Friday, March 15, 2019

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate

1. Wasn’t Michael Cohen’s testimony all kinds of train-wreck goodness?  Here is the lead fixer for one of the biggest crime families in America going on national television under oath to talk about what the higher ups have been doing.  With documentary evidence.  Truly we live in an age of wonder. 

2. Of course the GOP spent most of its time calling him names rather than making any honest effort to examine the crimes he detailed or make any serious run at actually defending der Sturmtrumper.  They know der Sturmtrumper’s guilty just like you and I do, but they refuse to admit it.  They can’t admit it, one suspects, because they’re caught up in it as well, and will likely go down with their leader when it comes.  All they can do is distract.



5. Just about the only person on that committee actually doing their job was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who asked specific, probing questions that set the groundwork for future inquiries the way that it is supposed to be done.  This of course caused much paroxysms of horror among Republicans, who just cannot stomach the thought of someone who is female, not white, and smarter than they are, all rolled into one.


7. One of the more fascinating bits of petty chicanery that emerged from that hearing is the fact that der Sturmtrumper has threatened all of the institutions of education which he has attended (confirmed, at least, by Fordham University, which released the threatening letter to the public – it was dated May 5, 2015, during der Sturmtrumper’s presidential campaign) with legal action if they released his grades.  Seriously – the people who support him don’t care about his grades (I’ve had a long conversation with one of them recently and it became clear that no amount of booklarnin’ or edumacashin was going to move her off her preconceived notions and ideological fantasies), so I’m not really sure what he gained by doing this – but there it is.

8. On the more serious side, there was Cohen’s warning about 2020.  “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump,” he said, “I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”  The idea that der Sturmtrumper’s growing authoritarianism and hostility to both the Constitution and the republic as constructed by the Founding Fathers might stage an outright coup is, frankly, more credible than not.  His supporters –eager to support the new strongman – would probably go along.  They’ve gone along this far, after all.  Buckle up if that happens, folks.

9. And that’s the thing in general about all of this.  Will it actually make a difference?  Der Sturmtrumper may well be the most corrupt president this country has ever had, but he does know his supporters well.  On the campaign trail he bragged that he could kill someone in cold blood in broad daylight and not lose a single vote, and events have proven him right.  In a recent Quinnipiac Poll (March 5), 82% of Republicans approve of his regime even in light of every criminal revelation and every catastrophic policy failure.  82%.  It's even more astonishing when you consider that 33% of Republicans believe that he has committed crimes.  Do the math.  That means 15% of Republicans – roughly 1 in 7 – know very well that he’s a crook and support him anyway.  This is your “party of values,” folks.

10. It also tells you that this is der Sturmtrumper’s party now.  The moderate Republicans were thrown out in the early 90s when the Culture War was declared.  The heretics who questioned the right-wing extremism that became the soul of the party were tossed when the Teabaggers took over in the early 21st century.  Now all that’s left are der Sturmtrumper’s minions and those too blind to see that this isn’t Reagan’s GOP anymore.

11. In other news, the Great Voter Suppression Effort continues apace, though there are signs of stiffening resistance among the law abiding and the decent.  A federal judge in Texas put a stop to the attempts of the GOP there to get rid of thousands of non-GOP voters – a “ham-handed and threatening” effort, according to the judge.  Given that only 80 of the 100,000 voters targeted by the GOP for removal were actually ineligible to vote (and further given that no evidence was ever given that any of them actually attempted to vote), that’s a pretty fair description.  But then Voting While Not Republican is a prosecutable offense, according to the GOP.

12. Can we just get over the illusion that the GOP gives a damn about national security?  Their president is the greatest security threat this country faces, and yet they continue to give him their slavering support.  He sold out Israel in May of 2017, blabbing about a major Israeli espionage operation in front of the Russian foreign minister.  He regularly speaks on an insecure iPhone that is, according to American officials, closely monitored by the Chinese.  He overrode the opposition of career intelligence officials to give his incompetent son-in-law permanent security clearance.  He coddles dictators and angers allies, and if he weren’t the darling of the far right wing in this country we’d have had him jailed by now.

13. Although even his dictator-coddling skills seem to be failing him these days.  Did anyone else think that his latest fiasco with North Korea was doomed from the get-go or was that just me?  So North Korea is now actively expanding its nuclear program and the US looks like a country stupid enough to give der Sturmtrumper the keys to the government.  Color me shocked.


15. So, are we tired of winning yet?  It looks like der Sturmtrumper is continuing the recent Republican trend of destroying the economy to wild applause from sycophants.  As the latest example, according to the US Commerce Department the trade deficit hit $891,200,000,000 in 2018, the largest such deficit in the 243 years this country has been in existence.  This beats the previous record set in 2006.  Remind me, which party controlled the White House in 2006?  Oh, right.  The GOP.  Even if you include the services sector – a part of the economy the US remains fairly strong in spite of everything – the deficit last year was $621,000,000,000 which is more than $100,000,000,000 worse than it ever was under Obama (who was, for the record, not a Republican). 

16. Some of this is due to the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Giveaway – a $1,500,000,000,000 transfer of wealth away from middle and working class Americans and into the hands of the already obscenely wealthy, something that every competent economist in the United States said would destroy what fiscal responsibility this country had managed to recover under Obama and cause the trade deficit to rise.  And lo and behold, the deficit last year skyrocketed to $779,000,000,000 – a 17% increase over 2017 – because of the amount of borrowing that this entails, and that ultimately encourages the trade deficit to rise as well.  It’s just math.

17. The budget deficit for this fiscal year is expected to be $985,000,000,000 – roughly 26% higher than last year.  Just in case you’re wondering.  We’re on a pace to have trillion-dollar deficits without a recession to try to stimulate our way out of, and that has never happened before in all of human history.

18. Part of the problem for this also is that der Sturmtrumper doesn’t actually seem to understand that trade wars and protectionist tariffs aren’t really helpful here.  He’s been bragging that his tariffs on Chinese goods have been bringing in money to the US Treasury because the Chinese are paying them, but that’s frankly stupid.  They don’t pay those tariffs.  Consumers do.  As David Weinstein, a professor of economics at Columbia University, said, “When we impose a tariff, it is the domestic consumers and purchasers of imports that bear the full cost of the tariffs.”  Really, folks – this isn’t hard.  You’re losing.  You – yes you, the American consumer – are literally paying for der Sturmtrumper’s ignorance. 

19. If you want some numbers, two different papers published by some of the world’s best economists recently declared those tariffs to be the worst economic idea since the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs that were prime contributors to the Great Depression.  The papers note that the tariffs are costing US companies and consumers some $3,000,000,000 per month in fees plus another $1,400,000,000 per month in deadweight losses, not to mention $165,000,000,000 a year in lost trade and supply chain reorganization costs.  So much winning!

20. I suppose it’s just one of those ironies that the US counties that are most hard hit by these tariffs are precisely the ones that supported der Sturmtrumper and continue to support him even now.  Someday marketing majors and propaganda specialists will study how the modern GOP convinced 47% of the American public that slitting their own economic throats was their patriotic duty.

21. Meanwhile the February jobs report shows only 20,000 jobs gained in that month – roughly 150,000 fewer than expected.  This is a signal of weaker economic news ahead – what little stimulus effect the Reverse Robin Hood Tax Giveaway had has now ended.  Trends in the rest of the world point toward softer economic growth in general.  American manufacturing is slowing, and the services sector is as well.  Watch your back.

22. One of the things that often gets forgotten in the focus on partisan political news is just how much American agree on.  75% favor higher taxes for the wealthy.  80% think corporations aren’t paying their fair share of taxes either.  83% favor strong net neutrality rules.  92% want Medicare to be able to negotiate for lower drug prices.  71% support raising the minimum wage.  62% agree that immigrants strengthen the US and make the country better.  85% want paid leave to deal with health issues.  82% say mothers should have paid leave after childbirth.  69% think fathers should too.  86% think we should spend more on public education.  62% favor marriage equality. 64% want to limit the influence of big money in politics, with 78% specifically wanting the Citizens United decision to be overturned.  66% oppose separating families at the border.  79% want DREAMers to be offered a path to citizenship and 83% want undocumented immigrants to have a path toward legalization rather than be deported.  66% want stricter gun laws, and 97% want background checks on all buyers including at gun shows a figure that clearly includes the majority of gun owners.   And yet we have none of these things.

As Tim Wu recently noted in The New York Times, “The defining political fact of our time is not polarization.  It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these.  Call it the oppression of the supermajority.  Ignoring most of what the country wants – as much as demagogy and political divisiveness – is what is making the public so angry.”

The other thing that feeds into this – something Mr. Wu did not note in his article – is that the policies that the majority wants are generally the ones championed by the Democratic Party.  There is not a single major plank in the GOP platform that commands the support of a majority of Americans – not one.  And yet we have a minority government determined to shove their policies down the throats of the majority and flatly refusing to accommodate any kind of dissent.

23. Well it looks like the US is finally grounding those Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes that have been crashing all over the world, the last major country using them to do so.  It’s probably not a coincidence that the FAA has been without an Administrator for the last 18 months because der Sturmtrumper couldn’t be bothered to replace the last guy.  After all, what’s a few dead passengers when there are profits to be made?

24. The thing about der Sturmtrumper is that you never have to wait very long for his brutally anti-American character to surface.  He’s not even pretending to be anything other than a wannabe petit-Fascist dictator anymore.  Please note his recent comments to Breitbart about how his “tough people” supporters are going to rampage through the streets if people keep being mean to him.

As Jim Wright so eloquently responded, “Trump – the guy who sat out his war with fake bone spurs and who can’t figure out how an umbrella works – gonna lead some tough guys in murdering Americans.  See in in the street, Motherfucker.”


26. In the wake of Fox News In-House Misogynist Tucker Carlson’s recent comments defending child rape, marriages between adult men and underage girls (hey, he’s on the same side as the Pedophile Roy Moore, after all) and generally being an asshole toward everyone whose penis isn’t white and whose hat isn’t red, the right wingers who support him have pretty much unanimously said, “Okay.”  There’s no sense of irritation, let alone outrage, because the modern conservative movement has no moral center whatsoever.  As Steve Almond of WBUR notes, “There’s almost nothing a conservative politician or pundit can do or say that the GOP’s base won’t somehow ignore or justify. … [T]here is no guiding morality at the heart of modern conservatism.  The party’s only aim is to hold power.  It is wholly unmoored from coherent policy aims, aside from the protection of the donor class that underwrites it.”  So if you’re waiting for the GOP to feel shame about its vicious sins, you may want to settle in for a while.  Pack a lunch.

27. If you doubt that the GOP is the Party of Pedophilia after the sterling examples of Roy Moore and Fox News In-House Misogynist Tucker Carlson, consider the Idaho legislature, which last month voted down a bill that would have blocked marriage for children 15 years old or younger.  The bill, proposed by a Democrat, was rejected by the GOP controlled Idaho legislature 39-28.  So yeah, no shame.

28. In case you have ever wondered where the real terrorist threat to the United States is, perhaps you should look at a study done by the Daily Caller News Foundation – an institution founded by Fox News In-House Misogynist Tucker Carlson, oddly enough – which looked at an earlier study done by the Anti-Defamation League that looked at extremist murders by the ideology of the murderers between 2008 and 2017.  Carlson’s foundation set out to disprove the ADL’s claim that 74% of the ideologically motivated terror attacks in the United States during that decade were committed by right-wing extremists rather than left-wing or Islamic extremists.  Instead, they found that the ADL underestimated how much of the violence came from the right.  “Our findings support the ADL statistic.  Using their definition of right-wing extremists, we found that 92 percent of ideologically motivated homicide incidents were committed with a right-wing extremist or white supremacist motive.”  Just pointing out that even the right-wingers are admitting this.

29. If you don’t think this matters, consider the recent massacre in New Zealand, where white supremacist right-wing extremists murdered 49 people praying at a couple of mosques.  The halfwits who did this proudly wrote in their penny-ante manifestos about how much they supported der Sturmtrumper as a “symbol of renewed white identity” and how much inspiration they took from the American conservative movement these days.  Your party of values exporting its values to peaceful places around the world, folks.

30. Just as a side note, for all the right-wing hysteria about Bad Brown People coming to do you harm, the simple fact is that the majority of mass shootings in this country are committed by white men.  54% of the mass shootings since 1982, in fact, which is not bad for 32% of the population.  If we’re going to worry about dangerous people who should be watched carefully and prevented from owning high-powered firearms, statistically that would be a good group to start with. 


32. The House of Representatives voted 420-0 – that includes almost every Republican as well as every Democrat, in case you can’t do math – to have the Mueller Report released publicly.  On the one hand, this is an encouraging sign that people on both sides of the partisan divide want transparency and accountability.  For crying out loud, you can’t get that kind of unanimity on resolutions praising apple pie and baseball these days.  On the other hand, the bill immediately died in the Senate when GOP Senator Lindsey Graham – who has gone from a Sturmtrumper skeptic to his most loyal lapdog – immediately blocked the Senate from even considering the House bill.  Because covering up crimes seems to be the GOP way these days, and not even the brief ray of disinfecting sunlight offered by the House GOP can overturn that.

33. Der Sturmtrumper, in an obvious attempt to coddle the right-wing snowflakes whose feelings get hurt when their odious views are met with scorn and derision (hello, Milo Yiannopolis! Nice to have you reading along!), has signed an executive order “requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars,” in his own words.  Of course, that cuts both ways.  Liberty University and any number of other fundamentalist Christian, right-wing universities receive piles of federal research dollars too.  As Jim Wright noted on Facebook the other day, “They will now have to allow free speech on ABORTION, birth control, LGBT issues, atheism, gun control, immigration, Islamic rights, etc.  Or lose their research funding.  I look forward to the day that a member of the Church of Satan demands to speak at Liberty University.” 

34. Earlier this month the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed HR1 – a major political reform bill aimed at returning the United States government to the people it supposedly represents.  The bill has a number of fairly common sense proposals in it.  It would establish public financing of political campaigns to try to get big money donors out of the process and return elections to voters rather than donors.  Similarly, it supports a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision legalizing corporate bribery in elections.  It would force SuperPACs and other dark money organizations to disclose their donors rather than lurk in the shadows.  It would require any candidate for president or vice president to disclose the last ten years of their tax returns, and stop members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment suits against them.

Perhaps most importantly, it would make voting easier and more fair by creating an automatic voter registration process, promoting early voting, making federal election days holidays so citizens wouldn’t have to miss work to vote, prohibiting partisan voter purges, improving election security to avoid foreign tampering, and ending partisan gerrymandering.

I’m not sure how any American patriot can oppose these things, which is why I am utterly unsurprised by the GOP’s frantic opposition to these things.  Mitch McConnell – The Most Corrupt Man in Washington – has repeatedly assaulted the bill as “a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party.  It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Think about that.

As Paul Waldman wrote in the Washington Post recently, “I’m not sure if McConnell understands what a startling admission that is on his part.  Because what McConnell is saying is that if our voting system were more efficient, more open and more fair, then the inevitable result would be fewer Republicans winning elections.  In other words, Republican success depends on the system working in ways that restrict access to the ballot.  I happen to think that’s fairly obvious and has been for some time.  But it’s remarkable to hear the second most powerful Republican in America admit it.”

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