the federal government.

Because when people are told not to have sex, of course they listen!  Right?  Hello?  Is this thing on? 

8. A new study in Political Research Quarterly notes the obvious: the two biggest trends in American religion over the last 50 years (the rise of the “religious” Right and the skyrocketing growth of atheism, agnosticism, and the general unchurched in America) are deeply connected.  As religion becomes nothing more than another tin-horn political lobbying group, people will turn away.  Theocracy breeds contempt, yes it does.

9. So Melania’s new booklet on internet safety for kids is more or less lifted straight from a 2014 booklet released by the FTC under the Obama Administration.  Given the RNC talk she gave in 2016 that was in part plagiarized from Michelle Obama, one wonders just how much of a thing she has for the Obamas and what it will take for her to go all in on it.

10. Meet the new president of the NRA.  He’s not doing too bad for a guy who should have rotted away in jail long ago. 

11.  “A cashiered colonel who is hailed by the right as some kind of American patriot hero despite the fact that he illegally sold guns to our avowed enemies in order to finance an illegal war for a mentally ill president in defiance of Congress, the law, and the express will of the American public, and who then sold out that president in exchange for immunity and then went on to become a right-wing pundit who trades in conspiracy theories elected to head the NRA is quite possibly the most NRA thing the NRA has ever done.”  (Jim Wright)

12. Remember a couple years back, when the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address saw LA Governor Bobby Jindal mock the federal government for spending money on stupid things like monitoring volcanos?  Yeah, good times.  Maybe Jindal can go to Hawaii and explain his party’s position more clearly while standing in front of the lava flow.

13. Der Sturmtrumper and the GOP are now working to bring back the Gilded Age even more by getting rid of child labor laws by repealing the Hazardous Occupations Orders, because nothing says MAGA like children being killed in factories.  Family values in action!

14. Leonard Pitts has had it with people telling him that he should try to reach out and understand der Sturmtrumper’s supporters, and he’s absolutely right to be fed up.

The idea that we must “understand” those folks carries with it an implicit suggestion that in so doing, we might find some ground for compromise. It would be a great idea in normal times. But again, these times are not normal.

No compromise is possible here for a simple reason Trump followers seem to understand better than the rest of us: You can’t compromise with demography, can’t order numbers to stop being what they are and saying what they say about the coming tide of change. But what you can do is seize the levers of power and change the rules of the game in hopes of blunting the force of that tide. That — again, look at the studies — is what Trump supporters elected him to do.

So while, it is admirable to think “understanding” can fix this country, it is also naive. Progressives should ask themselves: When’s the last time you heard any Trump supporters talking about the need to understand you? You haven’t — and that ought to tell you something.
   [Emphasis added]

15. In what the vast majority of foreign policy experts around the world are calling his most insanely stupid move yet – quite an achievement, in a twisted sort of way – der Sturmtrumper has made good on his threat to violate the nuclear deal with Iran, leaving the United States in the position of being without allies, rationale, or defensible explanation for such an idiotic move.  The Iranian deal was, by every account not actually written by the GOP, working exactly as advertised, making the world in general and the Middle East in particular a safer and more secure place.  But when your view of the world ends at your own dick and your administration is staffed with people who think “Make shit go boom!” is a viable foreign policy, that kind of thing is a threat that has to be eliminated.  This goes doubly true when the Black Guy was the one who signed off on the deal in the first place, as neither der Sturmtrumper nor his minions will tolerate solid achievements coming from someone of that hue. 

James Dobbins, former US ambassador to the EU and now working for the RAND Corporation, flatly declared that this “isolates the United States, frees Iran, reneges on an American commitment, adds to the risk of trade war with America’s allies and to a hot war with Iran and diminishes the prospect of a durable and truly verifiable agreement to eliminate the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.”

Every American and European company that did business with Iran under that framework now faces immense losses – up to $20,000,000,000.00 for Boeing alone – and political pressure that other sovereign nations are not likely to tolerate.  It will split the US and its European allies at a time when cooperation is crucial, especially if der Sturmtrumper goes through with his comically stupid threat to impose sanctions on our European allies for following an agreement that we set up and then abandoned in a juvenile political snit.  “We’re playing into Putin’s hand,” said Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia.  “For Putin, it means that the US is on the outside, and Putin is still on the inside.”

This is, of course, a plus for Putin’s Puppet.

16.  Speaking of Putin’s Puppet, in a move straight out of the Soviet Union der Sturmtrumper explicitly defined “Fake News” as anything negative said about him and threatened to suppress any news outlet that does so.  The next day his spokesbot Sarah “Huckabee” Sanders explicitly refused to say whether der Sturmtrumper’s regime wouldn’t ban any news outlet that displeased him.  Remind me why the GOP shouts so much about freedom again?  A more Orwellian bunch you’ll never see.

17. Wondering when der Sturmtrumper’s administration would find the moral rock bottom?  We have a candidate for your consideration: White House Communication Aide Kelly Sadler, on being told that Senator John McCain opposed Torturer Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA Director, responded with “he’s dying anyway.”  Sadler said it was a joke, but really – that’s always the standard defense offered by the morally crippled when they’re caught out in public saying things that other people tell them they should have kept to themselves.  This came on the same day that Fox “News” mouthpiece Thomas McInerney justified torture by saying that “It worked on John [McCain].  That’s why they called him ‘Songbird John.’”  Uh, no, it didn’t and they didn’t. 

Even other Republicans have noticed that this is pretty much bottom of the slime barrel stuff.  Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) called Sadler’s joke “outrageous and unacceptable.  It’s a sad day in this country when White House officials are mocking a man who was tortured as a prisoner of war.”  Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) simply said “There are no words,” but oh, Jeff, there are – unacceptable, immoral, disrespectful, and grounds for removal come to mind.  Hell, even Joni Ernst – the poster child for right-wing crazy in the midwest – was angry about it.

The best comment came from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), though.  Addressing Sadler directly, he asked “Is part of being low and small that it’s irresistible to show just how low and small you are?”  Apparently so.

18. No wonder McCain doesn’t want der Sturmtrumper anywhere near his funeral.  Fuck that.

19. Continuing to erase the line between the modern GOP and the Nazis, we come to Massachusetts GOP candidate for governor Scott Lively.  Lively is the guy who wrote an entire book blaming the Holocaust (which at least he seems to understand actually happened – how low the bar is, these days) on “militaristic” gay Nazis, a proposition that becomes even more ludicrous when you realize that homosexuals were one of the groups explicitly targeted by the Nazis for the Holocaust, much like some other modern American political party targets them for (currently) somewhat less extreme oppression.  He also runs a “religious” organization that is officially listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such things.  And this loser got more than 30% of the votes from the MA Republican Party Convention – more than double the number required to get onto the ballot for the fall.  This is your base, GOP.  Own it, and do something about it.

20. Before the Great Recession of 2008, Minnesota and Wisconsin had similar job and wage growth patterns.  After the Great Recession, the states went their own way – Minnesota elected a Democrat who applied demand side economic policies to the consumer economy there, while Wisconsin elected a Republican who was the leading edge of the fear-driven supply-side catastrophe now being played out at the national level, demonizing unions, cutting taxes for the wealthy while letting everyone else fend for themselves, gutting education, and generally behaving as white-collar vandals.  And the results are in.  A study from the Economic Policy Institute notes that “On virtually every metric, workers and families in Minnesota are better off than their counterparts in Wisconsin – and the decisions of state lawmakers have been instrumental in driving many of those differences.”  Minnesotans have better results when it comes to jobs, wages, health insurance, poverty, and a great many other measures of quality of life that were roughly equal before the GOP got hold of the Dairy State.  And yet the GOP insists that their way is the only way because what else can they do?

21. Looking at the numbers, seven years of Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) has indeed taken its toll, yes it has.  A few statistics:  Wisconsin is 32nd in job growth among US states, down from 29th last year.  We haven’t been higher than 27th (i.e. still in the bottom half) in more than four years.  We’re #1 for the acceleration of opioid ER admissions – impressive for a state whose governor thinks we’re flush enough to refuse to participate in the ACA.  We’re #1 in small farm bankruptcies, #2 in worst-repaired roads, #12 in polluted wells, and dead last in the US in entrepreneurial activity.  We’re 44th on “brain gain,” with only six other states attracting fewer new residents with college degrees, which is perhaps not surprising since we’re now on the Top Ten States for people moving out – something that was not true last year.  Meanwhile we’re leading the nation in government handouts to corporations and environmental exemptions given to corporations.  Wisconsin: MAGA even before der Sturmtrumper!

22. Boy the hits keep coming for Michael Cohen, don’t they?  Apparently Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin (and there’s a redundant phrase if there ever was one), put about half a million dollars into a shell company created by Cohen for what appears to be the sole purpose of making payments such as the one to Stormy Daniels.  This all by itself means that the Russians have significant leverage over der Sturmtrumper and can, anytime they wish, force him to dance to their tune – which they seem to have done quite often since the inauguration, probably on the theory that this particular asset is likely to be burned soon and they should get their money’s worth.  Poor Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – born sixty years too soon.

23. How bad are things for the GOP when Mitt Romney – the man who spent all of 2012 running against his own health care program – is the guy showing a bit of actual spine these days?  Der Sturmtrumper’s new American embassy opened in Jerusalem not that long ago (and don’t even get me started on the epic stupidity and arrogance of that) and for some reason there was a “minister” there to give some kind of blessing.  Except that Robert Jeffris is not only a big Sturmtrumper guy, he’s also the guy who called Islam a cult, “a religion that promotes pedophilia,” and a “heresy from the pit of hell,” which should go over well in that part of the world.  He declared that “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,” which should endear him to whomever is still speaking to him in that part of the world after the Muslims are done with him.  And he called Mormons a “cult” as well.  “Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem,” Romney replied.  Hey – better a late spine than no spine, though I’ll hold my judgment until I see some action.

24. Is there anyone in the world surprised that the opening of that embassy touched off bloodshed?  Anyone?  More than five dozen Palestinians died because der Sturmtrumper unnecessarily shifted the US embassy to score points with his bigoted fundamentalist base.  Later, Nikki Haley – supposedly one of the adults in der Sturmtrumper’s administration – walked out of a UN Security Council meeting rather than listen to the Palestinian envoy speak.  How this toddler-level conduct enhances the American position in the world is an interesting question.

25. Missouri Governor Eric Greitans is a piece of work, yes he is.  The GOP star – a “good friend” of Toady Pence, according to Pence himself – has a list of indictments that would impress the most jaded partisan hack: campaign finance violations, felony violations of privacy, kidnapping, blackmail, coercing sexual behavior (which sounds so, so much nicer than rape), and so on.  He naturally refuses to resign and seems not to think anything is untoward here, and as a Republican maybe it’s just the company he keeps.  Bill Haslam, the GOP governor of Tennessee, certainly doesn’t seem to think this is a problem.  Why should Greitans resign, after all – it’s “up to Eric and his family and the people to decide.  I don’t think they need us other governors telling him what to do.”  A clearer moral abdication you will never see.  You know, Democrats get scum in their party too, but they hold them accountable and get rid of them.  For Republicans it seems to be a selling point, though in their defense the Missouri legislature is moving toward impeachment in a reasonably bipartisan way.

26. And out in Oklahoma, the GOP is finally being honest about its plans for the social welfare system.  GOP gubernatorial candidate Christopher Barnett’s campaign Facebook page, responding to someone who pointed out that many receiving food stamps are disabled or elderly, fired back by asking “The ones who are disabled and can’t work … why are we required to keep them?  Sorry, but euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make everyone a slave to Government.”  The administrator of the page has since defended his comments, asking why taxpayers should “have to keep up people who cannot contribute to society any longer?”  I don’t know – morality?  Enlightened self-interest?  Civilization?  I realize that none of these things apply to the modern GOP and haven’t for some time now, but it’s kind of bizarre that they feel comfortable saying all that openly now instead of dog-whistling it.

We need to make morally bankrupt people ashamed again.

27. A study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services – a federal agency, so your tax dollars paid for this study – concluded that water supplies across a wide range of the United States were contaminated with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals known as fluorinated organic chemicals.  And rather than release this publicly funded study to the public so that the public could perhaps take appropriate action, der Sturmtrumper’s administration has actively worked to suppress it on the grounds that it would create a “public relations nightmare.”  So it’s more important that der Sturmtrumper look good than it is for American citizens not to be poisoned.  Your “party of values” at work, good citizen.

28. “These aren’t people.  These are animals.”  (Der Sturmtrumper on undocumented immigrants).  First you call them animals, then you strip them of their human rights, then you round them up into camps, then you gas them.  Isn’t that how it works?  And the line between Nazis and Republicans gets thinner, thinner, thinner by the day.

29. Knowing full well that they cannot win a fair election, the Wisconsin GOP has doubled down on voter suppression (which, admittedly, worked like a charm for them in 2016 according to some fairly thorough statistical analysis).  In their 2018 state convention, they passed a resolution putting even more roadblocks in front of legitimate voters – ending same-day registration and requiring college students to vote in their home districts rather than where they actually live.  You can always tell a party that thinks it can win on the strength of its ideas from a party that knows it can’t win such an election – strong parties welcome voters and weak ones shut them out.

30. Maybe Toady Pence is actually plotting against his boss.  The New York Times reports that Sturmtrumper officials are growing increasingly angry at Toady’s efforts to take control of the GOP, something that der Sturmtrumper himself seems uninterested in doing.  On the one hand, having a reasonably sane (if morally repugnant) leader in control of the GOP might be a slight improvement.  On the other hand, well, having the GOP fall apart into warring factions and disappear in a golden blaze of failure would be a tremendous improvement.  So this is pretty much win/win, really.

31. The Senate Intelligence Committee (the one with the Republican majority, like all of them these days) has concluded that Russia did in fact meddle with the American election in 2016 with the specific intent of helping der Sturmtrumper win.  With the GOP increasingly on board with the obvious, perhaps something might be done about this noxious regime.

32. Here comes the consequences of last year’s Great Legislative Achievement from the gang that couldn’t caucus straight: now that the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Plan is starting to increase its stranglehold on the federal government’s finances, the GOP is merrily capering down its path of wanton cruelty.  “Oh noes!” they cry.  “We haz no munny!  Better let the kids die!”  Which is why they’ve decided that it’s more important to give away more than trillion dollars to the already wealthy than fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance to more than nine million American children.  But family values, right?

33. Also on the chopping block: after school programs.  Seriously – it’s like the GOP has a list of “Everything That Makes the United States a Better Place” and is working to destroy the entire list one item at a time.

34. Speaking of wanton cruelty, the new GOP plan is to steal children from undocumented immigrant families and warehouse them in military bases, because nothing says “family values” like destroying the families of people you hate. 

35. Apparently torture is the path to leadership in this administration.  Good to know.  We used to execute torturers, and now we promote them.  You need a shower after reading about these people.

36. What is it about der Sturmtrumper’s minions that they suddenly locate their spines after leaving his service?  The latest on this list is Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Tillerson, who went out of his way in his commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute to criticize the leader he once served.  “If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as a people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,” he said.  “If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both the public and private sector – and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector – then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.”  Indeed, yes.  Would have been nice to hear him say that when it mattered, but I suppose better late than never.

37. As a historian, I get really tired of people who cannot grasp the concept that political parties evolve over time. 

The modern GOP is not the Party of Lincoln.  It’s not the Party of Teddy Roosevelt.  It’s not the Party of Eisenhower.  Hell, it’s not even the Party of Reagan anymore. 

38. And here we go again, with yet another shooting massacre at a school here in MURCA.  And in Texas, where there are SO MANY GODDAMNED GUNS that if the NRA’s favorite talking point had any merit whatsoever there should never be a crime of any description ever again.  The usual assholes are out in force less than 24 hours after, with the blood still wet on the ground.  They shout about MORE GUNZGUNZGUNZGUNZGUNZ trying to compensate for their pathetic little lives by sacrificing others.  They shout about victims being “crisis actors” because God forbid their hermetically sealed little bubble be pierced with actual information, or actual morality, or actual humanity.  They talk in ever-narrowing circles until they disappear up their own lower intestines.  Fuck them.  Fuck them sideways.  Fuck them harder and keep fucking them until they have gone so far into fucking that they come all the way around back to where they started.  And then fuck them again.

This country is drunk on guns, and until it grows the hell up and learns how to stop being such fucking cowards and put the Compensators away it will never be sober.

39.  Remember, folks: if ANY part of your reaction to a shooting massacre is to defend the gun, you have serious moral problems that are beyond my ability to help you with.

40. Did you know that as of today more American school children have been killed at schools than American service members have been killed in the military?  More than twice as many, actually – 29 schoolkids versus 13 military personnel.  This is not normal.  This is not acceptable.  This cannot stand. 

41. Is there anyone surprised that the criminal responsible for the recent slaughter of the innocent was a white male with Nazi sympathies?  Anyone?  Bueller?

42. In case you’re wondering about the substandard thought processes of those who defend firearms, here’s a good example.  Remember, folks – this person probably voted in the last election.  Explains a lot. 

43. Speaking of guns and their blasphemous worshippers, the Senate Judiciary Committee (controlled by Republicans, remember) is now publicly saying that the NRA was a Russian tool during the 2016 presidential election.  According to their official release, “The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign. … The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.”  So when you hear the ammosexuals talk about how patriotic they are, remember that.

44. Meanwhile the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released in January 2017 a declassified version of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.  It states for the record that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”  They did so through “covert intelligence operations – such as cyber activity” and “overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”  In particular, the GRU (Russian military intelligence) was the player behind the Wikipedia links, and Russian intelligence compromised multiple state elections.  This kind of assault on a fundamental part of the American government – the election process – by a foreign power fits the definition of an act of war according to international IT security experts.  Given that der Sturmtrumper’s contacts with Russian agents and provocateurs continue to come to light with disturbing regularity, it would be worth considering whether his actions rise to the level of treason – a crime defined very specifically in the Constitution and not just “shit I personally do not approve of” the way most people use the term.  I’m guessing the gap between that definition and der Sturmtrumper’s actions is getting narrower and narrower with each new revelation.  Will it close completely?  Maybe.  We'll see.

45.  Just going to leave this here. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Watching the Grass Grow

I may be eaten by the lawn soon.

I generally avoid lawn mowing, as it is a thankless task that produces exactly zero satisfaction, but nevertheless it is something that has to be done because otherwise the powers that be here in Our Little Town will provide Tickets, possibly leading to Summons and/or Fines.  So there you have it.

It was winter here a couple of weeks ago.  Then it was high summer.  It seems to have settled into a glum and rainy sort of spring now, which is fine by me.  I like this weather.  Any day closer to November where it isn’t over 63F is a good day as far as I am concerned.  Only six months until nice weather returns!  Shop early!

My point with that, and somewhere in there I did have one, is that not that long ago the grass was not growing at all.  It was, in fact, several weeks into April, covered in snow and hibernating the way decent grass does.  And then the weather got wet and hot and the grass started growing fast enough to produce that rubbery squeaking noise that you hear in cartoons when the main character is being squeezed through an opening the size of a pinhead and now you can hear the wildlife calling across the selva as the mighty Amazon thunders below.

Well that’s what it feels like, anyway.

So last week I hauled out the trusty lawnmower that has served since before Tabitha was born, only to find that it was no longer really very trustworthy at all.  I gave it some oil, pushed on the little button that sprays fuel into the engine, yanked on the chain, and it was impassive.  Imperturbable.  Serene, even.  Which is more than I could say for me.

Now, I believe that last year I actually did put the fuel stabilizer into it.  There was a bottle of the stuff right next to the mower, and it was in fact opened and used.  I could not swear that it was used last year as opposed to any other year, just as I could not swear to what exactly I had for lunch yesterday, but evidence does suggest that I had taken at least that much precaution.  I like to believe that I had.

But toward the end of last summer I do recall the mower getting somewhat balky, independent of any fuel stabilizer issues, and perhaps it has now Balked Entirely, which by rights should get me to first base somewhere.  And yet here I am.

So I loaded the mower into my little red car and schlepped it over to the Small Machine Repair Shop where I take the snow blower for its periodic resurrections, and they said it would be back sometime this week.  Perhaps even today, though that didn’t pan out.

Meanwhile the grass keeps growing at a bamboo-like pace and the dandelions – which I regard with equanimity as a kind of spring flower – are bright and plentiful and every other neighbor on the block has already mowed their lawn.  If I were capable of feeling even the smallest iota of shame about the state of my lawn I suppose it would have happened over the weekend, but so far no. 

I’m expecting the mower back tomorrow, and perhaps shortly after that I will be welcomed back into the fold of Proper Small Town Lawn Owners.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Makes Cents to Me

I got two wheat cents in change today, each from a separate transaction.

You don’t see many of them anymore.  They haven’t made them since 1958, and every year that goes by more and more of them get pulled out of circulation by people like me.  Eventually they will all be sitting in collections somewhere.

I’ve actually been on kind of a run with wheat cents of late.  I think I’ve averaged about one a week since March, which is pretty rich for this sort of thing.  Sometimes you go months without seeing one, and I’m the sort of person who actually checks.  I found two in New Orleans – one just sitting on the sidewalk as I walked by, in fact.  And since then they’ve just appeared in my change on a semiregular basis.

They’re not really worth a whole lot, I suppose.  Not most of them.  The two I found today might combine to be worth four bits to a serious collector.  They’re in good shape – surprisingly so, for bits of metal that old – but neither rare nor in high demand.

I like them, though.

My dad taught me to collect coins, back when I was a kid.  He had a raft of old wheat cents in a blue plastic tray in his dresser – many of them steel, which they minted for one year during WWII when copper got scarce – and a bunch of other stuff next to the tray, carefully tossed into an old Crown Royal bag.  He and his buddies had a “couple of guys and a truck” business in high school where they would move people from one house to another, and those houses were old.  His position was that anything he found in the floorboards was his.  Lots of old copper, some silver.  No gold.  People kept track of their gold.

He taught me which coins to look for and save, and which ones to let go by.  And gradually we built up the collection.  You could still find silver coins in circulation then – I remember being handed three silver quarters in change at a street fair next to my old elementary school, maybe ten years after the government switched to the copper/nickel coins we have today, for example.  Copper ones nobody paid attention to, so those were even easier to find.

One summer we tried to organize it all, and we got a fair bit of it into paper sleeves or plastic tubes before petering out on the project.  Tabitha and I keep talking about trying to finish that project, and perhaps this summer we will.

There aren’t many people around these days to share the triumphant news of wheat cents anymore.

But I know, and that matters too. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Things I Have Learned On the Internet

I sent my first email in 1986.  I wasn’t impressed. 

My second email was sent in 1993, and I’ve been online pretty much continuously ever since.  I remember when the internet was text-based.  When Yahoo had a “what’s new?” feature that would list the two or three dozen new websites that they’d located during the previous 24 hours.  When photos would load one line at a time.  When I had to tell my students that they really ought to consider getting an email account since it was free through the university and they might find it useful.  When searching meant Lycos and Google was new.

I started my first blog in 1999, when nobody really knew what to call them, and I’m still here blogging away in 2018 when nobody under 30 remembers that such things exist.

It’s been a while. 

I’ve learned a few things during my time on the internet – oh, yes indeedy, I have.  Some of these lessons have sunk in over time, and some of them have revealed themselves in blinding flashes of inspiration and some of them have more or less done both, which is an interesting trick.  I can’t claim that these are particularly unique lessons – there’s a lot of people online, and even if only a small part of them are actually paying attention that’s still a lot of people, the math being what it is.

So, a few things the internet has taught me, in no particular order:


1. Nobody really remembers mathematical order of operations anymore.

2. You can argue about politics all you want, but mention how many spaces you should put after a period at the end of a sentence and may the deity of your choice have mercy on your soul.

3. There are a great many people on this planet on whose hands time weighs very heavily.

4. There are also a great many people on this planet who have insane amounts of talent.  Sometimes they even know what to do with it.

5. Rule 34 is alive and well.

6. Technology follows the same curve as everything else: far-off dream, cutting edge reality, new plaything, relaxation device, utility, chore, sinkhole.  Right now the internet bounces between the last four for me, with differing emphases on different days.

7. The high school reunion business is pretty much dead since social media has largely replaced it.

8. If you remember what high school was like, therefore, you may find social media makes more sense.

9. Suddenly everyone’s an expert on grammar.

10. Eventually the jackals take over and this is why we can’t have nice things.

11. Along the arc between rise and fall, you can still find good people and real communities.  You just have to seek them out.

12. There is a difference between information and knowledge, and an even bigger difference between knowledge and wisdom.

13. The world can be a very small place with the right technology, and this can be a lovely thing.  Most of the time.

14. The Enlightenment dream of perfect communication leading to peace and harmony among humanity has pretty much conclusively been disproven.  So much of what allows people to get along, it turns out, is their misconceptions of each other.

Friday, May 4, 2018

News and Updates

1. Yesterday was the last Local Youth Orchestra concert for Tabitha, as she heads off to college next year, and the first for Lauren, who joined this past spring.  They did a really nice job – seven well played pieces, with Tabitha on viola and Lauren bouncing around from one percussion instrument to another as needs dictated.  These are lovely times, sometimes.

2. Suddenly: August.  It snowed here two weeks ago, but for much of this week it was in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, which is … um … really uncomfortable in Centigrade.  I do not like this at all.  As far as I am concerned it need never get above 63F (17C).  And yet here we are.

3. I don’t like paying bills in May because that’s when the insurance comes due and it drains my bank account something fierce and I stare at the numbers with a Sad.  Oh well. 

4. I am slowly making progress on putting together a family tree, though there are plenty of things I don’t know and I’m pretty much conceding the idea of One Big Tree unless I can solve some fairly involved graphic design problems.  There’s a reason I stick to words and not art, though.

5. It’s fun going on a binge for a particular author, because then you can follow all of the characters as they evolve over the various books – even the standalone novels, because they’re set in the same world and they refer back to each other.  I read all of these when they came out, and I missed a lot of the references when there were months or years between books.  If you are looking for a really good writer in the SF/F genre, you should read Joe Abercrombie.  All at once.

6. My world is even more covered in paper than usual right now, which is partially due to the time of the semester and partially due to the fact that space is at a premium these days. 

7. It’s been a long time since there was a blanket fort in my living room.  They make ‘em bigger than they used to, you know.

8. I made a special trip to Home Campus today to listen to a lecture on linguistics given by a friend of mine, because that’s just how I roll.

9. Every now and then I think about how quickly the calendar is moving this year, in some ways, and then I try not to think about that again for a while.

10. There are so many good shows on television these days.  Sometimes I wish I could sit through them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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. So Michael Cohen, der Sturmtrumper’s lawyer, has had his office raided, and if you don’t understand what a big deal that is then you aren’t paying attention.  This isn’t something that is done lightly – in point of fact, it’s never been done before to a sitting president’s lawyer.  That’s because the bar for doing this is incredibly high.  A law firm can only be raided if the federal government thinks that less intrusive measures won’t work – i.e. that the attorney in question either would not turn over documents as legally required or would actually destroy those documents rather than see them approved.  “You don’t just have to have evidence that the documents may or may not exist,” said David Gomez, former FBI agent and a fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, “you have to show that there’s no other way to get them besides serving a warrant on the attorney.”  Such a raid requires very high-level approval and an elaborate review process.  In this case, high ranking officials at the Department of Justice need to sign off on it, as does the US District Attorney’s office in the region, and it needs to be approved by a federal judge.  The fact that all of them did so indicates that they were presented with clear, convincing, and unambiguous evidence of crimes being committed by the attorney in question as well as his client.  Yes, der Sturmtrumper can howl at the moon in his barking mad kind of way that endears him to his slavish supporters, but the fact is that the mere existence of this raid indicates serious legal trouble for him.

2. Just pointing this out:

3. While der Sturmtrumper continues to insist that this is some kind of partisan witch hunt, the fact is that almost all of the major players here are Republicans.  Robert Mueller is a registered Republican.  Ron Rosenstein, his boss, who would have had to approve this, is a Trump appointee, as is Chris Wray, the current director of the FBI, and Geoffrey Berman, the federal District Attorney whose office executed the raid.  Berman in fact is a former law partner of Rudy Giuliani and was hand-picked for the post by Our Confederate Attorney General himself.  This is not partisanship no matter how much der Sturmtrumper howls at the moon.  It’s the law closing in on a corrupt president.

4. Please note that attorney-client privilege does not apply when “communications between an attorney and client are in furtherance of criminal activity,” according to John Q. Barrett, former associate special counsel in the Iran-Contra Affair.  This is called the crime-fraud exception, and it is one that der Sturmtrumper is about to become very familiar with.

5. Even Republican senators are defending Mueller’s job in the wake of this, though with the exception of Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis, who have introduced separate bills to do just that, they’re not actually willing to do anything more than say so and Mitch McConnell, the Least Honorable Man in Washington, is on record as absolutely refusing to allow any constructive measures to come up in the Senate that would actually protect Mueller from being fired by der Sturmtrumper and setting off a full-blown Constitutional crisis.  So make of that what you will.

6. Stormy Daniels continues to outwit der Sturmtrumper on the legal front and is apparently cooperating with federal investigators looking into the money that Michael Cohen paid her to keep quiet about her affair with der Sturmtrumper.  There isn’t enough popcorn in the world for this.

7. Der Sturmtrumper actually had the unmitigated gall to declare that this was an attack on the entire country.  No, you idiot – 9/11 was an attack on the entire country.  Conflating an attack on the president (assuming that’s what it was – it’s entirely possible that Michael Cohen is being investigated for any number of other crimes he may have committed independent of his association with der Sturmtrumper – and in this context, it’s worth remembering that Cohen is also the Deputy National Finance Chair of the RNC) with an attack on the nation is a move straight out of Louis XIV.  The etat ain’t tois, boy, now pipe down and get your head out of your ass before you hurt yourself.

8. Meanwhile back in the rest of reality, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is now reporting that the GOP Reverse Robin Hood Tax Law shoved through the legislature to much acclaim a few months ago will add $1,900,000,000,000.00 to the national debt over the next decade or so.  Naturally the GOP has a problem with this, namely that they do not like the fact that the CBO has pointed this out.  The attacks on the CBO have therefore been unrelenting and borderline hysterical. But hey – reality doesn’t care what you believe, folks, and the simple fact is that supply side economics do not work in a demand side economy.  Never have, never will.

9. It is now clear that Mike Pompeo, der Sturmtrumper’s choice to run the CIA and recently confirmed by the Senate GOP to replace Exxon’s Own Secretary of State Tillerson, failed to disclose that he owns a business that is directly linked to the Chinese government.  The director.  Of the main US intelligence agency.  Owns a business linked to one of our main opponents in this world.  And didn’t think to tell anyone.  At some point the difference between incompetence and malevolence becomes irrelevant.  Jim Wright noted that “As a member of the US intelligence community, I held one of the highest security clearances in the United States for more than 20 years.  If I had failed to disclose that I owned a business, LET ALONE links to the Chinese government, I would be in prison right now.”  Any bets on whether der Sturmtrumper will take any action against one of his own having unlawful and unethical ties to a foreign power, or is that hitting too close to home?

10. Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan has decided to call it quits rather than face the voters this November, which is in character since he hasn’t actually held a town hall meeting in his home district in nearly three years.  For a guy who started off as your basic unremarkable Ayn Rand drone – a man who grew up and was educated on the public dime and spent his entire career sucking off the public tit while trying to ensure that nobody else would ever have the same advantages that he enjoyed, which is typical of the libertarian wing of that party and, from my own experience with them, of libertarians in general – he seems to have ended up as der Sturmtrumper’s buttboy.  A sad ending to a sad career, and maybe he’ll find redemption someday outside of the limelight.  I’m not holding my breath, however.  I’ve met him a couple of times.  He’s your basic schlemiel – not a bad guy one on one, not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, possessed of overweening ambition backed by not enough talent, willing to do pretty much anything for power except stand on principles.  He’d have been a passable middle manager at a small manufacturing company but was a Post Turtle during his time in Congress.  My guess is that he is simply positioning himself for a presidential run, either in 2020 if der Sturmtrumper gets tossed before then or in 2024, in either case where he can say he is somehow untainted by the unfolding disaster that the GOP has become and ride in as the savior on a white horse.  But he is tainted – he, more than any other figure in Washington aside from Mitch McConnell, has been instrumental in der Sturmtrumper’s takeover of the GOP. 

11. I’m not sure whether to be more disturbed by the fact that the National Enquirer has an established pattern of buying and then burying news stories that are damaging to der Sturmtrumper – such as paying off a former Trump Tower doorman to eliminate a story about yet another der Sturmtrumper affair – or the fact that der Sturmtrumper’s base apparently reads the National Enquirer for the news items.  It would explain a lot, really. 

12. You know things are bad for the GOP when the libertarians are turning against them.  Reason Magazine, the online mouthpiece of articulate libertarianism – and make of that what you will – has finally come around to the conclusion that I noted publicly here in 2012, that the reputation of the GOP for fiscal responsibility is one of the biggest con jobs in all of American politics.  After describing the effects of the GOP fiscal policy under der Sturmtrumper as listed in the CBO report described in Item 8 above (which they note is, if anything, understating the problem), Reason points out that:

This is the opposite of fiscal responsibility.  It is, if anything, an active disdain for the sort of fiscal restraint that Republicans so often claimed to support under Obama.  And it strongly suggests that the GOP’s criticisms were merely opportunistic.  Under Trump, Republicans have demonstrated that they are the party of fiscal ruin.

To be more precise: They have demonstrated it once again.  The behavior we have witnessed under Trump is not a twist or a reversal or an unpredictable turn.  It is simply how Republicans have behaved whenever they have been given the opportunity since at least the turn of the century.

And yet the GOP continues to insist that they are somehow the party of fiscal responsibility, in much the same way they insist they are the party of values – equally hallucinatory, equally wrong, and equally offensive to anyone with any grasp of reality.

13. If you’ve ever wondered just how low the GOP has sunk, you need only reflect on the fact that the Republican National Committee – the party’s central governing body – has actually paid for a website called “” whose sole purpose is to throw 3rd-grade insults at the former director of the FBI – a Republican himself, who was appointed as a deputy attorney general by George W. Bush and whose hatchet job on Hillary Clinton was praised by der Sturmtrumper on the campaign trail before he fired Comey for doing his job by investigating der Sturmtrumper’s subservience to a foreign power.  In fact, as one investigation has shown, they have paid for more than a dozen other similar website domain names.  That will tell you all you need to know.

14.  So we’ve now bombed Syria, because Reasons.  Once again, we have a president usurping the warmaking powers of Congress and launching unconstitutional attacks on a sovereign nation, though in fairness this is something der Sturmtrumper has in common with every single president since Truman.  More to the point, it’s not really coincidental that this attack came less than 48 hours after James Comey’s book was leaked, and less than a week after Michael Cohen’s offices were raided by federal agents.  Wag the dog all you want, der Sturmtrumper – it will not work.

15. And it hasn’t worked, at least not yet.  The vast majority of Americans view Comey as far more trustworthy, which only goes to show you that people aren’t quite as stupid as der Sturmtrumper thinks they are.

16. What’s interesting about der Sturmtrumper’s raging shitstorm of twitter nonsense about Comey is that he is actually surprisingly honest about the fact that he fired Comey for purely political reasons – for not persecuting his political opponent when ordered to do so.  It appears the little dictator cannot handle the fact that there are laws and Constitutions in place to keep him from doing whatever his latest whim demands, and that is – at least for the moment – the difference between the US and a tyranny.

17. Did anyone happen to notice the cynically immoral ploy to amend the Constitution by House Republicans?  First they destroy the fiscal health of the United States by passing the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Bill – a trillion-dollar-plus giveaway to the already wealthy, to be funded by attacks on the poor and middle class, notably a raid on the Social Security that Americans have paid into for decades – and then they propose a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget to lock in that immorality forever.  It failed, because the GOP doesn’t yet have the required supermajority in Congress to push through this bald-faced assault on American citizens, but 233 Republicans voted to strip away every vestige of humanity and morality from the US government in order to benefit their puppeteers.  Your “party of values,” good citizen.

18. Looks like we have another casualty of the latest GOP adultery and high finance scandal with ties to Michael Cohen and through him to der Sturmtrumper.  GOP donor Elliot Broidy – a major figure with close ties to der Sturmtrumper’s White House – resigned as deputy finance chairman of the RNC after it became public that he had paid $1,600,000 to buy the silence of a women with whom he had had an affair while he was married.  The deal, notes the New York Times, was brokered by none other than Cohen.  Now, leaving aside the fact that Broidy was charged more than ten times the amount that der Sturmtrumper paid to Stormy Daniels (which suggests, if nothing else, that he’s not even as good a businessman as der Sturmtrumper – a pretty low bar indeed), there does seem to be a pattern here.  Can any of these “family values” guys keep it in their pants?

19.  According to two sources familiar with the Mueller investigation (which, given the control that Mueller has so far exerted over his activities, suggests that this leak is at least in part intentional) there is now good evidence that Michael Cohen secretly made a trip to Prague late in the 2016 presidential campaign where he may have met with Konstantin Koschev, a prominent ally of Vladimir Putin, to discuss Russian influence on the US election.  That this trip happened at all, despite the vehement denials of der Sturmtrumper and his minions, strengthens the idea that the Steele dossier (you know, the one that described der Sturmtrumper’s urinary adventures with Russian hookers?) is at least substantially accurate.  Seriously, not enough popcorn in the world for this shitshow of an administration.

20. Der Sturmtrumper pardoned Scooter Libby the other day.  For those of you whose version of history only stretches back a month or so, Libby was the lowlife who was convicted in 2007 (i.e. during the Bush Jr. administration) of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI regarding the deliberate outing of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame.  It was thoroughly well established that Plame’s outing – which put her life in danger and threatened larger covert operations taken by the CIA in the name of national security – was GOP revenge for then ambassador Joe Wilson, Plame’s husband, punching holes in the shoddy rationalizations that led to the Iraq War.  Despite hard lobbying from Vice President Dick Cheney, George W. Bush refused to pardon Libby, noting “if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable.”  Of course der Sturmtrumper’s only relationship with the truth is adversarial, and as he is being backed into a corner by the inexorable progress of Mueller’s investigations into his many crimes, he lashed out in order to send a message.  “It’s very clear that this is a message he is sending, that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned,” said Plame.  Any guesses as to where that will lead?  Three chances, first two don’t count.

21. “If you want to know whether a post-1976 president increased or decreased the deficit, the only thing you need to know is his party,” notes the New York Times.  Yeah, again, as I said back in 2012: the GOP reputation for fiscal sanity is the greatest con job in American politics. 

22. Oh, brother.  It turns out that Michael Cohen has had only a handful of clients in the last year or so.  One of them was der Sturmtrumper, for whom he claims to have – on his own initiative, on his own dime, without so much as informing his client – paid $130,000 to a porn star to cover up an affair that he and his client insist did not happen (and if you believe any of that, seriously you need medical help).  One of them was Elliot Broidy, for whom he arranged a $1,600,000 million payment for an affair he had with a Playboy model.  And another was Sean Hannity, whose job for the last few months has been to go on Fox and complain about the investigations into … Michael Cohen.  Curiouser and curiouser.

23. And just so you don’t forget the fact that racism is the core value of the modern GOP, the Tennessee House voted on pretty much straight party lines to punish the largely black city of Memphis for having the audacity to remove two Confederate monuments – one of the treasonous CSA president Jefferson Davis, and one of CSA general and KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.  In a last-minute amendment to an appropriations bill, Republicans took away a quarter of a million dollars that had been previously approved for Memphis’ bicentennial celebration next year because the city – having been banned from removing the celebrations of traitors by the Tennessee GOP – sold the parks they were in to a local nonprofit organization, which then promptly did what the GOP doesn’t have the morals to do and removed those monuments.  Seriously – there is nothing so racist or petty that the GOP can’t support it, is there?

24.  Boy, the hits keep coming.  After losing in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court – which ruled that their arrogant partisan gerrymandering violated the state Constitution – the PA GOP has done its best to ignore the express orders of the court in order to maintain its illegitimate grasp on power.  PA House Bill 722 – a bipartisan bill, oddly enough, with nearly 100 cosponsors – sought to establish an independent citizens commission for redistricting, yet for over a year it has been buried in committee by the GOP leadership, Majority Chair Daryl Metcalfe.  This month Metcalf completely rewrote the bill himself to replace the citizens commission with a partisan committee carefully stacked in favor of the GOP, and he hopes to shove that through the legislature instead in order to preserve the unconstitutional gerrymandering that he has been ordered to remove. Not that this should surprise anyone.  The GOP cannot win free and fair elections, and when faced with the prospect of actually following the law they will do almost anything rather than give up power or respect the will of the citizens they supposedly represent.

25. GOP fool Kris Kobach has been found in contempt of court for his “history of noncompliance and disrespect for the Courts decisions in this case,” according to a ruling by Federal Judge Julie Robinson (who was appointed by George W. Bush).  Kobach, whose basic position is that people who aren’t likely to vote GOP shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all, made an utter ass of himself in court last month, and federal judges do not take that lightly.  Here’s hoping he sees jail time for his criminal activities.

26.  And now we have Nazis – actual God-damned Nazis – openly marching in the streets of Georgia and burning a swastika in honor of their KKK brethren in white stupidity.  This country used to give out medals to people who shot Nazis, and we called those people the Greatest Generation.  Remember that.

27. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of neo-Nazi groups in the US increased from 99 to 121 in 2017.  Neo-Nazis are, if anything, worse than original Nazis, because these are the twisted losers who looked at the horrors of the Third Reich and WWII and said, “Yes, give me more of that!”  And now, three-quarters of a century after the world tried to banish this evil, after millions died to ensure that Nazism would be wiped from the earth, here they are.  Emboldened by a president and a right-wing party that sees them as “fine people.”  MAGA, right?

28. Seriously, fuck the Nazis.  And everyone who supports them.

29.  Sometimes you just have to wonder how seriously insane the NRA has become.  Commenting on the most recent mass shooting (or the most recent as of this writing – I have every faith that there will be more of them, plural, in the couple of days between the time I write this and the time I post it) – a shooting that, by the modern American definition, is clearly not terrorism because it was committed by a white man, even if he was mostly naked at the time and specifically targeted nonwhites as victims – NRA spokes-idiot Grant Stinchfield praised James Shaw for his heroism in disarming the murderer and saving lives, but then went on to criticize him for not being armed in the process.  Think about that.  Shaw goes up to a whackaloon with a military grade firearm, unarmed, and takes it away from him, and all the NRA can think about is MORE GUNZZ!!!  Can we ship them off to a padded cell somewhere far from civilized people now?

30. On the one hand, the fact that der Sturmtrumper has spent about a third of his reign (149 out of 457 days so far) on vacation or golfing at his own properties, swelling his own coffers with my money even as he refuses to do his job, is a sad state of affairs, especially since there is no particular outrage among right-wing media as there had been for the far more business-like and focused Obama, who took only a fraction of that time off.  On the other hand, well, anything that keeps der Sturmtrumper occupied and away from substantive action is pretty much by definition a good thing.

31. As a general rule, I find that if I want to understand what right-wingers are doing, I need only look at what they accuse others of doing.  Works almost every time.

32. Sometimes you just have to wonder if the GOP really is that stupid or whether they’re trolling us.  And to that end I give you Utah Republican Mike Kennedy, arguing against the expansion of Medicaid in his state.  “Sometimes access to health care can be damaging and dangerous,” said Rep. Kennedy, presumably with a straight face.  “I’ve heard from National Institutes of Health and otherwise that we’re killing up to a million, a million and a half people every year in our hospitals.  And it’s access to those hospitals that’s killing those people.”  Seriously, how does the rational mind even respond to something that stupid?  How does an actual grown-up even begin to explain the reality of what people’s lives are like to someone stunted enough to bring this line of attack into the public sphere?  It’s a mystery.

33.  Fortune Magazine, citing data compiled by Bloomberg, notes that “U.S. stocks are on track to have their worst April start since 1929.”  And 1929 ended so well, didn’t it?  Thanks to a grotesque giveaway to the wealthy that has already started to drain the US Treasury faster than even its fiercest critics thought possible and a toddler-level trade and tariff war started by der Sturmtrumper to demonstrate to his base that he’s just as ignorant of actual economic reality as they are, we’re just ready for So Much Winning (tm). 

34. Religious conservatives in Louisiana –a hotbed of right-wing lunacy in the best of times, which these most certainly are not – have banded together to oppose a new bill that would ban bestiality.  Seriously.  They’re on the side of people fucking dogs.  Why?  Because they’re convinced that if Louisiana bans dog-fucking, then next thing you know they’ll allow gay people to have sex.  Let that sink in for a bit, I’ll wait.  First of all, gay people are already allowed to have sex, Louisiana state law notwithstanding.  Second, how you make equivalencies between those two things is entirely inexplicable to the rational adult mind.  I have no idea how much antifreeze you have to drink to make that idea seem like it isn’t the most batshit insane idea ever put on paper, but it’s far more than I’m willing to consume.  And third, seriously, dog-fucking is okay with people who loudly call themselves “Christian” but consensual sex between non-family adults is not?  If you ever wanted to know why the fastest growing religious affiliation in the US is “unaffiliated/agnostic/atheist” then look no further.

35. At least some of der Sturmtrumper’s minions are honest about the depths of corruption and depravity that they embody.  Mick Mulvaney, der Sturmtrumper’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, spoke to 1300 bankers and lobbyists at the American Bankers Association conference on April 24 and flat out told them, “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress.  If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you.  If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”  Pay to play, now that’s that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created this government, right?

36. You know, it’s not bad enough that der Sturmtrumper is a thoroughly corrupt wannabe petit-Fascist feverishly undermining the American republic, but he’s also an incompetent thoroughly corrupt wannabe petit-Fascist feverishly undermining the American republic.  Apparently he decided – in a move that no doubt caused the heads of whatever lawyers he still has working for him to explode – to speak directly to Fox & Friends, his very favorite TV show.  In what Vox described as a “rambling and angry interview,” der Sturmtrumper essentially destroyed many of his own arguments against the recent federal raid on Michael Cohen’s office.  Not enough popcorn in the world for this one, folks.

37. In the current election year there are four mainstream GOP candidates with reasonable chances of winning and the full backing of their party (i.e. not fringe candidates) who are convicted criminals – “Sheriff” Joe Arpaio of Arizona, Don Blankenship of West Virginia, Michael Grimm of New York, and Greg Gianforte of Montana.  Three of them are in fact bragging about their crimes as a way to excite GOP voters, because crime and a lack of morals are apparently selling points to Republicans these days.  By contrast, there is exactly one Democrat running who is a convicted criminal, and the Democratic Party has openly declared him to be “not fit to run for office.”  So if you have any moral fiber at all, the choice between parties is actually pretty clear.

38. There is no such thing as an “incel.”  There are only misogynists and assholes.  If you self-identify as someone who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse, that’s on you and maybe you should look deeply into a mirror to see why this is so.  In the meantime, guys, remember a few things.  You don’t have a right to sex.  You don’t have a right to women’s bodies.  You don’t have a right to kill people to make up for your own shortcomings.  And if you think you have those rights then you are a complete waste of oxygen and we’re all much better off for the fact that you’re outside of the gene pool.

39. Natalya Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who met with high-ranking officials from der Sturmtrumper’s campaign at Trump Tower in 2016 has now admitted publicly that “since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general,” working closely with that office to block a US Justice Department investigation of a well-connected Russian business.  So der Sturmtrumper’s campaign was meeting with active Russian agents?  Well that shocks … um … exactly nobody who’s been paying attention to this whole sordid mess.  Remember folks, we used to execute Americans who worked with Russian agents.  Just saying.

40.  My friend Eric is a trial lawyer, and he notes that Michael Cohen’s announcement that he would plead his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination regarding the civil case brought against him by Stormy Daniels (you know, the porn star that der Sturmtrumper tried to silence but failed) is essentially an admission of defeat.  “In a criminal proceeding, the State can’t argue that invoking your right not to testify is an indicator of guilt.  There’s no such rule in civil proceedings.  And the State can’t compel a criminal defendant to take the stand; no such rule applies in civil proceedings.  So where this leaves Cohen is that Stormy Daniels’ lawyers can call him to the stand (or force him to be deposed) and Cohen has to sit up there; and Daniel’s lawyers get to ask him whatever, and he has to hem and haw and say he can’t answer that because he’s invoking the Fifth; and Daniels’ lawyers get to say, “Oh, isn’t THAAAAT INTERESTING! … [T]his basically means Cohen is effectively rolling over and abandoning defenses and counterclaims.  He’s basically lost, in other words. … Cohen doesn’t really have a choice.  He’s chosen the route where he’s less fucked, but less fucked is still fucked.  And he’s fucked.”  So where does that leave us, one wonders…

41. Just asking… 

42. Paul Ryan fired the House Chaplain the other day.  Leaving aside the larger issue of just why we have a chaplain on the taxpayer’s dime, this is a rather disturbing event.  The root cause of this was a prayer offered by the chaplain – a Jesuit, and one of the few Catholics who have held this post – which sought to remind Congress that they should legislate for the good of all Americans and not just a few.  This is completely counter to the GOP platform, of course, and heads had to roll.  Your party of values at work, folks.

43. If you’re still not convinced that the line separating the GOP from the American Nazi Party is fast disappearing, consider the fact that the leading candidate in the GOP primary field for California Senate is openly calling for “a government that makes counter-semitism central to all aims of the state” with the ultimate goal of a United States “free from Jews.”  This asshole has a 10-percentage-point lead on his nearest GOP challenger as of this writing.  Little is also a big supporter of Paul Nehlen, the raving Nazi running to replace Paul Ryan here in Wisconsin.  Nehlen for those not familiar with the man, is such a right-wing lunatic that even avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer thinks he should “just go away” as an embarrassment to their cause.  Again, for those of you slow on the uptake, this country used to give medals to people who shot Nazis and we called them the Greatest Generation.  Just pointing that out, as a historian.

44. Do you ever wonder whether there is anything that der Sturmtrumper can’t screw up?  Just the other day he tweeted out a threat to FIFA, saying that the US would retaliate against any country opposing its bid for the 2026 World Cup.  FIFA responded by noting that its own rules of conduct prohibit governments from making exactly such statements.  No doubt this is pretty much the end of that bid, since the rest of the world has already pretty much had it with der Sturmtrumper’s antics anyway – we’re quickly becoming a pariah nation, which (much to the surprise of the MAGA crowd) isn’t a good thing.  The kicker of it, of course, is the dynamics of it all.  As Mary Papenfuss noted in the Huffington Post, “being schooled on ethics by FIFA marks a surprising low.”  It’s like being criticized for avarice by, um, der Sturmtrumper.

45. The NRA, which advocates putting guns in every conceivable location in America from churches to pre-schools, has banned guns from its own convention.  How does the sentient mind even begin to react to this kind of nuclear-powered stupidity?

46. Don’t fall for the distractions, folks.  While der Sturmtrumper and his minions were crybabying over Michelle Wolf’s entirely on-point comedy routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Justice Department quietly updated its manual for federal investigators.  The entire section entitled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was deleted, as were all references to the Justice Department’s battles against racial gerrymandering.  There was, however, a section added on fighting information leaks of the sort that are just so embarrassing to der Sturmtrumper.  All of this, of course, is of a piece with other similar deletions across the federal government.  The US Citizenship and Immigration Services office deleted the phrase “a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.  Ben Carson’s HUD has deleted all anti-discrimination language and the agency’s vow to create “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”  Betsy DeVos, our Secretary of Ignorance, removed over 70 documents spelling out the rights of students with disabilities.  This is how wannabe petit-Fascists work, people.  Pay attention.

47.  Speaking of Michelle Wolf, somebody needs to remind me why I should care whether she offended der Sturmtrumper or his supporters. 

Like most schoolyard bullies, they can dish it out but they can’t take it.