Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fair Rules

Once you’ve been to the County Fair often enough, you notice a few things.  I ended up posting these elsewhere, and now that the Fair is over for the year I have decided to collect them all and post them here.  For posterity.


1. Incoming livestock has the right of way.

2. If you wanted nutrition you should have stayed home.

3. “We’ve got BOTH kinds!  Country AND Western!”

4. It tastes better on a stick.

5. If it’s not fried, it’s not food.  (h/t to Laura)

6. You can fry anything if you try hard enough.

7. The midway belongs to the teenagers once the sun goes down.

8. That’ll wash off.

9. Yeah, the goats will eat that too.

10. Parking skills are less common than you think.

11. It is exceedingly manly to be carrying a giant stuffed animal.

11a. And to have no sleeves.  (h/t to Jon)

12. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is not the County Fair way. 

13. Meet-up place?  What meet-up place?

14. If you think politics is bad, try watching people argue over their preferred tractor manufacturer.

15. A cream puff IS a complete meal.

16. Pretzels deserve mustard.  (h/t to Christy)

17. Lemonade is better fresh-squeezed.

18. Close-toed shoes in the livestock barn!

19. Ribbons go in the back pocket.

20. You can be both ultra-dairy and wide open.  (h/t to Kim)

21. What happens at the Fair stays at the Fair.

22. Yeah, we can make that out of leather.  Might even be able to put a buckle on it.

23. What goes in must come out at exactly the same time that everyone else is getting their stuff out.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fair Thee Well

It’s been a quiet sort of Fair this year.

Kim and I handed over the Drama Project to new people this year so we didn’t have to worry about herding actors around or scheduling pick-up rehearsals to remind people of lines they last spoke in May or setting up performances.  The new people did just fine with the kids, and the performance at the Drama Festival in May went very well.

We don’t have any poultry in the Fair this year.  This past spring we looked at Lauren’s projected calendar this summer – a list of things that made you exhausted just looking at it – and said, “Well, something has to give.”  She chose to forego the poultry project, which meant no turkeys and no new chickens.  On the one hand, I do miss the turkeys (though not enough to raise them myself, admittedly).  On the other hand, we still have the old chickens and they are still laying eggs, and, well, something had to give.

She was going to have pigs in the Fair again this year, but we missed a deadline for DNA testing and the Fair people are just gangbusters about those deadlines, to be honest, so that was out.  We sold them to the guy who owns the farm where they were being raised.  Given how the summer has turned out, I’m not sure when she would have had time to work with them anyway.

Lauren is fairly sure she will do both poultry (at least chickens) and swine next year, so my guess is that the Local Community Marching Band will be the thing on the chopping block in 2019.  It was a good run.  Something has to give.

So this year for Lauren it was just rabbits, photography, and houseplants, while Tabitha stuck to her visual arts and drawing & painting projects.  All of these things are essentially over by Wednesday night and collectively do not require nearly the effort to bring in and have judged that the turkeys did all by themselves, which means a generally quieter Fair season than we’ve had in quite some time.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

For a great many (generally happy) reasons, I couldn’t really take off work this week for the Fair anyway, so having Tabitha driving was a grand thing as she could get her artwork in and judged on her own as well as get Lauren to the Fair for her photography judging, and since Tabitha is now officially an adult in the eyes of the law she's also able to chaperone when Lauren does her driving time, so win all around I say.  Kim and I did help get the rabbits situated (and we were there Saturday morning setting up the rabbit barn, as always) and help get Lauren’s other projects delivered as well.

I don’t understand the photography judging.  Every so often they ask me to be a judge because I am a warm body and my daughter is in the photography project and volunteer-run organizations are just like that, but I couldn’t do it.  First of all, I tend to like most things and find it kind of difficult to subject them to criticism that is too rigorous (especially when it comes to Danish judging, which works on a strict percentage curve).  I'd be a terrible judge that way.  And second, I have no idea why they make the decisions they do.  Things that I would have given blues to get whites and vice verse, and don’t get me started on some of the things selected for Merit or State Fair.  Clearly I am out of the loop, and it is probably best for all concerned that I stay out of it.

I rather liked Lauren’s photos.  She has a good eye.

She submitted two projects – Four Color Photos Of One Object (a sneaker viewed from a number of artful angles) and Four Color Photos of Different Objects (one person, one animal, one landscape – for which she chose a cityscape, which I thought was creative but which I suspect might have struck the judge in this largely rural county as not really what they were looking for – and one building).  The sneaker got a red, while the different objects got white.

Her houseplant entry was somewhat abused by the weather, unfortunately.  We had it outside by the eaves and it rained and the gutters turned out to be unable to handle that volume of rain (I need to clean them out, apparently) so the poor basket was just pounded by water a few days before the Fair.  She did the best she could to revive it and it did turn out reasonable looking, but it still got a pink.

Rabbit showmanship was Wednesday afternoon, and for long and complicated reasons I just barely missed it.  Lauren did well, though.  There’s another girl in her class who also does well and they’ve been trading the championship back and forth for a while now.  This year the other girl won and Lauren got a top blue – second place overall – which is a very nice job, really.

Last night they judged the rabbits themselves.  The kids scoop up their bunnies and trot them from the barn to the livestock pavilion – always an invitation to slapstick – whereupon the judge comes along and prods them (the bunnies, not the kids) like bread dough for a while and then gives out ribbons.  Both of Lauren’s rabbits got red ribbons, which we suspect is at least in part due to the fact that until this year she was the only person who shows Dwarf Hotot bunnies (this year there was a second) and the judges, not being all that familiar with the breed, don’t quite know how to evaluate them.  We asked Lauren what the judge said to her during the prodding process and she said, “Well, he told me the usual things that they say when they don’t quite know what to say.”  But reds are good, and so we wrapped up the bunnies.

Kim and I wandered about the Fair for a bit after that.  It’s feeding time at the human zoo, and you have to love it for that.

For her projects, Tabitha submitted a painting, a mixed media artwork, a digital artwork, and a piece of ceramic art.

I like them all - she's got a lot of talent - though I confess that the forest fire one is my favorite.  They all got blue ribbons – even the digital art, which was again judged by someone who didn’t seem very comfortable with digital art (“You mean you didn’t just edit a photo?”) – and the forest fire and mixed media both got top blues, which is very nice indeed.

So we’re pretty much done with the Fair as far as obligations go.  It’s an odd feeling not to have required events every day.  We still have to man the bakery tent for a couple of hours on Friday, after which our friends Heidi and Travis will come down to join us at the Fair as they do every year, and everything loads out in one frantic blaze of adrenaline on Sunday night, but otherwise we’re good.

Thursday, July 19, 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. Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times makes an important if rather frightening point – we are going through the trial runs of Fascism in the western world today.  An ideology that was crushed seven decades ago at the cost of tens of millions of lives and the wasted productive capacity of an entire civilization has wormed its way back into prominence because of the basic stupidity and moral bankruptcy of far too many people, and we’re going to have to figure out how to crush it again.

“Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy,” he notes.  “It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility.  You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes.  They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate.  That is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.”

This include rigging elections, propaganda machines spitting out “alternative facts,” and – most importantly – the breaking of moral boundaries by dehumanizing out-groups and treating them as enemies.  We see that with Italy’s treatment of the Roma these days.  We see that with der Sturmtrumper’s coldly calculated war on immigrants.  We see that all over.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

2. The fetishization of the military is also a warning sign of Fascism, and in fairness to der Sturmtrumper he didn’t create it here in the US – he only jumped on that bandwagon with both feet and started whipping the horses into an uncontrollable frenzy, to the applause of idiots.  The problem – one of the many problems – is that der Sturmtrumper thinks the military is a shiny toy to be tossed around the world on whim.  Again, this has been the standard GOP mantra for two decades now (Remember Iraq?  Remember how close we were/are to war with Iran?), but when you have a warmonger president who openly flirts with authoritarian dictatorship and who never served in the military (go get ‘em, Cadet Bone Spurs!), that’s a bad combination.  Perhaps that’s why he repeatedly tried to get the US to invade Venezuela for no justifiable reason last year – an aggressive and unlawful act that would have continued the American slide into a world pariah state that der Sturmtrumper seems to regard with gleeful anticipation.

Despite clear and specific warnings not to discuss the issue with Latin American leaders, der Sturmtrumper went out of his way to do so – confirming their distrust of the US and providing ample ammunition to this country’s enemies regarding our hostile intent – until HR McMaster finally sat der Sturmtrumper down and explained in no uncertain terms just how fucking stupid this was.  McMaster’s gone now.  Sleep well, America.

3. And now the Senate Intelligence Committee has agreed with the obvious – that Russia interfered with the 2016 US presidential election with the specific intent of getting der Sturmtrumper elected.  The Committee – the only major bipartisan investigation into the Russian subversion of the election – declared that after 16 months of election the intelligence community is correct and the House Republican whitewash was nonsense, and that the Mueller investigation is therefore fully justified.  Waiting for der Sturmtrumper to denounce the entire Senate in 3 … 2 … 1 …

4. As der Sturmtrumper continues to bumble his way into a world-economy-destroying trade war, the consequences are being felt here in the US – particularly by the kinds of rural areas that voted for der Sturmtrumper, oddly enough.  The Chinese response to der Sturmtrumper’s attacks will likely cost Iowa soybean farmers over half a billion dollars next year, while the Mexican response to der Sturmtrumper’s tax will cost Iowa pork producers well over a quarter of a billion dollars.  This is without taking into account proposed responses from the EU and Canada which will add to that damage.  Folks, this is what you get when you vote for a proudly ignorant and economically illiterate fool because he promises to keep you safe from brown people, and to be honest it’s hard to come up with much sympathy for the misfortunes of people who take such glee in the misfortunes delivered unto others by their Dear Leader.

5. The trade war is only going to get worse before der Sturmtrumper either gets his ass handed to him and retreats or, more likely, crashes the global economy.  He’s managed to piss off pretty much every major trading partner we have, and eventually they will figure out that they don’t really need us.  They can cut us out of the global economy and do quite well.  This has been true for several decades now, and it took a genuine idiot to force everyone else to see it.

6. Der Sturmtrumper’s war on Harley Davidson for having the temerity to follow free market principles and outsource some production in light of der Sturmtrumper’s costly trade war continues apace.  Now he’s threatening to bring in foreign companies to drive Harley Davidson out of business.  Consider that for a moment.  The American president is openly threatening to bring in foreign competitors to drive an iconic American company, one beloved especially by the sorts of people who, statistically, tended to vote for that president, into bankruptcy because that company is trying to survive in an economy made untenable by the president’s policies.  Remember that when he comes after you too.

7. According the New York State Attorney General, der Sturmtrumper’s pet charity – “The Donald J. Trump Foundation” – was “little more than a checkbook for payments to not-for-profits from Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization.”  Among other things, the charity spent $5000 to advertise der Sturmtrumper’s hotels, $10,000 for a portrait of der Sturmtrumper that was hung at the sports bar of one of his golf resorts, $100,000 to settle a legal dispute with the city of Palm Beach, and $258,000 to settle other lawsuits against der Sturmtrumper and his businesses – something that is clearly documented by notes in der Sturmtrumper’s own handwriting.  The foundation also violated campaign finance laws by providing “extensive support” to der Sturmtrumper’s campaign.  One more indictable offense that the GOP will happily overlook in their quest for absolute power.

8. Der Sturmtrumper – who has been credibly accused by over a dozen different women of sexual crimes ranging from harassment to rape – has appointed former Fox “News” leader Bill Shine to be his new Assistant and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.  Yes, this is the same Bill Shine who resigned last year after having been revealed as the guy who covered up decades worth of sexual harassment scandals at Fox “News” and has been named in at least four different legal actions related to sexual harassment or racial discrimination.  Is this the Great part yet?  Has America become Great again, or is this just one more example of the GOP’s ongoing war on morality, human decency, and women in general?  Details at 11.

9. There is only one legitimate SCOTUS nomination that der Sturmtrumper could possibly make, and that is Merrick Garland – the eminently qualified jurist whose nomination was stonewalled by a GOP Congress on pure naked partisan grounds, the first time that has ever happened in the more than two centuries of this nation’s legal existence.  Not that the GOP cares, of course.  They’ve got their right-wing extremist already chosen – apparently der Sturmtrumper and Anthony Kennedy had it all worked out, which does call Kennedy’s decisions over the last year into serious ethical question.  But there you have it.

10. Anyone who wants to know why der Sturmtrumper chose Brett Kavanaugh to be his nominee instead of a principled jurist like Merrick Garland need only look at Kavanaugh’s published record.  In addition to being the pet judge of the Federalist Society – a group so rigidly right wing that they would happily let their fellow Americans starve rather than have the federal government spend a dime or lift a finger to help them – Kavanaugh thinks guns have more rights than schoolchildren and women are little better than broodmares, hates any form of environmental protection, and – perhaps most importantly – believes that a sitting president is above the law, a position so extreme that the Founders would have had him horsewhipped as a tyrant’s sycophant.  Naturally a sitting president currently under investigation for multiple serious crimes and heading for impeachment if Congress could only be bothered with enforcing such things as the Constitution likes that last point.  Whether der Sturmtrumper should be allowed to appoint any Supreme Court Justice while under such a cloud – let alone a manifestly convenient justice such as Kavanaugh – is an open question but not one that the GOP is likely to care about as it would threaten their naked grip on raw power and such threats are unacceptable regardless of law, ethics, or Constitution.

11. Scott Pruitt, the one-man graft squad who saw the EPA as his own personal piggy bank, is out now, not that his replacement is much of an improvement.  We are ruled by short-sighted charlatans who will be dead by the time their catastrophic policies kill the rest of us so they don’t care.

12. Did der Sturmtrumper really go to Europe and try his damndest to kill NATO, the lynchpin of American security for nearly seven decades now?  Why yes, yes he did.  He attacked the Germans as Russian puppets (more evidence for the simple rule that if you want to know what the GOP is up to, look at what they accuse their opponents of doing) and complained that the US was somehow carrying everyone on its financial back.  Except those numbers were so completely false that it’s a wonder anyone could choke them down.  Remember folks: cui bono.  The only nation that benefits from such nonsense is Russia, and oddly enough that’s who der Sturmtrumper works for. 

13.  You know, if der Sturmtrumper isn’t a Russian agent he’s missing out on an opportunity to get paid, because he’s doing pretty much everything a Russian agent in his position would do. 

14. How precisely does der Sturmtrumper justify opposing a UN resolution to encourage women to breast-feed their babies?  This is a fucking no-brainer.  Breast milk is healthier, cheaper, actually designed for the purpose, and requires no packaging or storage.  And yet the US delegation to the World Health Assembly bullied and threatened other delegations to prevent this resolution from being passed.  When the Ecuadorian delegation was tasked with introducing the resolution for discussion, the US threatened a trade war and the withdrawal of military aid if they dared to do.  More than a dozen other nations reported this – many of whom would only do so anonymously fearing US retaliation.  What the actual FUCK is going on with these soulless thugs?  Is there nothing that they won’t attempt to destroy if they can’t profit from it?  Don’t answer those questions – the answers are too obvious to merit discussion.  For the record, a) they’re psychotic, and b) no.

15. If you want to see just how far the GOP is willing to go in order to protect their Dear Leader from the criminal prosecution he so richly deserves, consider Ben Benczkowski.  Benczkowski has been confirmed to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division despite never having prosecuted a criminal case.  Or a civil case.  Or even filing a motion in a federal court.  He was, however, a member of der Sturmtrumper’s transition team and represented a Russian bank that has been linked to der Sturmtrumper’s Russian affairs.  You know, it’s like they’re not even trying to hide the corruption anymore because they know full well their ideologically fanatical base doesn’t care as long as they get to have power.

16. For those of you slow on the uptake, the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Bill shoved through Congress by your friendly neighborhood GOP racketeers is having precisely the predicted effect on wages.  The quarterly wage index found that income for most people fell about 0.9% in the first quarter under the tax regime, the first time that has been true since 2015.  Manufacturing workers saw their pay decline a full 5%, while construction workers, restaurant workers, and retail workers all saw declines.  Upper income folks, though – their incomes rose.  Boy, howdy, who saw that coming, huh?  Except everyone, I mean.

17. All snark aside (and seriously, do you know how hard it is to do that these days?), how certain are we that Trump is mentally stable at this point?  Consider this recent statement on trade with the UK:

DT: We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like.  I mean they have a lot of great product.  They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names – you can say “England,” you can say “UK,” you can say “United Kingdom,” so many different – you know you have, you have so many different names – Great Britain.  I always say, “Which one do you prefer?  Great Britain?”  You understand what I’m saying?

REPORTER: You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?

DT: Right, yeah.  You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that.  But you have lots of different names.  The fact is you make great product, you make great things.  Even your farm product is so fantastic.

Or this, as part of a larger complaint that people don’t congratulate him on the size of his audiences:

DT: They never say I’m a great speaker.  Why the hell do so many people come?  It’s got to be something.  I guess they like my policy?  I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot records.  And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument.  I don’t have a guitar or an organ.  No organ.  Elton has an organ.  And lots of other people helping.  No we’ve broken a lot of records.  We’ve broken virtually every record.  Because you know, look I only need this space.  They need much more room.  For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot room.  We don’t need it.  We have people in that space.  So we break all of these records.  Really we do it without like, the musical instruments.  This is the only musical: the mouth.  And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth.  Right?  The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain.  The brain is much more important.

This is the rambling of a man whose grip on reality is fading fast – honestly, if your grandfather started babbling like that you wouldn’t trust him with the television remote, let alone the leadership of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

Remember that this is the guy with his finger on the nuclear button and try to sleep well at night if you can.

18. Every time I hear der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, cronies, and enablers complaining that the Mueller investigation has somehow gone on too long or is some kind of free-floating witch hunt, I consider the fact that the nonsensical Benghazi investigation (which at least six different Republican-authored reports declared had no substance) went on for 72 months, produced 0 indictments and 0 guilty pleas, and saw Hillary Clinton testify before Congress for 11 hours, while the Mueller investigation has lasted 14 months, produced 23 indictments and 5 guilty pleas, and der Sturmtrumper has so far refused to speak to Mueller directly because his own lawyers freely acknowledge that he’d commit perjury because that’s just what he does.  Guys, complaining about Mueller is a bad look and you should be ashamed.

19. In the latest WTF news, der Sturmtrumper has labeled the EU as one of the United States’ enemies – a rather bizarre position coming from the leader of a nation which has worked hard to foster the EU and who relies on the EU to help bolster its own security.

20. Perhaps this has something to do with der Sturmtrumper’s private meeting with his lord and master in Helsinki, the one that happened without any adult supervision.  Max Bergmann, who served in the State Department from 2011 to 2017 noted that der Sturmtrumper’s appearance at the beckon call of Vladimir Putin was virtually unprecedented.  “It’s bizarre for the leader of the most powerful country in the world to meet the president of a weak country on bended knee,” he noted.  Any other American president, if three days earlier the Justice Department said Russia meddled in the election, would probably have been cancelling the summit or making it about the confrontation, redrawing the red lines and saying, ‘If you do this again, we will respond so aggressively that it’s not worth your while.’  There is zero expectation that’s going to happen.”  And, lo and behold, it didn’t.

21. Former Fox “News” reporter Carl Cameron, at least, is clear on what’s happening.  “The Trump team were colluding with the Russians in 2016 – and they are still colluding. … Whenever the President denies the entire idea of Russian interference in US elections – and labels investigations into such interference a hoax or witch hunt he is enabling the biggest cyberattack in US history.” 

Folks, again: we lost a war with Russia in 2016 that we didn’t even know we were fighting, and as long as the GOP holds power and refuses to do anything about it we will continue to lose.  When it all comes crashing down, remember you knew about it long before it happened.

22. Meanwhile Mueller’s investigations roll on.  We now have compelling evidence that the Russian government engaged in a coordinated attack on the US, one designed to aid der Sturmtrumper and corrupt the US election.  We know that der Sturmtrumper’s campaign was thoroughly compromised by the Russians, and that it worked closely with them.  And yet der Sturmtrumper refuses to acknowledge any of this, and instead he aggressively defends Russia and attacks the American intelligence agencies defending this country.

23. Meanwhile foreign investment in the US dropped by nearly a third in 2017, der Sturmtrumper’s first year in power.  Foreign investment declined from $439,500.000,000.00 in 2016 to $259,600,000,000.00 in 2017.  Gee, you demonize foreigners, act like an unstable madman three doses behind on your meds, start random trade wars, and generally do your best to eliminate all laws protecting people from exploitation, and you become a pariah even in the business community?  Who would have thought?

24. Meanwhile we have moved into a new phase of Republican fiscal irresponsibility as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is set to release its economic and budget outlook report showing that the annual US budget deficit will top $1,000,000,000,000.00 every year that der Sturmtrumper is president, under the current GOP policies.  Given that the CBO tends to estimate rather low on these things, the actual fiscal damage to the United States will likely be much worse.  These deficits are structural and – barring a complete policy turnaround by the GOP – permanent, which makes them far more disastrous than the similar-sized deficits that happened during the last year of George W. Bush’s budgetary authority (2009) and the first three years of Obama’s (2010-2012).  Those were directly connected to the Great Recession and were temporary, and in fact Obama managed to decrease the deficit almost every year he was in office despite fanatical resistance by Republicans to any sort of responsible tax policy.  Those decreases are now just a memory, thanks to a GOP whose reputation for fiscal sanity is perhaps the greatest con job in American history.

25.  Apparently Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is unaware that Congress can actually override a presidential veto.  When quizzed on whether Congress could simply pass a law overturning der Sturmtrumper’s disastrous tariffs, he responded by saying that der Sturmtrumper would never sign such a thing so why bother?  Folks, this is your second in line for the presidency after Mike "Toady" Pence, right here.  Given that the Democrats almost universally regard these tariffs as stupid and self-defeating and that these tariffs flatly contradict decades’ worth of Republican dogma, it might not actually be that hard to find a 2/3 majority to bring some sanity to US trade policy, at least in the short term.  Just saying.

26. Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick – der Sturmtrumper just went to Helsinki and attacked the United States while defending this nation’s greatest enemy and if that doesn’t qualify as treason then it didn’t miss by much.  For fuck sake, even some of the GOP is appalled.  A collection of responses, courtesy of my friend Jack:

27. GOP Representative Will Hurd (R-TX), a former intelligence officer, was flabbergasted, a word that we should use more often in these parlous times.  Discussing his long experience of dealing with people who have clearly been manipulated by Russian intelligence, Hurd said “I never would have thought the US president would be one of them.”  Guess what?  Now you can think it. 

28. The American Conservative published an article that also scorched der Sturmtrumper for capitulating (their word) to Vladimir Putin.  “Trump basically made himself into Putin’s prison bride,” noted The American Conservative.  “What a disgusting performance, utterly devoid of self-respect or even a minimal sense of patriotism.”  And this is from an outfit that explicitly labels itself as conservative.

29. James Fallows put our current situation neatly in an article in The Atlantic.  “There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president,” he wrote.  “Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests – maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes.  Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.  Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.”  Either way, he’s working for this nation’s most implacable enemy and not for the United States.

There’s a word for people like that.  And an outcome.

30. The San Francisco Chronicle also minced no words.  “President Trump’s performance at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was an unmitigated disaster,” the paper stated in an editorial.  “He cowered when he should have confronted, he deflected when he should have been definitive, he whiffed when he should have been taking to task the tyrannical leader of a nation whose military attacked American democracy.  On Monday in Helsinki, Donald Trump disgraced his country on foreign soil.”

31. This was a historic low for American diplomacy and world standing – worse than the fiasco of the Kennedy/Khrushchev summit in 1961 that led directly the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In an article in The New Yorker, Robert Kagan – a former State Department officer – noted that “whereas Kennedy in the end was trying to strengthen the American position, Trump is actively and deliberately weakening it.  By undermining our alliances and destroying the American-led world order, he is leading us back toward the kind of dangers that we saw in the first half of the twentieth century.  There may not be anything so dramatic as the Cuban Missile Crisis right away – Russia is not in the position the Soviet Union was in – but over time the costs and dangers are likely to be much higher.  We have never before had an American President who shared Moscow’s goals.”  Added Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, “The last three months have substantially weakened the US position in the world.  We are in a trade ware with our most important economic partners, have created doubts in the minds of our European allies (as a result of our harangues over defense spending and our withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA) as to US reliability and our willingness to speak truth to Russian power, and have failed to move North Korea closer to denuclearization while weakening sanctions and raising doubts in Seoul as to US dependability.”  Yes, all around, it’s been a lovely time for those who care about the United States and its place in the world.


33. Naturally American intelligence agencies have been outraged by this unprecedented assault from a sitting president.  Mark Lowenthal, former director of the CIA, declared it “beyond the pale” – “He’s the best president that Russia’s ever had,” he added.  Dan Coats, der Sturmtrumper’s own director of national intelligence, stated publicly that everything der Sturmtrumper said about Putin was an outright lie, and while most serving intelligence officers won’t go on public record (it’s their job to be secretive, after all), a few have been willing to note anonymously that der Sturmtrumper has apparently picked a side and “it isn’t ours.”

34. Former CIA director John Brennan was even more blunt.

35. Perhaps not surprisingly, former FBI Director James Comey – whose nakedly partisan firing started all of the investigations that are leading us to this point – was equally blunt.  “This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country.  Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this president.”  Patriots already have.  Many others have chosen servility and subversion, though.

36. And hot on the heels of this comes the criminal complaint against Mariia Butina as a Russian spy.  She hasn’t been much of a cloak and dagger figure living in the shadows, though – she’s a modern spy, out in the open.  She founded a Russian gun group and worked closely with the NRA.  She worked with the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, a right-wing organization that somehow missed the whole “separation of church and state” thing, though in their defense most of the GOP seems ignorant of that fact.  She’s consorted with GOP leaders and worked to broker a meeting between der Sturmtrumper and Putin in 2016.  She’s had her photograph taken with Rick Santorum and Wisconsin’s own Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries).  She was the first person to publicly ask der Sturmtrumper about Russian sanctions, at a campaign event in Las Vegas in 2015 where der Sturmtrumper just happened to call on her and just happened to have a complete answer to her question.  She’s one of the main conduits between the GOP and the Russians, and now she’s being formally accused by the Justice Department (not Mueller, you’ll notice).  This criminal complaint contains significant evidence that Butina was the secret back channel between the GOP and the Russian government, via the NRA.  Should be interesting times ahead.

37. Did you notice that less than 24 hours after a Russian spy was indicted for, among other things, funneling foreign money through the NRA in order to buy an American election – always remember, folks, the NRA spent $30,000,000.00 of Russia’s money to get der Sturmtrumper elected – the GOP Congress rushed through a policy stating that the NRA no longer had to disclose who donated to it to the IRS?  Isn’t that … convenient?


39. Is anyone else surprised by the fact that the reaction from the GOP to the indictments of 12 more Russians by Robert Mueller’s team has been to call for the investigation to be shut down.  “That is a very odd reaction to a successful investigation which just indicted many Russian operatives attacking our country,” noted Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.  “And it really does make you wonder.”  You can wonder about that.  You can wonder about the fact that there has been no action taken on the revelation that the Russians actually stole data from Americans and attempted to manipulate it for their advantage.  The answers aren’t that hard, though.

40. Meanwhile, the nation’s top maker of electronic voting machines has publicly admitted that they installed remote-access software on their machines – effectively opening them up to any hacker who noticed them.  This is “the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), but pretty much par for the course in an age of rampant electoral fraud.  Note carefully that I don’t say “voter fraud” – there has never been any evidence of any statistically significant cases of voter fraud despite the rush by the GOP to claim it as justification for suppressing the vote with Voter ID laws.  There has been, however, electoral fraud – fraud by the people counting the votes, not casting them.  Here in Wisconsin we’re intimately familiar with this (looking at you, County Clerk of Waukesha County!), and now you get to experience it too!

41. Did you know that Wisconsin’s own Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) – the same guy whose first major policy initiative was to destroy teacher unions, who has waged a relentless assault on academic freedom and tenure, who cut more than $2,000,000,000.00 from education in Wisconsin and then gave $800,000,000.00 to unregulated private “schools” and another $3,100,000,000.00 to a foreign company with a long history of reneging on every promise it makes to the communities it bleeds dry, whose hand-picked rulers over the University of Wisconsin System have shoved through policies so dire that other institutions of higher learning are openly and successfully recruiting its top talent and the UW Madison is, for the first time since the 1970s, no longer a top-5 research institution – has decided to start calling himself “the Education Governor”?  This is why satire is so damnably hard these days, folks – when the stupid and the arrogant can’t even tell that they’re lying anymore, there’s just not much room to maneuver. 

42. In case you were wondering which side the GOP was on, consider this:  The GOP spending bill ends funding for grants that help states protect their election systems from hacking and interference such as everyone but der Sturmtrumper and his most blinded minions now acknowledge happened to the US in 2016.  When Democrats proposed an amendment to the bill restoring that funding, the GOP refused even to let it come up for a vote.  “The refusal to appropriate a dime for state defense against Russian interference really represents nothing less than unilateral disarmament,” noted Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).  At some point you really have to ask yourself whether the entire GOP is in on this collusion, because it’s getting hard to explain their consistent refusal to defend the United States against attack by a foreign power in any other way.

43. Der Sturmtrumper is now actively considering whether to hand over an American diplomat to Russian forces for interrogation.  He has also endorsed Putin’s offer to put Russian agents into Robert Mueller’s investigations.  Consider that, next time you need to think about which party defends the United States and which party is made up of quislings.

Though in the GOP’s defense, the Senate has voted 98-0 to pass a non-binding resolution opposing the idea of letting Russian intelligence interrogate American officials.  Hey guys – how about making the next one binding?  Words are cheap and actions are necessary.

44. Andrea Mitchell (NBC News): We have some breaking news.  The White House has announced Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence): Say that again.

AM: Vladimir Putin …

DC: Did I hear you?

AM: Yeah.

DC: Okay … that’s gonna be special.

Folks – this isn’t normal.  The only president we’ve got just invited the leader of our most implacable enemy (a former intelligence officer) into the presidential mansion without bothering to let the guy in charge of national intelligence know ahead of time.  It’s almost like there’s an effort being made to circumvent the security people who might actually understand how bad of an idea this actually is.

45. Just a reminder:

There are still children kidnapped by der Sturmtrumper’s regime who have not been returned to their parents.

Puerto Rico still does not have full power.

Flint still does not have clean water.

Try not to forget.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bills to Pay

It’s hard to give people your money sometimes.

Kim and I used to have a homemade soap business, back before the girls got mobile enough to make 50lb sacks of lye things we didn’t want in the house.  We’d run the craft show circuit all summer long, and that’s how we ate for those three months that teachers aren’t paid for.  I learned during those years that one of the most basic principles of retail is that you never put obstacles in front of a customer.  People were walking by me with money in their pockets that was rightfully mine and I needed to make that transfer process as quick and painless as possible for it to work in my favor.

I am continually amazed at how unknown this lesson is in the wider world.

Tabitha is only a few short weeks from heading off to college now, and incoming college freshmen these days are inundated with administrative and bureaucratic tasks, far more than I remember being when I was at an equivalent stage.  She’s had to pick a meal plan (they’re all the same cost, but some are more flexible than others), a housing option, and a class schedule, fill out a healthcare form and a blizzard of other such paperwork, and generally spend a vast amount of time gearing up for heading off soon.

One of the things that has to happen somewhere in this process is that the bills have to get paid.  As parents, that’s where we come in.  Except that with FERPA – the federal law governing student privacy – this gets complicated.

I sat down last week to set up a payment plan for this coming school year.  We’ve been saving for college since both of the girls were little and the college was generous with financial aid, so the actual bills will be, um, manageable.  Yeah.  Manageable.  We’ll call it that.  So mostly it was getting a plan set up.

I went to the school website, where it said that as far as bill-paying went there was a Student Portal and a Parent Portal.

I like this idea of calling it a portal.  The word implies a brief and confused journey to the other side of reality from which return is implausible so you might as well get used to your new situation.  It makes sense in context.

So I went to the Parent Portal and was immediately confronted by a login page asking me for my Parent PIN.

I don’t have a Parent PIN.  How does one acquire such a thing?  From whom?  There were no instructions.  You’re just supposed to know.  And despite having worked in academia for nearly three decades now – the last 10% of that as an academic advisor, responsible for explaining the mysteries of financial aid and related matters to my students – I had no idea how to go about figuring any of that out.


So the next day I called the campus rep and it turned out that because of FERPA Tabitha would have to access her account and give me permission to pay her bills, and as part of this process I would be assigned a PIN.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Last night Tabitha and I tried to take care of this.  We downloaded the pdf of instructions, went to the campus website, and Tabitha tried to log in.  It wouldn’t let her, despite the fact that she was already logged in several tabs over on her browser.  This seems to be an ongoing issue for her, but a simple password reset had us back in business. 

We found the place where you’re supposed to set up parents to pay the bills, clicked on the link, and were confronted by yet another login page asking for yet another number that neither of us knew what it was or how to get one.  A search of Tabitha’s email, the school’s website, and the pdf of instructions yielded (at least in myself; I can't speak for Tabitha here) only an intense desire for whiskey in quantity, and not good whiskey either – the kind of whiskey that makes you regret ever having heard of the concept of whiskey but which provides enough pain to make you forget why you started drinking in the first place.

Stymied again.

So this morning I called the campus once more, this time to the accounts payable people, and we had a pleasant and informative conversation.  I have often found that this to be true when dealing with people whose fearsome reputations precede them – IRS agents, DMV representatives, and so on.  They’re just people, even if the systems they represent are impenetrable. 

“Oh,” they said.  “You’re looking for THIS number.  This is how that works…”


We tried it again tonight and it worked.  We’re set up for a payment plan, and that’s one item checked off the list for next month.

And the drop-off date gets that much closer.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

News and Updates

1.  We’re knee deep in July and I keep thinking that my life will calm down soon but somehow new things keep happening.  This is not a problem really, as most of those things are good things, but I’m feeling rather tired these days.  So much of being an adult is just thinking “If I can only make it until [DATE] I’ll get some time to catch up,” and then it’s suddenly [DATE PLUS SEVERAL DAYS] and you’re just wondering how you got there and whether half the stuff you had planned to catch up on should just get tossed as dead weight.  I suppose that’s one way to trim a to-do list.

2. You know you’re in deep when you sit down during a quiet moment at work and idly put together a list of things to work on for when you get home and it ends up being 22 items long.  So far I’ve checked off one item.  But that’s progress, isn’t it?

3. So the World Cup final will not be particularly interesting after all.  I had a 3 in 4 chance of getting a game with a team that I was cheering for once the semifinals were set – Belgium v France and England v. Croatia meant that my final game options were Belgium v England (double yay!), Belgium v. Croatia (yay!), France v. England (yay!) or France v. Croatia (say what now?).  And naturally I am left with Option 4.  Oh well.

4. Yes I have a friend in France too, but I find that I am having a hard time caring whether France wins or not.  I suspect this is because they were one of the favorites and they won it all not that long ago.  On the other hand, they do play an entertaining game.  Of course so does Croatia and they’ve never won.  I’m sure I’ll end up watching the game anyway (and definitely the third-place game between Belgium and England).  There will be a long gap after that before the Premier League picks up again and I need to store up my soccer viewing time, though the US men’s and women’s leagues are in session this summer so that will help.

5. It’s marching band season and Lauren is heading to field shows and parades.  Kim and I went to the home show that they did a couple of weeks ago, and that was a good time.  It was far too hot for the heavy uniforms that they wear, but they did a nice job of playing through it.  I was impressed, at any rate.  Go Lauren!

6. It’s always such a lovely thing when friends come to visit, especially if they’re people you don’t get to see very often and wish you could.  Mike and Krista drove out from Pittsburgh for a few days and it was so good to see them and not nearly long enough.  There are people in this world that you only see at long intervals and when you do it’s like no time has passed at all.  Hang onto those people, folks. 

7. In addition to her marching band, Lauren is also keeping up the family tradition of running spotlight for the school plays.  Local Businessman High School is running its summer musical this week and next and Lauren signed up for that gig.  So Lauren and I spent some time on Monday morning down at Home Campus walking through the mechanics of running a spotlight and practicing for a bit, and now she’s at rehearsal putting all that to good use.  I am a proud theater dad!

8. I need to clean my office.  I have space now to clean my office.  I have time to clean my office.  The office definitely, positively, absolutely needs to be cleaned.  I am not cleaning my office at the moment.  This is likely not going to end well.

9. My summer class is going well, however, even if I do have a pile of papers to grade now.  I miss being in a classroom when I don’t get to teach and this is one of my favorite classes, so I guess I’ll just grade the papers and be done with it.

10. This summer has been far too hot for far too long.  Seriously – it’s been heat-wave hot for most of the last four weeks, and as someone who thinks civilized weather starts halfway through the autumn and runs just a few weeks into spring, I’m pretty much done with it.  I could really go for some global cooling right about now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My Cup Runneth Over

I’m enjoying the World Cup so far.

I don’t get as much of a chance to see it this time around as I did last time, when it was in Brazil.  Brazil is more or less in the same time zone as I am, which means that the games were played at a time when I wasn’t working or sound asleep (which two things are not simultaneous, at least not since I graduated from college).  This whole “working for a living” thing really does cut into my relaxation time, you know?  Russia covers eleven time zones and not a single one of them is convenient for a spectator in the American midwest, but so it goes.

I get to see some of the games live on weekends or when I don’t go in to work until later in the day, and sometimes if I think I’ll have time in the evenings I’ll tape them.  This has its drawbacks, though.  I was at a social gathering this past weekend when the tournament came up in conversation.  “Don’t tell me who won that game!” I said.  “I’ve got it recorded for later!”  And then somebody else who didn’t hear me say that wandered by and said, “Did you see that game!  That team won!  It was fantastic!  There was THIS play and THAT play and where are you going, Dave?”

Oh well.

Please do not presume to criticize me for watching a sporting event originating from Russia.  Yes, I know that Russia is a corrupt and venal place that won a war against the US in 2016 that we didn’t even know we were fighting, but have you checked out our own government lately?  I’m just not sure that making moral judgments based on politics is something we Americans should be doing right now.

Also, I grew up in the Cold War.  I’m used to watching games that take place in countries that are actively trying to kill me.  This is not new.  We called that detente back in the day, and we walked uphill against the wind to see them on a black and white television with rabbit ears on top and a grainy picture on the screen and we liked it.

I think I can handle it.

Plus the American network broadcasting these games (not sure which one – I just scroll through the guide until I hit paydirt) has pretty much ignored the setting, which means I can just focus on the games and be happy.  Three cheers for you, network, whoever you are.

And I am happy, when I get the chance to watch.  Most of the games have been interesting (with the singular exception of Spain v Russia, which was a clinical exercise in wasted possession and mind-numbing delaying tactics by the Spaniards), and there have been a number of unexpected results to make things fun.  I knew it was going to be a good tournament when Mexico defeated Germany.

A lot of the students I see on Home Campus have family roots in Mexico, so there was much celebration around here.  It was a lot sadder when they lost to Brazil, but hey – only one team gets to win its final game in this, so you might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts.

With Mexico out, that means three of the four teams I’ve been cheering for are still alive.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that they are all in the same group* so a) they will have to play each other which means at least one will have to lose each time, and b) there is no chance that I will have two teams to cheer for in the final.  England and Sweden play each other next, and Belgium will play Brazil.  I have friends in England, Sweden, and Belgium, so those are my choices.  Only one of those countries can make it to the final, though, but I hope whichever one does wins it all.  The other side of the bracket has four teams that I don’t really feel much about one way or the other. 

Go my teams!  Beat the other teams!


*Correction, courtesy of my friend Roeland: Belgium is in a different group from England and Sweden, so there is in fact a chance that I could see a final between two teams I'm cheering for.  This is good news!

Monday, July 2, 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 the Supreme Court has overturned decades of precedent and all civilized morality in order to that it is okay for public businesses to serve only those parts of the public that they like, in whatever manner they like.  Welcome to the new Plessy v Ferguson, I suppose – the New Gilded Age rolls on, with anyone not a straight white evangelical male being relegated to second-class status at best.  Astonishingly, the Court insisted that this decision was not about the rights of LGBTQ American citizens to be treated as American citizens – the key issue, really – but was instead about the people who processed the original complaint, who were apparently insufficiently obsequious regarding the religious views of those who wished to deny American citizens the rights of American citizens.  This is, of course, nonsense.  Help me out – why is religion even part of the discussion here?  The United States is not founded on religion and we do not need to follow the Bible in our laws.  We are founded on the Constitution, and we follow that in our laws.  Your personal beliefs – sincerely held or not, catered to or not – are utterly irrelevant to this discussion.  If you want theocracy, move to Iran.

2. On the other hand, the decision was narrowly decided on procedural grounds, and it has already had one unforeseen consequence.  The Arizona Court of Appeals released a decision in the case of Brush & Nib Studio v Phoenix in a case that more or less mirrored the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.  The Studio was a card and decoration seller for, among other things, weddings, and they argued that a Phoenix law banning discrimination against same sex couples violated their First Amendment rights.  The Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this and cited the Masterpiece decision in support of its argument. 

Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. As this Court observed in Obergefell v. Hodges, “[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Nevertheless, while those religious and philosophical objections are protected, it is a general rule that such objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.

“The government may prohibit businesses from discriminating against same-sex couples,” noted, “so long as it respects those business’ religious beliefs in adjudicating those disputes.  Brush & Bib Studio may sincerely oppose same-sex marriage.  But, the court explained, it could not create an exception for anti-gay business without inflicting a ‘grave and continuing harm’ on gay people.” 

Leaving aside the issue of whether businesses can have beliefs at all, this is essentially the opposite of what the bigots wanted, and seeing their own so-called victory used against them is just one of the bright spots that this world offers sometimes.

3. No, the president cannot pardon himself.  Don’t be ridiculous.  Only an idiot would say he could, and the fact that plenty of idiots are saying this now does not make it any less grotesquely stupid of a thing to say.  One of the foundational principles of western legal systems is that nobody can be the judge in their own case.  This was reported to Richard Nixon by the Department of Justice in 1974, in fact, only three days before he resigned in disgrace.  Now if only der Sturmtrumper would take the hint.

4. Der Sturmtrumper’s Nixonian argument that the president cannot obstruct justice because anything the president does is by definition legal is too much even for some Republicans.  PA Senator Pat Toomey said, “it is entirely possible for a president to obstruct justice,” and added that he could think of “lots of ways a president could obstruct justice.”  Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), noting the impeachment of Bill Clinton, said, “There’s a precedent there, obviously.  I’ve always said I didn’t think anybody is above or below the law.”  Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was one of the leaders of the impeachment circus in the 1990s, continues to have at least the virtue of consistency – “Well, you can be impeached for obstructing justice, that’s what we did with Clinton,” he pointed out.  So perhaps, just perhaps, when it comes to a choice between country and party, there might be just enough patriotism in the GOP to make a positive difference.

5. The German government – which knows how to recognize a Nazi when it sees one – is formally demanding an explanation for der Sturmtrumper’s pet ambassador’s threat to use his office to help right-wing extremist parties take over not only Germany but all of Europe.  This threat is, of course, not only a serious violation of diplomatic protocol that could very well lead to a break in relations with one of the United States’ most powerful and important allies, but also typical of the tin-eared radicalism of the regime this ambassador represents back in Washington DC.  Not that it is atypical of Richard Grenell’s style – a hyperpartisan GOP operative with a long history of bombshell stupid statements, Grenell seemed quite happy to tell Breitbart all about his plan to “empower” the sorts of people that ran Germany until 1945.  Sweet dancing monkeys in a stick, people – it has come to this: the United States is now actively working to reintroduce Nazism to Germany.  Think about that.

6. On the other hand, State Department spokesbot Heather Nauert claimed that “We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany.  Looking back on the history books, today is the 71st anniversary of the speech that announced the Marshall Plan.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion.”  Uh, wait.  Stop.  Run that last one by me again?  Weren’t we shooting Germans on D-Day?  I’m not sure this is the kind of relationship you want, especially if your own ambassador is actively trying to revive the NSDAP over there.

7. Robert Mueller’s team is reportedly now requesting that witnesses turn in their cell phones so they can’t hide encrypted messages from them.  This is neither groundbreaking nor surprising, since these are witnesses to potential criminal acts and Mueller’s team has the right to that information.  The witnesses can turn it over voluntarily or wait for the subpoena, but either way the end result is the same.  Naturally the right wing has issues with this.  Sean Hannity – der Sturmtrumper’s biggest cheerleader and Michael Cohen’s other client – has publicly advised witnesses to obstruct justice.  “Take your phones and bash ‘em with a hammer into itsy bitsy pieces, use bleach bit, remove the SIM cards and then take the pieces and hand it over to Robert Mueller,” he said to his minions. 

First, Hannity is now guilty of a crime – admittedly not a big one, unless one of those witnesses actually follows his advice, but obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice no matter how thin you slice it.  I look forward to his prosecution in a court of law. 

Second, it’s really amazing, isn’t it?  How nobody on the GOP side ever thinks that any evidence that Mueller could turn up will possibly exonerate der Sturmtrumper?  They know damn well he’s guilty, and every time they open their mouths it just makes that more obvious.  May they all go down together.

8. In an astonishingly cynical move, the North Carolina GOP – the leading edge of autocracy and corruption at the state level these days, which, in a country that includes Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Maine, is quite an achievement – has decided that if they can’t disenfranchise nonwhites and registered Democrats legally they will rewrite the state constitution to make it happen.  Their Voter Suppression law was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 for targeting “African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and since the GOP knows it cannot win a free and fair election they need a new tactic to guarantee their iron grip on power.  But yeah, “freedom.”

9. Abby Huntsman, one of the hosts of der Sturmtrumper’s favorite television shows “Fox & Friends,” described the meeting between der Sturmtrumper and Kim Jong-un as a meeting between “two dictators” and the other hosts didn’t even bother to correct it.  They’re not even trying to lie to you anymore, are they?

10. Oh sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, what a debacle der Sturmtrumper turned in at the G7 meeting in Quebec.  What an embarrassment this idiot is to my country.  Paul Krugman summed it up well:

What went down in Quebec? I’m already seeing headlines to the effect that Trump took a belligerent “America first” position, demanding big concessions from our allies, which would have been bad. But the reality was much worse.

He didn’t put America first; Russia first would be a better description. And he didn’t demand drastic policy changes from our allies; he demanded that they stop doing bad things they aren’t doing. This wasn’t a tough stance on behalf of American interests, it was a declaration of ignorance and policy insanity.

Der Sturmtrumper demanded – demanded! – that Russia be readmitted to the group, despite the fact that a) they were expelled for illegally invading Ukraine, a situation which continues, and b) their economy is nowhere near important enough to be included, being smaller than Brazil’s.  He demanded – demanded! – that the G7 member nations remove “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs on US goods despite the fact that the US government’s own numbers say that those tariffs average only 3% on American goods.  He showed up to important meetings late and left early.  He refused to sign the summit statement at the end because Reasons.  He attempted to start trade wars with all of our most important allies and threatened to cut off all trade with them unless they gave in to his petulant, incoherent demands.  This is a disgrace and an embarrassment, and anyone who supports this clown should be ashamed.

13. French President Emmanuel Macron was fairly clear in expressing the general reaction of the civilized world toward the juvenile antics of the American president.  “We spent two days to obtain a text and commitments,” he said.  “We will stand by them and anyone who would depart from them, once their back is turned, shows their incoherence and inconsistency.  International cooperation cannot depend on fits of anger or little words.  Let us be serious and worthy of our people.”  But you see, that’s the problem.  Der Sturmtrumper is neither serious nor worthy.

14. Der Sturmtrumper doesn’t seem to have figured out that everything the President reads or writes is part of history and needs to be preserved.  That’s not just a noble sentiment – that is actually federal law.  Apparently he destroys every document he handles, and then some poor slob has to go back and tape it back together.  Literally.  Laws are for other people folks – remember, that’s the GOP motto.

15.  Wait – is der Sturmtrumper really trying to pick a fight with Canada of all places?  Canada?  One of our oldest allies?  The country we share the world’s longest undefended border with?  The place known for being polite?  The one that has supported the US through pretty much everything over the last century and a half?  That Canada?  Can this guy be more of an asshole than he already is?  Can he destroy the American standing in the world more thoroughly than he is already doing?  Enquiring minds want to know.

16. Aaaaand continuing on the theme of These Fuckers Are Evil, now you have Our Confederate Attorney General announcing to the world that the US will no longer accept domestic abuse as legitimate grounds for asylum.  So wife-beaters of the world rejoice!  The US government is officially on your side!  Can we just throw this bunch of assholes into the river and be done with them now?  This goes beyond the snarkable and into the outright depraved.  Seriously, these fuckwits need to be torn down and replaced with human beings.

Also, the next time some right-winger gets on their high horse about “values” I will go spare.

17.  Der Sturmtrumper finally did get to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and, as predicted, got played like a dime store trombone.  In exchange for giving North Korea pretty much everything it demanded – security guarantees, equal treatment as a nuclear power, and the suspension of war exercises with South Korea that they have demanded for decades (a suspension which came as a great surprise to both South Korea and the US military) – the US got the same commitment to denuclearization that North Korea has made more than a dozen times since 1992, with no particular movement toward actually realizing it.  And in point of fact, to nobody’s surprise North Korea is now rapidly working to strengthen its nuclear arsenal, in direct contradiction to what der Sturmtrumper so proudly declared.

“The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement [that came from this meeting] was what it didn’t contain,” noted the New York Times.  “There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.  Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this.”

The man whose dealmaking skills led him to go bankrupt while trying to sell red meat, alcohol, and gambling to the American public has maintained his sorry track record of being taken to the cleaners by anyone he tries to negotiate with, and as with every previous time it will be the people around him who suffer and not der Sturmtrumper.  Note carefully that WE are the people around him now.

That sound you hear?  Wa-waaaaah.

Sad trombone.

18. Not that der Sturmtrumper didn’t get anything out of this.  He and the other dictator had a lovely conversation about beachfront condominiums, so perhaps yet another violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution is headed our way.

19. The predicted and predictable results of the Great Reverse Robin Hood Tax Plan shoved through Congress by a GOP unhappy with the fact that inequality is only at near-record highs and eager to make it even worse are in, and they are, well, predictable.  Revenue has declined while spending has increased, and the US posted a budget deficit of $146,800,000,000.00 in May – the largest monthly deficit since 2009, the last year of George W. Bush’s budgetary authority.  This, by the way, has been a trend this year – the first eight months of the current fiscal year has seen the deficit rise 23% to $532,200,000,000.00 (vs. the $432.900,000,000.00 from the previous year).  After seven consecutive budget years of declining deficits under Obama (after the record high deficits of George W. Bush), the federal deficit is expected to hit $800,000,000,000.00 this year and more than $1,000,000,000,000.00 by 2020.

The Republican reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility is the single biggest con job of the last half century in American politics.

20. Continuing on this theme, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report recently that noted that the national debt is now at its highest point since WWII – rapidly approaching $100,000,000,000,000.00 and currently equal to 78% of the entire GDP of one of the largest economies on earth.  Within 30 years, if nothing changes, the debt will reach 152% of GDP, and the tax bill has a “significant and direct” impact on this.  But hey – debt only matters when the black guy is in charge, amiright?  When it’s the white GOP guy, then it’s okay.

21. It’s looking more and more likely that der Sturmtrumper’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will flip and turn state’s evidence and my won’t that be exciting?  He has split with his own legal team and der Sturmtrumper’s lawyers see nothing good in that.  He has publicly declared that he will put “family and country first,” which list notably omits der Sturmtrumper.  He even thanked the FBI agents who raided his office and home for being “respectful, courteous, and professional.”  “We shook hands,” he said.  Grab yo’ popcorn.

22. Kris Kobach, the GOP nitwit who has been pounding the sand for years in his hallucinatory quest to find enough voter fraud to back up his obvious agenda of voter suppression, got slapped down by the judge when his case finally went to trial.  Federal Judge Julie A. Robinson – a Republican appointee, by the way – pummeled Kobach so hard he’ll be needing aspirin for months.  She found that his voter suppression law was illegal and unconstitutional, that he had no actual evidence to back up any of his claims, that his so called “expert witnesses” were the biggest bunch of liars and fools ever unleashed upon a court of law, and that Kobach’s predatory law actually disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters for no justifiable reason.  And since Kobach had personally represented Kansas in this case and had repeatedly violated elemental rules of evidence and discovery while doing so – Law School 101 stuff, really – she sentenced Kobach to remedial legal education. 

It is not clear to the Court whether the Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules.  Therefore, the Court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education.  Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant. 

That’s legalese for “you’re too fucking stupid to conduct yourself appropriately in a court of law so go back to school and maybe they can beat some information through your thick partisan skull.”  Good luck with that.

23. The Trump Trade War isn’t going so well.  One of the largest nail manufacturers in the US is about to go bankrupt from the flood of cancelled orders due to the retaliatory tariffs that the rest of the world has imposed on US products, and even that icon of American industry, Harley Davidson, is feeling the pinch – due to the $2200 price increase per motorcycle that this trade war will create, they decided to move some of their production overseas.  And of course der Sturmtrumper did not take that well, threatening to tax them out of existence.  Yes, folks, that’s the US president taking time out of his day to threaten an American business because it’s not toeing the line the way he wants them to.  That’s an impeachable offense, by the way, not that it matters to the GOP.  It’s also more evidence of the creeping totalitarianism that der Sturmtrumper embodies.  But FREEDOM!  Yeah, right.

24. Speaking of totalitarian acts, when Congresswoman Maxine Waters dared to criticize der Sturmtrumper’s policies and urged Americans to resist, der Sturmtrumper took the dictator’s path out and threatened her with bodily harm.  Because when psychotic bullies meet resistance, what else would they do?  Seriously – I didn’t tolerate this nonsense from my toddlers and I see no reason why I’m supposed to tolerate it from someone who is theoretically a grown-up.  Maybe some parent-figure in his life should take him over a knee?  Or is it too late for that?  Probably.  Oh well.  Parents: discipline your children before it’s too late!

25. The Supreme Court’s approval of der Sturmtrumper’s Muslim ban in Trump v. Hawaii will go down in history as one of the most shameful travesties of justice in American history, along with Dred Scott v. Sanford and Korematsu v. US.  To approve what amounts to a religious test on entry into the US based on specious national security grounds is an absolute embarrassment and a disgrace.  How the right-wingers on that court can square their argument that this is somehow not an outright case of religious bigotry (particularly in light of their oh-so-sensitive reaction to any criticism of religion when it comes to baking cakes for gay couples) despite the repeated statements to the contrary by der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, sycophants, and cronies, is an exercise in contortionism.  The sooner this halfwit crowd is run out of town on a rail, the better for the US and the world.

26. Justice Sonia Sotomayor certainly called out her oblivious colleagues over this issue.  A reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motived by anti-Muslim animus,” she wrote in her stinging dissent from the majority ruling, “The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”  As for the fig leaf that the majority tried to apply to this appalling decision by formally repudiating the Korematsu decision, Sotomayor was clear: “By blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”  She concluded with what any reasonably aware person would see as a warning: “Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments.  Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”

27. Oh, right.  Now we’re supposed to worry about civility because Sarah “Huckabee” Sanders was told to leave a restaurant because of her participation in and excusing of the worst excesses of an unAmerican regime.  First of all, isn’t this what right-wingers have fought for, the right of private businesses to discriminate against members of the general public for whatever reason comes to mind?  Weren’t they just cheering this decision when it came to bigotry against gay couples wanting cakes?  They never thought they’d be on the receiving end of it, though, and now they’re howling like stuck pigs.  There’s a word in German for this, I’m sure of it.  Oh well.  My guess is that the neo-Nazis who so wholeheartedly support der Sturmtrumper and his policies can fill Sanders in, if she chooses to ask.

Second, let’s review a few things.  This is the president who has publicly slandered all Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, made fun of a handicapped journalist, encouraged (and repeatedly still encourages) his supporters to commit acts of violence and terror against anyone who opposes him, boasted of sexually assaulting women, called Nazis “fine people,” harassed the survivors of a school shooting, and whose supporters routinely wear shirts that say “Fuck your feelings” and call their opponents “snowflakes” for complaining about assholery in general.  This isn’t even getting into the rampant child abuse that he started and continues to implement on the Mexican border, for which he deserves to rot in Hell.  His supporters see no problem with any of this, of course.  Yeah, right.  This is not a group that gets to complain about lack of civility.  This is a group that frankly deserves every asshole thing that can be dished out to them, and the only real question here is whether the rest of us want to sink to their level or not.  I may or may not do so, but I’m not going to complain when others do because it is deserved.

Third, to continue reviewing, isn’t this the same right-wing movement that shouted down members of Congress and sent armed idiots to walk around the perimeters of events where the Actual President was speaking during the 2010 astroturf wars, when fake populism calling itself the Tea Party decided that democracy wasn’t going to get it what it wanted so armed intimidation would?  Isn’t this the same group of assholes who actively cheered when a Virginia bakery asked Vice President Biden to leave back in 2012?  Why yes, yes it is!  Who knew!  Spare me the crocodile tears and the fake outrage and the calls for civility – they don’t want civility and wouldn’t recognize it if you gave it to them.  They want servility, and that they are damn well not going to have.

28. Or to put it another way:

29. Or, for those who want the tl;dnr version:

30.  A warning from Hamilton Nolan’s recent piece on Splinter, entitled “This Is Just the Beginning:”

This is all going to get more extreme. And it should. We are living in extreme times. The harm that is being done to all of us by the people in the American government is extreme. To imagine that Mexican immigrants should happily cook for and serve meals to people who enable a man who is determined to demonize and persecute them as subhuman criminals is far more outrageous than the idea that those enablers should not be served in restaurants. I do not believe that Trump administration officials should be able to live their lives in peace and affluence while they inflict serious harms on large portions of the American population. Not being able to go to restaurants and attend parties and be celebrated is just the minimum baseline here. These people, who are pushing America merrily down the road to fascism and white nationalism, are delusional if they do not think that the backlash is going to get much worse. Wait until the recession comes. Wait until Trump starts a war. Wait until the racism this administration is stoking begins to explode into violence more frequently. Read a fucking history book. Read a recent history book. The U.S. had thousands of domestic bombings per year in the early 1970s. This is what happens when citizens decide en masse that their political system is corrupt, racist, and unresponsive. The people out of power have only just begun to flex their dissatisfaction. The day will come, sooner that you all think, when Trump administration officials will look back fondly on the time when all they had to worry about was getting hollered at at a Mexican restaurant. When you aggressively fuck with people’s lives, you should not be surprised when they decide to fuck with yours.

You can argue whether this is justified or not.  You can argue whether this ought to happen or not.  But don’t be surprised when it happens, whatever you decide.  The United States is not special, it is not unique, and it is subject to the same laws of history as every other polity.  And one of those laws, more or less, is that what goes around comes around.  A properly constructed political system would have pressure valves and feedback mechanisms to ensure that things didn’t get too far out of hand, that the system would be responsive to the people it rules over, but the American political system has become so rigged in favor of the ruling minority that such mechanisms no longer apply.

When the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich.  The ancien regime crumbled in scenes of shocking violence and terror.  It can happen here, and the current administration is doing everything in its power to make it happen here.

As I’ve said before in this space, I don’t condone political violence in this country but on our current path I do predict it.

31.  More and more people are coming to this conclusion, sadly enough.  Dana Milbank’s recent article in the Washington Post explicitly warns that “An Explosion is Coming.”  After listing the a few of the crimes of the modern GOP against the popular will – multiple Supreme Court nominees from a minority president, nominees whose positions are entirely out of step with the majority of the American population; an entirely minority government (neither der Sturmtrumper nor the GOP members of the Senate nor the GOP members of the House garnered more than half the popular vote in 2016); and so on – he makes a very simple point: “You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.”  They’ve been doing it for a while, and this is not sustainable.  “The backlash is coming,” Milbank writes.  “It is the deserved consequence of minority-rule government protecting the rich over everybody else, corporations over workers, whites over non-whites and despots over democracies.  It will explode, God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.”

But explode it will.

32. “I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war,” said political scientist Thomas Schaller.  “I don’t know if the country gets out of it whole.”  The GOP has been running roughshod over Constitutional and legal restraints for more than a decade now, and eventually something will have to give.  Eventually other people will start to follow their lead, and that won’t end well.

A Bloomberg article by Francis Wilkinson puts it plainly:

Speaking of the GOP, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum said, ‘When highly committed parties strongly believe things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs – they give up on democracy.’  Democrats won’t give up on democracy.  It’s too central to their identiy, and their commitment to democratic norms and processes is also their point of greatest contrast with Trumpism.  Instead, Democrats will give up on conservatives.  They will give up on Alabama and Mississippi, on Kansas and Nebraska.  They will explore ways to divorce their culture, politics, and economy from Trumpism and from their fellow Americans who support it.

And where that ends up is an interesting question.

33. Nice to see that we can all agree on something.  A bipartisan group of nearly 200 political scientists has ranked der Sturmtrumper at or near the bottom of US presidents.  On a 100-point scale, where 50 is average, der Sturmtrumper averaged a score of 12.34 – below even James Buchanan, the consensus pick for generations for being the guy who sat around with his thumb wedged deeply into his lower intestine while the Civil War broke out around him.  The overall consensus placed der Sturmtrumper 45th out of 45 presidents, and when you just looked at the political scientists who identified as conservative he only improved to 40th.  By contrast, George W. Bush rose five places to 30, Bill Clinton dropped five places to 14, and the top seven – Lincoln, Washington, FDR, TR, Jefferson, Truman, and Eisenhower – remained unchanged.

34. So now Anthony Kennedy is retiring and this gives der Sturmtrumper and his right-wing extremist base a chance to lock in their disastrous reign for a generation.  They need this, because the simple fact is that their agenda is not popular enough to win free and fair elections – the GOP has lost 6 of the last 7 presidential elections if you go by popular vote, and their share of the national vote for Congress has been similarly anemic.  Only because the Senate and Electoral College is thoroughly gerrymandered in favor of rural states (and the House has been thoroughly gerrymandered by GOP state governments to dilute the impact of urban populations) does the GOP survive.  They’re not going to let that change without destroying the country in the process – their basic position is that they deserve power and nobody else does, and if that means burning the place down and pissing on the ashes to keep someone else from ruling well that’s a price they’re willing to have you pay.

35. Five people were killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis MD, just days after right-wing terrorist Milo Yiannopoulos called for journalists to be executed by supporters of der Sturmtrumper’s increasingly Fascist regime.  And yet Yiannopoulos walks the streets a free man and isn’t rotting in a jail cell where he belongs.  Folks, this isn’t the beginning of the road to Fascism.  We passed that stage a while ago.  We are seeing a full-on authoritarian dictatorship emerge out of the ruins of the American republic, and the right wing cheers every step of the way.

36. Not that this violence bothered der Sturmtrumper in any way.  After explicitly calling the free press the “enemy of the American People” in those exact words and also words more or less like them on five separate occasions in the last eighteen months, nobody should be surprised by the fact that he ignored reporters’ questions on the massacre and refused to offer any words of condolence for the families when pressed on June 29.  Dictators don’t do that sort of thing, after all.

37. I do get criticism for calling der Sturmtrumper and the modern GOP petit-Fascists, but you know…

38. Also, this.

39. And here it is, right on cue: in order to pay for their massive tax giveaways to the already wealthy, the GOP is going to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Their proposed FY 2019 budget calls for $537,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Medicare, $4,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Social Security, and $1,500,000,000,000.00 in cuts to Medicaid.  Because the wealthy deserve to live in ease and luxury on the backs of the poor and middle class, of course.  YOU are paying for those tax cuts that benefit people who could buy you out of petty cash and who value your life accordingly.  All those who are surprised by this, please state your name, your IQ, and what you were doing that put you in that coma when every responsible observer was shouting to the rooftops that exactly this would happen.

40. Back of the bus, y’all.

41. Speaking of trade wars, Mexico has decided that they’ve had enough bullying from der Sturmtrumper and is working to establish better trade relations with Argentina – relations that will allow them to buy all of their corn, rice, wheat, and soy from Argentina duty free.  In exchange they will ship cars made in Mexico to Argentina without duties.  This will likely cost American farmers upwards of $13,000,000,000.00.  Is America great yet?  Although much of the population hardest hit by this voted for their own economic evisceration, so how much sympathy one can have is a bit of a trick to determine, isn’t it?

42. Space Force?  SPACE FORCE?  Seriously?  What comic book nonsense is this?

43. You know things are bad for the GOP when Ted Cruz is telling people to vote for the Democrat.  But when an open and proud Nazi wins the nomination for the GOP ticket for a Congressional seat in Illinois, what else can he do?  “This is horrific,” he said.  “An avowed Nazi running for Congress.  To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat.  This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”  Now, on the one hand, good for Cruz to recognize this and to say it publicly.  I'm not a great fan of Ted Cruz, but credit where due.  On the other hand, what does it say about the GOP that this guy got nominated in the first place – that the GOP couldn’t find anyone willing to run against the Nazi and so many GOP voters saw nothing wrong with the Nazi?  Nothing good, that’s what.

44. Betsy DeVos is emailing teachers to tell them to quit their unions.  Teachers in Massachusetts have been receiving emails from a shadowy organization called MyPayMySay urging them to cut their own economic throats and leave their unions.  MyPayMySay is funded by the Mackinac Center from Michigan, which is in turn funded by the DeVos Foundation.  Yet another reason why this corrupt hack should be exiled to an uninhabited island somewhere cold and cut off from all human society, but there is no justice under der Sturmtrumper so she will continue to suck off the public tit while simultaneously insisting that Other People get no assistance at all.

45. Did you know that Anthony Kennedy had already hired clerks for next term?  That’s not someone who intended to retire.  Except that his son works for Deutsche Bank, which is the institution indicted for laundering money for Russian oligarchs, and his son’s client was none other than der Sturmtrumper, for whom he had arranged millions of dollars in loans.  This is where the Mueller investigation has been headed, and this is not something a sitting Supreme Court justice can survive, especially if – as is entirely possible – der Sturmtrumper appeals some of the charges up to the Court.  The appearance of conflict of interest here is pretty strong, and the more that comes to light about this whole tawdry affair the worse it looks for both Kennedy and der Sturmtrumper. 

46. Keep this in mind, all you who think the forced retirement of Anthony Kennedy is your golden opportunity to strip women of their right to control their own bodies: