Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, October 22, 2017

No Duh

Of course Wall Street has a sexual harassment problem on par with Hollywood.  I'd be shocked if it wasn't worse.  You combine men who need to dominate and socio-economic power and you will get sexual predation.  It's not really complicated.  If you are willing to kill yourself and work 80 hour weeks to become a Wall Street titan or a Hollywood exec, you aren't doing it strictly for the money.

Yeah, But...

Secretary of State and IQ Aficionado, T-Rex Tillerson, makes a decent point: with ISIS effectively defeated, Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops and advisers should go home.

There is a problem with his suggestion/demand.  US troops are still in Iraq.  Why should Iran not follow their own country's interests in expanding their influence in Iraq and Syria?  Isn't that precisely what we've been doing?

As the saying goes, countries don't have friends, they have interests.  What is so baffling about conservative foreign policy is that it is based on the idea that no other country should be able to pursue its interests, if that conflicts with US interests.  Unless it's Israel or Saudi Arabia, then YOLO. 

Don't think the rest of the world doesn't smell the hypocrisy.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Kakistocracy, Part The Millionth

I think there is an interpretation of Trump's phone call to the grieving widow that isn't awful.  He wanted to praise LaDavid Johnson's voluntary commitment to his country's security, but because he's Trump, he couldn't pull it off, because he lacks basic empathic ability.  Still, he was trying to do the right thing, but he can't because he's an awful person.  Typical of Trump is this nonsense where he writes checks with his big mouth than his even bigger ass can't cash.

I was listening to NPR's report of the godawful DEA bill that made it easier for drug companies to evade oversight and enforcement.  Quelle surprise!  Marsha Blackburn, the Trump of Tennessee, was intimately involved in its passage, as well as the guy Trump wanted to make Drug Czar.  If there is one issue that is having a calamitous effect on "red state America" it is the opioid epidemic.  Yet, here are Republicans - from Trump to Marino to Blackburn - actively taking measures to make it worse.

Some of this is the individual perfidy of the individual politicians. However, as I noted last night, this extends beyond any individuals.  Conservatism is improperly named.  To "conserve" is to preserve.  Conservatism is wedded to the status quo, because it inherently distrusts the ability of human reason to improve things.  Instead, true conservatism wishes to see things move slowly, so that they benefit from accrued human wisdom, rather than someone in a governmental office redesigning the nation's health care.

The "Conservative Movement" is no longer conservative.  It's deeply, deeply reactionary.  It embraces veiled and not so veiled appeals to racism.  It wishes to rollback the welfare state, including the parts that work.  It wishes to embrace a Gilded Age philosophy of governance.

Because it does all these things, it attracts a truly horrible group of people who simply do not care about their fellow human beings.  Selfishness is the essential ingredient of those Houstonians who enjoy their FEMA response while decrying their tax dollars being spent in Puerto Rico.  It's an essential ingredient in massive regressive tax cuts.  It's an essential ingredient in sending other people's sons and daughters overseas to fight in needless wars.

These are the worst people in America.  Sure, there are selfish, cruel liberals.  Hello, Harvey.  We routinely fail to live up to the best idea of ourselves.  My problem with Movement Conservatism is that its best version of itself is still fucking awful.  And so, when it is left unfettered, we get what we have now.  If Donald Trump is the walking personification of a Fox News Comment Thread, that's not just a reflection on Donald Trump.  That's a reflection on the entirety of the "Conservative Movement."

Reagan's political gift as being able to appeal to these fundamentally selfish people while maintaining a breezy optimism and positivity.  Today, his heirs embrace the anger and fear and resentment without providing any solace to the country.

What's more, Trump - and Kelly, for that matter - can't apologize, because to apologize opens the door to accountability.  If you can be wrong about what happened in the phone call or the FBI building dedication, why can't you be wrong about climate change or tax cuts or Muslims or walls or any of the other objectively bullshit things they believe in?

Trump failed to provide solace to LaDavid Johnson's family because he literally can't, any more than he can walk on water or speak Mandarin Chinese.  I don't know where we go from here.  Because of the nature of our incompetent political institutions, rural America is over-represented in government.  This has been a problem for over a century.  It might improve with the dying off of the generation that came of age in the '60s and '70s and hate what they saw in their youth, but will it?

Can we afford to wait that long?

UPDATE: Came across this from Wolcott:


This sentimentalization of the Loyal Trump Voter, whose rationale for standing by the president is often cradled in incoherence and plain, proud ignorance with a large chunk of stubborn pride, is the latest extension of the press’s centering of the White Working Class in the national narrative, no matter how much the demographics and the complexion of the country change. Every election cycle, eastern reporters ritualistically venture into caucus and primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire on Norman Rockwell safari to file copy from the diners and truck stops on “real Americans” in plaid jackets and tractor caps with heartland values and comfort-food appetites. It is time this romance with Ma and Pa Kettle was put out to pasture. Let journalists find other ways to pretend to be in touch with those left behind and clinging to their discredited articles of faith. Otherwise, dec­ades from now, if news outlets as we know them survive, reporters may still be tramping through the hinterlands searching for the last remaining Trump holdouts to interview as if they were Japanese soldiers hiding in the jungles long after World War II ended.

Friday, October 20, 2017

I'm Reaching The End Of This Shit

Reading this profile of Houston Trump voters who don't think the Federal government should help Puerto Rico anymore makes me want to scoop my eyes out with a melon baller and pour bleach in the sockets.

Most of the people interviewed are over 70.  They live in a world of Fox News fictions, and frankly I'm sick to fucking death of their ignorance, selfishness and mean-spiritedness.  The article does a great job following up their ignorant-assed statements with gentle qualifiers.  For instance, one old bastard - actual name is Hogg - says that Puerto Ricans... Hell, let's just listen in, shall we?

“Guess what? There’s a big chunk of the population that lives without electricity all the time,” Ramirez said, saying he was sharing the experiences of a friend who has family on the island.
Hogg, 76, nodded his head in agreement: “They never had it. Never had it.”
“They don’t live deprived, because it’s a beautiful environment,” she continued. “The weather is nice, the climate is good most of the time, so it’s different from here . . . It works there because of the climate. It wouldn’t work here.”
About 96 percent of Puerto Rico’s electricity customers had service before Maria made landfall, according to federal data; many of the rest had no power because of Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier.
Ramirez said the government should encourage those living in the hardest-hit areas to move to the mainland, out of the direct path of hurricanes and into communities with more-reliable infrastructure.
“I object. I object. They should stay where they are and fix their own country up,” Hogg responded softly, shaking his head, wrongly referring to the U.S. territory as a separate nation.

What - exactly - is the common factual ground that you can take with these people?  Of the five people interviewed, only one, Mary Maddox, is done with Trump.  Patsy Hogg tries to defend her husband, because he comes off like an insufferable dick in the interview.

Two things.  First, this article drives home the point that white women who should have known better gave us Donald Fucking Trump.  Second, until this cohort of people who came of age in the '60s shuffles off their mortal coil, we are truly screwed.

Sorry/not sorry if I'm pissy.  Things have happened today that have brought home all the horribleness of this world Trump's building.  I'm sick of it.  I'm sick of being ashamed for my country because ignorant, selfishness assholes finally elevated one of their own to the Oval Office.

Glimmer Of Hope

So, Roy Moore is a tax evader.  Maybe.  It's tax law and it's confusing.

However, Moore as a candidate has two primary appeals in Alabama.  The first is that he's a Republican.  The second is that he's supposed to be this moral crusader, a Joan of Arc with a shriveled little penis and a ten-gallon hat.

Allegations of his tax improprieties can't be good for him.  We have seen in the Age of Trump that Republicans can literally justify ANYTHING that a Republican does or says, if they think it will redound to their advantage.  Evangelical Christians remain Trump's biggest supporters, because...honestly, I don't know, unless it's because Trump hates the same gay, brown city dwellers that they hate....very Christian of them.

Recent polling has the race tied or within the margin of error.  That should be taken with a grain of salt, as special elections are notoriously hard to poll.  Once again, Democrats are faced with a race in incredibly unfavorable territory that they could conceivably win. 

And yet they will probably lose.  It IS Alabama after all. 

If Doug Jones pulls of the upset, it will set off alarm bells throughout the GOP.  It could imperil any tax cut plan that explodes the deficit.

Maybe you could throw some coin his way?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

This Is Right

Our system is fundamentally broken.

Scary Or Comforting?

When I first heard that your consciousness survives briefly after death, my first thought was "How long?"  I mean, when I'm gone, I'd really prefer to be gone.  If it's just a few moments after you die  -you can hear things, even if your pupils no longer dilate - then...OK.  I'd just prefer to be gone when they start the cremation.

But if consciousness survives brain function, that would seem to suggest that brain function and consciousness aren't actually completely correlated. 

Did scientists just discover the soul?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Who Do You Trust?

There are legitimate reasons why Rep. Wilson might have fabricated Trump's incredibly inappropriate words to the grieving widow of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson. 

But Trump saying he is speaking the truth while Wilson is lying is not one of them.  He has zero credibility on the whole "telling the truth" thing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Not Good

It's too soon to tell who will win the Virginia gubernatorial race, but if Gillespie upends Northam, it will be hard for me not to decide that post-Charlottesville racism played a big role.

The debate over removing statues has obviously degenerated into the usual stupidity-fest that comes about whenever Americans are being asked to understand their own history.  Apparently, you can't learn history without statues and really what was the big deal about slavery and secession anyway? I mean Robert E. Lee looked good on a horse.

But as that debate heated up, Gillespie began to run more racist ads, especially about sanctuary cities that don't actually exist creating crime that hasn't happened.  Tie that in with the racial codes explicit in the statue controversy and you have a recipe for animating white identity/white nationalist voters.

Virginia has been trending blue, but it has strong purple tendencies.  Some parts of the state are effectively Alabama.  However, the majority of the voters are usually sympathetic to reasonable Democrats like Terry McAulliffe, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.  Get whitey riled up, however, and all bets are off.

UPDATE: As usual, Martin Longman got there first and did it better.

This

Read this Twitter thread.  It's not that long, and you need to read it.

Iraq In A Hard Place

Good news: SDF and Kurdish forces have captured the erstwhile capital of ISIS, Raqqa.

Bad news: IDF and Kurdish forces are engaged in combat over the city of Kirkuk.

When you let slip the dogs of war, you can't begin to predict where they will roam and what they will destroy.  The "country" of Iraq remains riven along three basic lines: Shia Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurd.  For a while, Shiites and Kurds united to defeat ISIS.  Now that ISIS is collapsing, they seem intent on retraining their guns on each other.

Should the Kurds have their own country?  Yes, probably.  And the Kurds will insist on owning Kirkuk.  But Kirkuk has oil and Iraq doesn't want to lose it. 

If the Kurds are committed to independence, they need to cede Kirkuk's oil (or at least part of it) in return for Kirkuk's geography. 

Middle Eastern politics is so often maximalist ("Give me everything I want!") that it can make compromise impossible, but any independent Kurdistan will require compromise with Iraqis, because they will likely have to defend themselves from Turks if they do win independence.

Chaotic times we live in.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Historical Roots Of Impeachment

This is a nice summary of why the Founders would have recommended impeachment for Trump.

However, the Founders did not anticipate political parties and their ability to override loyalty to the Republic.  Sad!

When Walmart Is High Class

Jeebus wept.

#Me,Too

If you haven't seen it on social media like Facebook, women are saying, "Me, too" if they have been sexually harassed or assaulted.  We undergo sexual harassment training every other year, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what is and is not permissible at this point in my life.  But I am not sure I always did.  I know I never assaulted anyone and I know I was never pervasively creepy.  But I'm a large man.  Did I ever intimidate someone?  Ever make them feel less than safe? 

If so, I'm sorry, wherever you are.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

There's Your Swamp

Depressing tale of how industry controls our government.  Of course, Big Pharma is no different from the NRA.  Both are making money off dead Americans, it's just that drugs more often than not work to save lives.