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

Monday, November 20, 2017

There Is Never Only One

Another accusation against Al Franken.  He's marking time.  Any more shoes drop, and I don't think he can survive.  Time for Mark Dayton to get Lori Swanson on speed-dial.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tax Politics

Democrats should feel pretty good about the politics of this latest legislative monstrosity: The American Kick In The Nuts Act of 2017.  Republicans have written a too slick tax cut bill that allows Democrats to bend the truth a bit about how taxes will rise on lower income families.  Republicans are likely anticipating that those tax increases - designed to get around the Byrd Rule - will be nuked when they come due.  Maybe, sure.  But that's not the bill the GOP will be voting for.  The bill they are voting for will do a lot of terrible, terrible things.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Heh, Funny

Trump will pardon a turkey....the jokes write themselves.

What Next?

Ruth Marcus writes a piece that, frankly, a man couldn't write. She talks about what we should do next with allegations of sexual misconduct, against transgressions ranging from Al Franken's to Roy Moore's.  It's a nuanced bit of thinking about how we are apt to overcorrect to horrible events, and in the process trample the atrocious along with the merely boorish.  Few have mentioned the rights of the accused in these incidents, because few of the cases fall under criminal law (or in Moore's case, outside the statutes of limitations), but not every accusation is proof of guilt.

As always, we are making progress, but that progress is slow and frustrating.  That shouldn't dissuade us from trudging onwards.

Friday, November 17, 2017

If Franken Does Resign

I found his replacement.

Mark Penn Is Wrong; Mark Penn Is Right

Notoriously bad campaign strategist Mark Penn has an op-ed piece out that has some bad advice and some good advice. 

He advances some good ideas to reform the Democratic Party:

- Get rid of caucuses and superdelegates.
- Pick the order of the first 12 primaries out of a hat.
- Adopt transparency principles at the DNC.
- Reforming the finances of the DNC, so it doesn't become a shell for donors.

He also suggests a "jungle primary" but that's a stupid idea for a single party.  It's literally nonsensical.

However, he also comes to his pre-conceived, pre-packaged in 1994 idea that Democrats must nominate "moderates," whatever the hell that actually means.

The point of his reforms is to open up the nominating process and party apparatus.  That's good.  If it produces moderates?  Fine.  If it produces leftists?  Fine.

But don't enter the process with the idea that you are creating more democracy for the purpose of getting what you want.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Al Franken

The photo of him "groping" Leann Tweeden doesn't look like he's touching her.  It's sophomoric and wrong, though.  The kiss is certainly not OK.

However, when someone harasses women, they never do it just once.  That's the important lesson of Weinstein, Ailes, Clinton, O'Reilly, Toback, Packwood, Wiesenthaler and on and on and on.

Another woman comes forward, and he should resign.  Given his time at SNL, there probably will be another woman.

Economically Anxious

Can the GOP do anything right?  They managed to craft a regressive tax package that hurts the average American to benefit the wealthy at a time when populism is on the march around the globe.

Of course, the journalists who go on their next "Cleetus Safari" looking for Trump voters over 60 who still love them some Donald will be surprised when the regressive tax cut that objectively hurts them doesn't erode their support for Trump.

Maybe they WILL turn against the GOP Congress.  Frankly, they will do whatever Fox News tells them to do. 

Also, Democrats will rail against this upwards redistribution of wealth and call for tax measures that raise taxes on the rich.  And then we will get reports that Democrats don't have a message for 2018.

Moore Women, Moore Problems

The GOP is increasingly running out of options on the Roy Moore front.  Despite floating some potential machinations, there really is no way of keeping Moore off the ballot aside from him stepping down.  Roy Moore is not stepping down.  His entire career is about not stepping down.

So, the next Senator from Alabama will either be a pedophile or Doug Jones.  A guy who tries to date little girls or a guy who put their murderers behind bars.  Rumor has it that the GOP has a poll that shows Jones is crushing Moore now.  The race was already very close, but late deciders would've likely broken back to the GOP, like we saw with Trump last year.  Now, they will likely continue to break for Jones (or against Moore). 

There has been a lot of discussion about the "permission effect."  I think Moore's (alleged) child predation cancels that out and give people, in fact, "permission" to vote for a Democrat this one time.

I could be wrong. This could be another Trump surprise.  Without knowing what is going on in Alabama, I'm shooting blanks in the dark here.  But I just don't think there are enough women's votes to get Roy Moore elected. 

#19thAmendmentSolutions

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Big Dog

The recent revelations that have cascaded about sexual harassment has led to a critical re-evaluations of Bill Clinton.  I think that's a good thing, and perhaps overdue.

One of the issues is, of course, Monica Lewinsky.  The problem I have is that the affair between Lewinsky and Clinton doesn't feel like harassment to me.  She initiated the relationship (famously flashing her thong at him), and she claims it was consensual to this day.  If there was no Paula Jones lawsuit, then his behavior was inherently skeevy, but not harassment.

No, the problem with Clinton isn't that he had a brief affair with Lewinsky.  But there are real problems.

First, and least disputably, the conduct of the damage control team that sought to protect Clinton was objectively bad.  They trashed Lewinsky.  That is not OK.  This is a "blame the woman" approach that typified the maximalist tactics of the Clinton political machine.

Second, there is Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones.  I'm not sure how we look at those incidents as NOT being sexual harassment.  Maybe the Jones thing was consensual, but Clinton initiated that.  Maybe Jones was flirting with him, but I doubt it.  She worked for the state of Arkansas and he pressured her into sex.  He groped Willey. 

But the most serious allegations that we have to come to terms with is Juanita Broderick.  Her allegations are that Clinton out-and-out raped her.  There are corroborating witnesses to the aftermath.  To paraphrase Mitch McConnell, "I believe the woman."  What I find curious is the focus that Yglesias and others are putting on the Lewinksy affair.  I don't think that's the right focus.  The focus should be on Jones, Willey and, above all, Broderick. 

We are having an accountability moment as a culture.  I supported Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal, so maybe my feeling that the actual sexual contact isn't a problem is tainted by that.  But I also think that sexual contact happens.  It happens in the workplace.  It happens between people who do not have equal power relationships.  And it is not always harassment when it does. 

Where I have to change my mind - and have - is that the Clinton White House abused Lewinksy in the press after the fact.  I think he harassed Willey and almost certainly harassed Jones.  I think it is at least possible, if not probable, that he raped Juanita Broderick.

What that means for future evaluations of Bill Clinton and his legacy is complicated.  I do think there is room for complexity in our understanding of past figures in light of current moral standards.  I think Sally Hemmings had no autonomy in her relationship with Jefferson, but she may very well have had agency.  I don't know, and we will never know.  Judging the past is difficult when using a modern lens.

Clinton's behavior was not 200 years ago, though.  It occurred as we began to acknowledge, at least in the broadest of strokes, that sexual harassment was wrong.  How we evaluate Bill Clinton in light of the fact that we are being overwhelmed with the evidence that wrong-doing against women is much more prevalent than - some - men believed?  I think focusing just on the fact that the President carried on an affair with an intern is missing the bigger, more troubling allegations.  Clinton shows the signs of being a sexual predator, using his power to satisfy himself sexually.

I wonder if we will have more revelations about him, the way we have floodgates opening on other public figures.  If so, we should welcome and believe those accusations so that we can move forward into a culture where that is unlikely to happen again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Straight Line From Trump To Moore

We - we coastal elites sipping our godless lattes - are struggling to understand how Evangelicals can support Roy Moore.  It's actually not terribly difficult once you understand who Evangelicals are.

Evangelicals aren't "the most devout Christians," they are the most ardent culture warriors.  This has nothing to do with theology or doctrinal disputes over the role of the church in public life.  This is about the aggrieved, old white people who wrap themselves in the cloth of faith in order to hate on people they don't like.

This is how they rallied around Donald Trump last fall after the tape came out where he boasted of sexually assaulting women.  Didn't matter.  Trump was willing to hate the same people the Evangelicals hate.  He was willing to pick fights with the uppity Negroes of the NFL; feminists; LGBTQ activists; scientists; bureaucrats; reason; compassion...all the enemies of the narrow minded bigots who cloak themselves in the Blood of the Lamb.  That mattered more than any actual behavior.

Trump's victory is, of course, why Moore is very unlikely to drop out of the race.  If accusations of sexual assault weren't enough to deny Trump the presidency for 46% of the general population, why should it be enough to deny Moore a seat in deep red Alabama?

I honestly don't know if Moore or Jones will win.  Any substantial write-in campaign for Jeff Sessions or Luther Strange could tip the balance to Jones.  While Evangelicals make up a substantial part of the GOP, I don't think they make up a majority of Alabamans.  

Keep an eye on the women of Alabama.  Most of the people rushing to defend Roy Moore have been male.  Republican women swallowed their pride and scruples to vote for Trump last year.  But child molestation is, honestly, the worst thing out there.  It's the crime even prison populations consider beyond the pale.

In prison, murderers get a certain respect, but child molesters are pariahs.  Do Alabama Republicans have the moral scruples of felons?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seems Like A Nice Man

Roy Moore, ladies and gentlemen.

More and more Republicans are breaking with him.  Interesting to see how this plays out.  Three or four years ago, Moore would have been pressured out, but in the age of Trump and Bannon and Fox News I don't think so.

What's The Play?

Mitch McConnell has called on Roy Moore to step aside.  This adds to a growing list of Republican Senators who have un-endorsed him or called on him to step aside.

What is the play here?

Moore ran AGAINST Mitch McConnell as much as anyone else.  His entire persona is wrapped up in sticking his finger in whoever's eye happens to be handy.  Why in the world would Moore listen to McConnell?  And McConnell has to know that.

The smart guess going around is that Moore is now losing to Jones AND Moore is hurting the Republican party overall.  While a concerted blitz might save Moore's election chances, it would cripple the GOP in precisely those suburban districts that flipped so hard in Virginia last week. 

It looks like the GOP has decided that losing the Alabama Senate seat is necessary to save the national party, even if it makes things like the tax cuts even harder to pull off.  If so, that would demonstrate that perhaps, just perhaps, being a creepy pedophile really IS a deal breaker for the GOP in certain parts of the country.

However, and this is really amazing, being a pedophile is NOT a deal breaker for the so-called "values voters" among evangelical Christians.

I will never claim to be a good Christian.  There are too many theological problems I have with most of the faith to feel comfortable saying that. 

But I am objectively and categorically anti-child molester.  If you're not....Jesus wept.

Drain That Swamp

Clearly, Donald Trump's supporters are motivated by economic anxiety and the need for economic opportunities, and not raging resentment because they can't people f** or n***** anymore.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Meanwhile In Congress

The Republican establishment has tolerated all sorts of moral turpitude in order to give the wealthy even more money.  Trump, Bannon, Moore...They keep swallowing these awful people in order to make sure billionaires have even more money.

The problem is that the GOP is really, really bad at legislating. 

The Byrd Rule - which Republicans have to follow, because they won't and haven't tried to get any Democratic votes - means that there are a great many restrictions on what can be in any tax bill.  It doesn't look like the Senate bill can even pass the Senate.  Plus, you have some fiscal conservatives actually behaving like fiscal conservatives. 

All of this is the backdrop for the Moore-Jones matchup in a few weeks.  If, somehow, enough Republicans and Independents can behave like moral human beings and not just Republican drones, maybe Democrats can completely upend this drive towards plutocracy.

Maybe.

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's The Suburbs

Reading the Alabama GOP's response to the Moore allegations is depressing as hell.  Improbably, Sarah Huckabee Sanders probably gave the "best" response by saying the usual, "Let's wait until we have all the facts."  That's perfectly plausible.

But Alabama Republicans have gone further saying that even if rock solid proof exists that Roy Moore molested underaged girls, they would still vote for him.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2017 Republican Party.

They deserve to die as a party.  This is despicable. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Hey, King David Raped People, Too!"

Apparently the Bible says pedophilia is OK.  I don't know how persuasive that will be as a counter-argument to the revelations that Roy Moore is a pervy pedophile.  It will work with some of the people who will support Moore no matter what.

The "fake news" angle seems more promising, and you can make a case that it worked for Trump.  Hopefully Doug Jones isn't being investigated by Comey.  Moore can try and run against the Washington Post, and that should work a little bit.

I don't want to over-determine the Virginia results, but if Republican women in the Birmingham/Mobile/Montgomery/Huntsville suburbs turn hard against Moore, I think that could tip the balance to Jones.  He was within spitting distance.  This makes that race very, very close.

Oh, and this race could determine who controls the Senate in 2018.

It's Weinman and Spacey's World And We Are Just Living In It

Christianist and White Supremacist Roy Moore may be a pedophile.

Two things.

First, these reports seem credible and are backed up by contemporary witnesses.  If so, there are likely more allegations that will come out.  Guys who hit on three teenagers have hit on more than three teenagers.

Second, it might not make a difference anyway. Alabama is Republican as hell.

But it could.  The polls are tight.  Tuesday showed a wave was building. 

You might consider throwing Doug Jones a shekel or two.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Please Read This

Josh Marshall on last night's wave

TL;DR: The rules of political gravity still apply.

Gillepsie's Xenophobic Race-Baiting Worked

In starting to dissect the results from Virginia, the WaPo notes that Gillespie actually OUTPERFORMED Cuccinelli's run for governor  in rural Virginia.  He turned out and won Republicans in rural Virginia.

Worth remembering that Trump didn't come from nowhere.  He's a perfect avatar for a certain wing of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good News From Most Places

What was promised to be a tight Virginia gubernatorial race turned out to not be so tight after all.  Democrats flipped an astonishing 12 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates so far.  They won, as expected, in New Jersey's governor's race.  They look to be winning a ballot measure in Maine to expand Medicaid in that state under the ACA.   Bill De Blasio cruised to re-election.

It's too early to look hard at what happened in Virginia with any definitive stance.  Nate Cohn points to something that, if true, is critically important.  If his numbers are correct, Gillespie actually outperformed previous Republicans in the rural parts of the state. 

He got crushed in the suburbs.

Look, Democrats should run the best candidates possible in the most districts possible.  But if they flip the House a year from now, it will be in the suburbs. 

Meanwhile, here in Connecticut, the Lovely And Talented Wife ran as an Independent for Town Council.  Our town has a very strong Republican tilt and the Democrats are a feeble "Me Too!" party that has few ideas and little vision.  She became involved with these Independents - they are ferociously passionate about town politics - because she always wanted to run for office.  She took the loss well, but it is instructive of how elections work.

If you are in opposition, you have to concentrate your attack.  The Republicans are the Party of Power in our town.  You have to hold your nose and unite with your closest allies to take them down.

Northam won in Virginia by being decent, even bland.  He won over anti-Trumpist suburban independents and probably some soft Republicans.

Maybe it will require a firebrand to win in 2020.  I doubt it.  The finger pointing in Virginia going into the election ultimately didn't matter.  But Democrats will need to concentrate their opposition.  To Trump.  To the GOP.  To the whole corrupt gang.

Chait Hits Upon Something Here

Jon Chait notes that Ed Gillespie's vile race-baiting campaign represents "state-of-the-art" Trumpism.  Gillespie was - for decades - a K Street Republican who served as head of the RNC under Dubya.  He's about as "establishment" as you can get.

But Gillespie ran on a message that used fearmongering and racial appeals to whites to narrow what ought to have been a clear Democratic win into a tight race that could go either way.  Perhaps some of this is the debate over statues.  Historical accuracy and a sense of common decency are on the side of the Left here, but it's not a way to win votes in Virginia.  It might be a perfect microcosm of Leftist politics: right, but a loser at the polls.

Chait's best observation is the overlap between the governing philosophy of Trump and Putin. Both men are kleptocrats who want to co-opt or coerce the business elite into a reciprocal relationship with the state.  Putin built his power on two fronts: populist appeals to Russian greatness by demonizing the "Other" and enriching his cronies.

I think Trump is succeeding in enriching himself, and if the GOP tax plan succeeds, he and the very rich will succeed in enriching themselves. But I'm not sure the possibility exists to create the sort of interlocking power relationships that characterize Putin's Russia.  For one thing, Blue America is both hostile to Trump and Trumpism and has significantly more purchasing power than Red America.  We saw this with Trump's various business advisory boards that emptied out once consumer backlash hit.

I just don't think the capacity exists for the sort of Russian oligarchical kleptocracy that Russia has.

What is more important is looking at what a Gillespie win would mean for the Republican Party.  You can count on EVERY threatened Republican officeholder to double down on racist appeals and divisive rhetoric, just as Gillespie has done.  That will tear the country further and further apart.

It would also, hopefully, expose the lie that Trumpism has anything to do with economic populism.  The Republican party is about funneling wealth upwards.  If Gillespie wins and the Republican tax plan passes, and then Republicans hold on to the House in 2018... I think we can safely move beyond another fucking sympathetic portrait of the poor down-trodden coal miner who just knows Trump will bring the coal jobs back. Or the small business owner who just knows that it's good that a real business man is in the White House.

It's culture wars.  All the way down.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Oh, FFS

Virginia is a light blue state.  It has never been deep indigo like, say, Massachusetts, but it has generally voted for Democrats at the state level over the past few elections.  The suburbs of Northern Virginia have been very fertile vote wells for the Democratic party. 

However, typical Democratic bullshit is imperiling their chance of holding on to the governor's mansion.  Some of this piggybacks off of the ridiculous Donna Brazile claims, but at the moment when the Democratic party needs to be united and pulling in one direction, they seem intent on - as the piece above puts it - shitting the bed.

Hispanic activists are outraged that Northam has vowed to sign a non-existent bill that would hypothetically ban sanctuary cities in Virginia.  Cities that don't currently exist, nor are likely to.  DFA even went so far as to un-endorse Northam.

Ed Gillespie has waded deep into the sewers of white racist resentment.  He has covered himself in the slime of Trumpism.  If Northam isn't everything you want plus a pony, too goddamned bad!  He's not wallowing in the slime that Gillespie is.  He's not a mini-Trump.

Democrats should win this race comfortably.  There is a massive anti-Trump groundswell out there.  They are a lead-pipe cinch to pick up the New Jersey governor's mansion tomorrow.  But if a bunch of lefty types stay home in Virginia, or Latinos and African Americans stay home, because Northam isn't vocal enough on your particular slate of issues...Well, then we deserve the divided, racist politics that will hurt minorities the most.

Jesus, people, it's a binary choice.  And not voting out of pique is effectively a vote for the other guy. 

Did we learn NOTHING from last year?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Question, Too

Martin Longman makes a good point: What if Michael Flynn is cooperating with Robert Mueller?

I was surprised when the indictments came down and Flynn wasn't one of them.  His instances of law breaking are pretty clear.  I'm not sure there is any question that Flynn broke various laws regarding registering as a foreign agent as a former military officer.  However, Flynn shares Trump's paleolithic world view and one would think a soldier would value loyalty. He might also value not spending the rest of his life in jail.  Or perhaps he sees the errors of his ways in consorting with Putin.

If Flynn HAS flipped, that's a treasure trove for Mueller, and as the previous exposure of Papadapoulos showed, Mueller can keep a secret.

Flynn can likely put Trump or Trump's sons in the room with Russians.  He's the critical piece.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Donna Brazile...WTF?

I haven't commented on Donna Brazile's inflammatory comments that the Clinton Campaign unduly influenced/rigged the primaries.  It certainly seems that many of her claims are falling apart under scrutiny.

If this is a big pile of bullshit, why in the world would she do that?  Why play with matches in a room full of gasoline and dynamite?

Not At All Innocents Abroad

Does anyone else think that Donald Trump on an overseas trip to some of the most fraught and contentious regions of the world will probably go horribly wrong?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Optimism

Cheryl Rofer at Balloon Juice gives a more optimistic take on Robert's Epistemic Crisis piece.  She compares the process to Watergate and the current Republican need for a tax cut bill, even if that tax cut bill is political suicide.

I suppose that's true.  But the central dynamic today is that Republicans are more afraid of their own voters than they are of the judgment of history. Ask Jeff Flake.  He's quitting because he can't win.

Any Republican who crosses Trump will likely lose their seat.  Waiting on Howard Baker is a fool's errand.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

50 Votes

In order to pass the Plutocrat Enrichment Act of 2017, the Republicans need to get 50 votes in the Senate, so that Norman Bates Wannabe, Mike Pence, can cast the tie-breaking vote.

Which Senator from a state with a high income tax rate will likely balk?

If you guessed Susan Collins (ME-7.15% rate), give yourself a pat on the back.

Who else might be in play?  Interestingly, I might put Tim Scott on the list.  South Carolina has a 7% tax rate, but that might not apply to the retirees in Hilton Head.

Wisconsin has a 7.65% rate, but Ron Johnson is simply an ambulatory spread sheet from the Koch Brothers, so he probably won't crack.

The thing to remember is that you have to make a fair amount for it to be worth it for you to itemize, so Idaho (7.4%) and Montana (6.9%) probably won't qualify.  Still, if I'm a party that gives even a passing shit about wealth inequality, I might be thinking about running ads there.

Iowa has a high rate (8.98%) but low earners and Joni Ernst is a Tea Party nightmare.  Still, see above.  Democrats should go hard on the airwaves there.

Potential fertile ground is in Georgia.  The tax rate is 6%, but you probably have a lot of people in the metro Atlanta area who rely on that deduction.

Arkansas has the same tax rate at Connecticut (6.9%), so work on it there.

All you have to do is peel off three Senators (two if Collins is already lost) and they have to pull out the SALT deduction.  Do THAT, and you lose any shot of making these cuts permanent, because of te Byrd Rule.

Get busy people!

UPDATE: There are 14 GOP House members from California.  There are 9 from New York.  There are 5 from New Jersey.  If 23 votes switch sides, that kills the bill.

This Might Be The Most Important Thing You Can Read Right Now

What if Mueller proves his case - a slam dunk - and it just doesn't matter?

Color Me Shocked

Let's all get our best Captain Renaud shocked faces on.

The GOP tax plan favors the super rich!  Who could possibly have guessed this would come to pass?

The WaPo breaks it down.  TL;DR: super wealthy people about to die (the rich), big corporations, (the rich) people pay the alternative minimum tax (the rich) and people who own "pass through" corporations (the rich) all make out great.

Home builders (mostly middle class tradesmen), some small business owners (middle class),  and anyone in the upper middle class in a state with a high tax rate will see this tax bill either increase their taxes or hurt their business.  Meanwhile, the working poor get nothing and charities get hosed.

Remind me again how Trump voters are "economically anxious".  Remind me again that this isn't about white racial grievance or the toxic alternative universe created by right wing media.

I'm sure all those Trump voters who cared so much about "draining the swamp" are really going to hold those Republican congresspeople to account.  Any minute now....

Any minute...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

GOP Can't Even GOP

Jon Chait and Matt Yglesias both arrive at where I've been heading for a few weeks now.  I don't see how the GOP comes close to passing the tax cut bill they want to. 

If anything has been salutary about the Trump Epoch, it has been to watch the fantasists in the GOP come up against the reality of governing.  Governing happens in the Congress, ruling happens in the Executive.  Right now the GOP can't actually govern, because governing requires interaction with reality.  Like math.

I Offer This Tweet

From Ben Wexler:

2016: we didn’t talk to russia

2017: we didn’t collude with russia

2018: what’s wrong with colluding?

2019: что случилось с россией?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Curse Of Shelby Foote

When "falsely accused adult in the room" John Kelly gave us a Trumpian take on US History, Ta-Nehisi Coates took him to the woodshed on Twitter.

Kelly is wrong about the lack of compromise leading to the Civil War, but he pretty obviously got that from Ken Burns' Civil War documentary.  In it, novelist-not-historian Shelby Foote argues that the reason that the Civil War happened was because of a failure to compromise.  Foote doesn't really offer any evidence for this.  I suppose the rejection of the last minute Crittenden Compromise might qualify, but Lincoln had been elected on a Free Soil platform and the Crittenden Compromise rejected that.  Additionally, the Crittenden Compromise seemed to open the door to slave-based imperialism into the Caribbean.

The Civil War happened because white southerners could not stand ANY restrictions or restraints on the institution of slavery.  They saw threats to the existence of slavery that didn't exist in the moment.  Lincoln was not an abolitionist, or at least not until late in the war.  Even the Emancipation Proclamation was designed to punish secession more than end slavery as an institution.

When Burns did his documentary - which is masterful in so many ways - some of the old interpretations were stripped away.  Burns put slavery right at the heart of the cause of the war and dealt well with the agency of African Americans as abolitionists and soldiers.  But he included Foote to give a certain Southern perspective.  Foote is known for a massive three volume Homeric narrative of the Civil War as a military conflict.  He even bears a passing resemblance to Robert E. Lee.  I heard Foote speak once, and he urged historians to use the tools of perspective and empathy that novelists use in order to understand why historical actors acted the way they did.

It's really good advice, but I wonder how much gets lost when you suspend your own judgment.  Can you take Lee or Davis's position, then turn around and take Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth's?  If you can, good.  But Foote left open the crack in the true historical narrative that allows guys like Kelly to make the fundamental mistake he made.

The Civil War was caused by the South because they didn't want anyone messing with their slaves.  That's it.  That's the whole story.  Deny that and you're rewriting history.

UPDATE: You read it here first, before Jon Chait.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Not Gonna Lie

This gave me a buzz.  Scroll down and watch the Twitter-created excerpt from Jay Rosen. 

If there is anyone left to catalog the atrocities of Trumpistan, the people in media who somehow equated Hillary Clinton's misdeeds with Donald Trump's will not fare well.  Joy Reid shows how you deal with the absolute fact-free shitshow that is conservative media.

Well done.

Happy Muellerween

Will the indictments be unsealed today?  My money, as I've said, is on Manafort and Flynn, since they are both so transparently guilty of breaking the law.  Carter Page could be in the mix.

There are also a half dozen shady characters from NY real estate worth considering, including Minister Plenipotentiary Jared Kushner.

Should be fun!

UPDATE: Flynn escapes for now.  Manafort's lackey Rick Gates also indicted.  Not terribly surprising.  Mueller will try for an easy scalp - someone Trump doesn't really like - before going after Flynn - someone Trump does like. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tantrums

I really recommend you read David Roberts' piece.  It's a well-expressed version of what I've been saying for years now: The modern GOP is simply a non-stop tantrum against the 21st century.  There is no logic, no ideology, no policy agenda.  All there is is the continual whine of a people who subsist on Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' steady diet of grievance and lies. 

The Rightist media environment has done more to damage this country than Hitler did.  Yeah, I went Godwin, and I don't care.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sinister And Transparent

Republicans are rehashing the old news that Democrats helped fund the Steele Dossier in order to try and get Mueller fired or to resign.  Again, whoever funded the dossier is irrelevant to whether or not it's true.  In some ways, this is another example of projection being a powerful drug.  Deep down, they know Benghazi was a partisan crock of bullshit.  Therefore, if the Steele Dossier is partisan, it, too, must be a crock of bullshit.

It can't be a coincidence that these attacks are coming out around the time that Bob Mueller is handing down his sealed indictments.  My guess is that Manafort and Flynn are definitely indicted, but the panicked response from Republicans suggest it might go higher.

Their obvious plan is make this a partisan issue.  Whether Russia interfered in our election should not be a partisan issue.  Shame of these immoral fuckers.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The JFK Files

Here's where I stand on the release (or lack of release) of the JFK files.  They are unlikely to expose any grand conspiracy.  Instead, they will expose the incompetence and mendacity of various national intelligence agencies who tried to cover their ass after November 22nd, 1963.

That's it. As usual, there is not grand conspiracy, just incompetence layered with arrogance.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Shooting The Messenger

For some reason, the previously known facts that Democrats helped fund the Steele Dossier has become a "big story."  We have known this since last fall, when the first rumors of such a file began to circulate.

Republicans have jumped on this as proof that, in fact, it was Democrats that colluded with Russia. 

Yeah, I don't understand it either.

Jon Chait notes correctly that this allows the GOP to engage in both-sides, which is a venerable way to deal with allegations of corruption.  Human Shitsack, Devin Nunes, has basically leveled this attack.  It makes no sense, but then again if the GOP can convince the New York Times that Hillary Clinton is the real villain here, I'm sure they will run with this above the fold.

Josh Marshall makes the point that actions by Nunes to thwart the Russian investigation is a de facto act in favor of Russia.  With the Jeff Flake story fresh in my mind, this is yet another example of how the GOP will do anything to let Trump get away with it.

All In

Steve Bannon's war to remake the GOP in the image of Breitbart is a high stakes wager for everyone.  The question for non-Republicans is what do you root for? In some ways, the current GOP elite are so far away from any policy desires, they might as well be Roy Moore.  And, yet, if Bannon succeeds in turning the GOP over to its most reactionary, aggressively loony voters, could that drive moderate, suburban Republicans into the Democrats' arms?  Clearly, the best result is a schism rather than a civil war, with one group or another breaking off and spoiling the election chances of the other.

The worst result is what we saw in November.  The GOP empowers its worst elements: the racist uncle voter.  They nominate crazy people like Roy Moore.  Then, Republicans fall in line and vote for the Republican, because they just can't vote for a Democrat.  While the policy outcomes are likely identical - Roy Moore OR Luther Strange are equally likely to steal healthcare from a baby - the tone and tenor of politics will get even uglier. 

Jeff Flake's act of grandstanding was just that: grandstanding.  It accomplished absolutely nothing to stop Trump or his agenda.  Flake objects to Trump's tone, his Tweets....but not his policies.  If anything he objects to the way Trump undermines Flake's ability to cut taxes on billionaires with Trump's heterodox tweeting.

But if Bannon can rupture the GOP, then perhaps we have a way out of our current political chaos.  If he takes it over - and Republicans who should know better stay in the party - things will only get worse.

Stay tuned and stay frosty.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When Longman Speaks, You Should Listen

Maybe the GOP won't even pass tax cuts.

Flake

So after giving his very brave speech about how he was going to lose his re-election so he was going to quit instead and go make cool bucks on K Street, Jeff Flake turned around and voted to strip consumer protections away from ordinary Americans.  The 50-50 vote to make it harder to hold the Big Banks accountable was broken by Mike Pence. 

Jeff Flake doesn't like Donald Trump.  He doesn't like his tone.  He doesn't like that Trump.  He doesn't like that the electorate who sent him to Washington for the past two decades are a bunch of aggrieved, racist loons. 

But the policy differences between Jeff Flake and Donald Trump couldn't fit a sheet of notebook paper between it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Flaking Out

If Jeff Flake was the conscientious patriot he claims to be, he would run as an independent.  Most likely result is that he tosses the race to the Democrat.  Which would actually do more to hold Trump accountable than impassioned speeches on the Senate floor.

If you are a Republican like Flake or Corker or McCain, you owe it to your country to support Democratic oversight in Congress of this White House.  If any of the mini-Trumps win the Arizona and Tennessee Senate seats, that makes the Senate objectively worse.

John Cole says it better.

So does Charlie Pierce.

Eat The Poor

Matt Yglesias lays out the Republican philosophy on tax cuts.  He notes, correctly, that the GOP exists to funnel money upwards to the rich, so that the economy as a whole can grow, which presumably trickles down to everyone else.  Feeding the horse to feed the birds, if you get my meaning.  (My meaning is that trickle down is horseshit.)

He also persuasively notes that Reagan and Thatcher-esque tax cutting has a direct impact on economic inequality.  Trickle down does not produce a rising tide.  It does not raise all boats.  In fact, living standards for the poor have fallen, unsurprisingly, as taxes on the rich are cut.  The current tax philosophy of the GOP actively exacerbates the concentration of wealth in the "1%."  It does not just by simply taxing them less, but by creating a privileged class of wealth - investments - that escape even more taxation.

Yglesias gives the arguments in favor of these policies as "making America friendly to investors" as if we were Bulgaria.  We are not Bulgaria (no offense to Bulgarians). 

He concludes - and I agree - that the GOP will simply pursue deficit financed tax cuts rather than real tax reform, because they can't find revenue neutral ways to cut taxes on the rich without hurting everyone else.  We will get tax cuts, not tax reform.

He also notes that one argument against this could be noting the devastating effect on the national debt.  I think there are some corners of the country where that might have some traction. But he suggests, and I agree, that the real argument needs to be one of fairness.  In other words, you need to make Bernie Sanders' argument rather than Erskine Bowles argument against these tax cuts.  Democrats need to make the debate about economic fairness.

I think we are entering a tipping point moment against the aggregation of great wealth.  I think it's part of the fuel of ethno-nationalist politics in the Global North.  All I would add to Yglesias' argument is that we almost need a global tax agreement to avoid a race to the bottom.  In order to rebalance the human scales, we will need to tax the financial industry much more than we do.  Since the financial industry is as slippery as a grease-covered eel, having a global regime in place to prevent tax evasion will be critical.

Democrats won the health care fight (I think it's over, who knows) because the GOP was proposing something monstrous.  They are doing the same thing on taxes, providing the message gets across.


FFS Alabama

Do not elect a guy who thinks the Supreme Court allowing same sex couples to get married is worse than Dred Scott.   There is just so much wrong with that, whether it is the tacit acknowledgment that slavery is just a constitutional wrinkle or the equation of marriage equality with any number of moral indignities.

Something in the '60s and '70s broke a bunch of white people like Roy Moore.  The sooner they are politically neutralized, the better this country will be.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Decision Tree

Philip Bump runs through how the Trump White House created a losing week of terrible narratives.  It basically arises from the dual Trumpian traits of fact-free bullshit and relentless attacks on anyone who disagrees with him.  Someone somewhere noted that Trump thought his press coverage would get better after he became president.  This is because Trump is a historically illiterate moron. 

Louis CK noted that the prime job of a president is to take abuse.  You just have to shut up, apologize and move on.  Trump can't do that, and he's not going to learn.

Thanks a lot, Republicans.

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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Haven't Read Krugzilla In Awhile

He's still got it.

The Creeping Militarization Of Our Government

Political scientists have argued about what fascism truly is for 70 years.  We continue that argument by asking whether Trump is a fascist.  I've always come down on, "No, Donald Trump is an authoritarian, not a fascist."

I'm beginning to change my mind.

Part of it is that Trump is relying on the fetishization of the military to wide himself from criticism.  This is part of the whole "take a knee" controversy, that somehow morphed into a discussion about "respecting the troops."

This little nugget is another example.  Zinke is former military, so I guess I see where the impulse came from.  But he's not in the military.  He's the Secretary of the Interior. The idea that anyone gives a fuck if he's "on deck" is absurd. 

This is all part of the slow abandonment of democratic norms.  A small amount of this is occurring on the PC Left, but it is the currently defining nature of the GOP in the Age of Trump.

Yeah, I'm worried.

Puerto Rico

Tough to keep up with things, as Twitler keeps throwing up new outrages.

But here is a running timeline.

Hey, Puerto Ricans?  If you really want to get back at Trump?  Move to Florida and register to vote.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Revolutionaries

There are two articles that make essentially the same point.  A point that really needs to be internalized, especially by the political press.  First, American democracy is under siege and that siege is almost exclusively coming from within the Republican Party.  The GOP has fled from or undermined democratic norms at numerous points throughout the last three decades.  It is getting worse, not better. Since the GOP tends to draw its support from American authoritarians anyway, the positions of the party leads to obedience from the Base.

Secondly, Jon Chait lays out how the modern GOP was created by constant insurgencies.  The GOP constantly eats its own in a spiral towards some imagined purity of essence that will create the One True Faith and lead America into Reaganland Utopia.  The fundamental problem, of course, is that the GOP vision of American government is both unworkable and unpopular.  So they consistently fail to accomplish their outlandish goals.  Rather than reconsider their flawed ideology, they retreat further into "purity" and purge the latest person who fails to make the impossible possible. 

Trump, with his assault on just about everything, is not an outlier; he IS the GOP.  American democracy will not be truly secure until we recommit ourselves to democratic norms and values, and that will only really happen once the fevered madness that has gripped the GOP is relinquished. 

It can't happen soon enough.

You Break It, You Own It

There is at least some unpredictability about how Trump's recent tantrum-based policy on ACA will actually effect insurance markets.  Buying the cheap policies makes sense for some people and could create a risk of a "death spiral" as healthy, young people flee the exchanges.  However, people have generally been enthusiastic about getting "good" health insurance.  We shall see.

What isn't up for debate is that this throws the entire individual insurance market into turmoil.  It might be a disaster; it might be survivable; it might work OK.  But insurance companies don't much care for uncertainty, and this creates a maelstrom of uncertainty.

What is undeniably clear is that anything that now goes wrong with the ACA belongs exclusively to the Republicans.  They were thwarted from passing their godawful American Shitburger Acts (v1.0-v5.0), but now they have ceded the ability to screw everything up to Mr. Bankruptcy and his nuanced understanding of risk pools and insurance markets.

This could even bleed over into employer based insurance markets.

The idea that Trump is a child who governs by tantrum and petulant whining is increasingly hard to dismiss as partisan rancor (especially since more Republicans are saying it every day).  This is a great example of a policy that is objectively bad, but whatever.  Trump is gonna Trump and Republicans are gonna Republican.

Meanwhile, people will lose their insurance, perhaps their homes and even their lives. 

But Trump got a "win" over Obama.  And that's all that matters to him.

Heckuva Job Alabama

Seriously, if you elect this guy.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

25th Amendment Solutions

Jennifer Rubin used to be a Republican voice at the WaPo.  Now she might be the shrillest of anti-Trump voices.  There is no questioning, however, that Trump's behavior warrants examination under the 25th Amendment.  Rumors are circulating that he's been gripped by even more paranoid and angry dark moods.

The tantrums keep coming.  We are dropping out of UNESCO, because they say mean things about Israel.  We might stop helping Puerto Rico, because they haven't sufficiently kissed Trump's ass for giving them paper towels.

Thanks, Republicans.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Gun Pivot

This is a really interesting piece on the pivot that gun ownership took in the period from 1985-1995.  Gun ownership had been about hunting, until people began to fetishize the "tactical" armaments from movies that came out during the Reagan-Bush years.  No one dreamed of using their own weaponry for self-defense - and perhaps the crime wave of that time period contributed to the perceived need for self-defense. 

My guess is that some combination of racial panic and the real crime wave of that time period was wedded to Reaganesque rhetoric about the failure of government to do anything right to create the mythotype of Americans defending their home with obscene amounts of firepower. 

And those people are overwhelmingly the 3% of the population that own 50% of the guns and dictate to the rest of us what sort of world we live in.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Creeping Fascism

Today has sucked, generally and personally.  But there have been a host of stories that are really concerning.

The White House wants to investigate a professor who is critical of Trump.

The NFL looks like it will cave to bullying from White House over the take a knee issue.

Trump calls the Penguins "patriots" presumably because they don't criticize him.

The Trump White House continues to embrace bold lying.

Steve Bannon is embarked upon a campaign to give us more Roy Moore's in the future by primarying conservative Republicans in red states with barking mad lunatics...like Trump.

Trump meanwhile is likely edging us closer to some even greater level of chaos.  War in North Korea?  Some sort of petulant pissing match with Congress that imperils the full faith and credit of the US?  Blowing up the Iran deal?  Deporting DREAMers?

It's great that Bob Corker picked a Twitter fight, but his stern words are meaningless as long as the rest of the GOP empowers this dangerously unbalanced lunatic.

US Out Of The World Cup

First time since 1986.  They didn't deserve to be there, considering they lost a game to the Trinidad and Tobago B side and dropped countless opportunities to get that one extra point that might have kept them alive.

They tried to qualify by relying on older players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and others.  That was obviously a mistake.  The US is in the U-17 World Cup, so maybe it's time to look to the future.

The problem is that the US is a large country - geographically and by population - with a diverse community of soccer players.  That's a lot of different styles and different training.  US Soccer will have to completely scrap whatever they have been doing with player development and start over - unless the U-17 kids win or place at their World Cup.  Hopefully heads will roll at US Soccer, but somehow I doubt it.

I blame Trump.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Trump's Abuse Of Office

Greg Sargent summarizes Jane Chong and Benjamin Wittes' guide to Trump's bad behavior.  I'll just cut and paste it:

They divided it into three categories. First, there are his “abuses of power,” such as the nonstop self-dealing, the pardoning of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the firing of his FBI director. Second, there are his “failures of moral leadership,” which constitute a general degradation of his office via, among other things, his unprecedented, serial lying and efforts to destroy the institutional legitimacy of the free press. To this second category we can add Trump’s refusal to unequivocally condemn the Charlottesville white supremacists and the White House’s use of taxpayer funds to stage a weekend stunt in which Vice President Pence walked out of a football game, which are both part of a broader effort to continue stoking divisions.
Third, there is the “abandonment of the basic duties of his office,” which includes the failure to make appointments and (I would add) the deep rot of bad faith that has infested the White House’s approach to policy: He indicated he’d sign anything at all that would let him boast of destroying Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment. I would suggest a fourth category of misconduct: Trump’s sheer megalomaniacal indifference to the fundamental notion that his office confers on him any obligation to the public of any kind. This overlaps with the conduct discussed above and also includes the refusal to release his tax returns and his ongoing sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, which could harm millions.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

This Isn't A Mystery

Evangelicals oppose birth control for two reasons.  It's a rational, scientific response to population growth and its effect on the environment, and conservative evangelicals hate science.

But more importantly, birth control allows women control over reproduction and whether sex leads to children.  Therefore it is possible for women to have sex for their pleasure rather than simply being a vessel for a man's seed. 

Don't believe me?  Then why do evangelicals love Donald "Access Hollywood" Trump so much?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

How Does The GOP Survive This?

The Bannon Wing wants to take down Jeff Flake.  At what point do the Conservatives break with the Reactionaries?  At what point does the whole thing fall apart?

And can it be sooner rather than later?

Friday, October 6, 2017

In Case You Were Wondering

Yeah, neo-Confederates - like Roy Moore - are pretty much Confederates.  You know, white supremacists and traitors. 

Microcosm

On the day that the Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded to a nuclear non-proliferation group, Trump is going to decertify but not leave the Iran deal.  As David Ignatius points out, this is a poor decision for a number of reasons.  One, Iran is in compliance.  Frankly, that should be enough.  By there is also no real plan beyond wishful thinking that decertifying will somehow lead to some magical future where Iran behaves better. (In fact, I would argue that this move strengthens the hand of the worst actors in Iran.)

The reason for abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran - a deal that our current impotence in dealing with North Korea demonstrates is more important every day - is simple: Obama did it.

The deal is a good deal for everyone.  It's among the best diplomatic achievements of the last 15 years.

But Obama did it, so Republicans railed against it from their echo chamber inside the Fox News hivemind, and now they are bound by their previous stupidity to pursue more stupidity.

That's pretty much the Republican party in a nutshell.  And I emphasize the "nut."

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Slave Power, Gun Power

This statistic struck me hard.  Gun ownership in America is actually very narrow: 78% of Americans own zero guns, 19% own 50% of the gun. 

And 3% own the other 50%.  There could be 300,000,000 guns in circulation in this country, and 3% of the population is about 9,700,000 people who own 150,000,000 gun.  That's 15 guns each, on average, for that 3% of people who own 50% of the guns.

The reason super majorities of Americans support common sense gun regulations is because super majorities of Americans don't own guns.  Our entire national debate is catered to indulging the 22% of Americans who do own guns.  Even more so, our debate seems to be beholden to the 3% of the population who hoard guns like totems or precious gems.

This reminds me of the debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War.  A majority of white Southerners did not own slaves, in fact that number approached...wait for it...75%.  Of the remaining 25% of Southerners who did own slaves, 2% of those families (or 0.5% of all white Southerners) owned more than 50 slaves - in other words, the large plantations that we typically think of when we think of the antebellum South.

The evil genius of the plantation elite was in getting common whites - even the majority who didn't own slaves - to identify with their economic and social agenda.  To some degree, we see the same thing today.  Because everything is partisan, once your side picks a side in the gun control debate, that position is locked in by partisan loyalty.  By framing the debate over guns in apocalyptic terms of lost liberty, the NRA/GOP has been able to stifle any debate over even widely agreed upon safety measures.  "Sure, you may not own a gun, but why should you let OBAMA take your non-existent gun away?  Why do you hate freedom?"

There is another point, about how modern day gun violence correlates with the historical presence of race-based slavery.  Wherever you find high murder rates, you typically see the legacy of slavery.  Thus, the US has a high murder rate and Canada doesn't, despite many cultural similarities.

When we talk about restricting the availability of guns, we aren't talking to the 78%, we aren't talking to the 19% who own a rifle and a shotgun for different types of hunting.  We are talking to the 3% of Americans who are armed to the freaking teeth.

We are talking to Stephen Paddock.

Heh, Indeedy

Cam Newton is an interesting fella, ain't he?  A supremely talented and hard working athlete, Newton has gotten himself into trouble, because he giggled at a female reporter asking him a question about his WR's routes.

Sally Jenkins at WaPo writes a brilliant response including this nugget:

Tell you what: If Cam Newton will show me what a hitch and a slant are, I will show him how to take questions after a loss without pouting.

Newton is no paragon of personal virtue.  He's a bit of a prima donna, though I admit my bias against him as a Falcons' fan is palpable.  I can summon up some microwaved hatred of Drew Brees if you need me to, and Drew Brees is both a really nice guy and a Hall of Famer.  Jenkins continues to dig the knife in:

My list of questions for Cam Newton only begins with what a dig route is, and what is a post. There are so many, many things I need him to explain to me. Such as:
How can you overthrow multiple 6-foot-5 receivers?
When you throw the thing to the whatchamacallit, and the other team catches it instead, does that make you feel sad?
Please tell me more about how to balance academics and athletics at Auburn University?
Is there a good fence for stolen goods in Gainesville, Fla.?
Can you come over and kill a spider for me?

I mean....damn.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tax Reform

Tough to focus on this very important topic in our new Gilded Age, but it's worth talking about in between mass shootings and mass outrages by our emotionally stunted manchild president.

Jon Chait notes that tax "reform" is dead.  One reason that doesn't show up in analysis is the idea that Republicans wanted to get rid of the federal tax deduction for state income taxes.  The typical analysis is that this mainly going to hurt "blue" states with already vulnerable House members.

It is true that the states with the highest state income tax rates are usually blue - NY, CA, OR, MN, VT, IA, HI and NJ.  All of those states have rates of over 8%. 

But if you look at states that have income tax rates of over 6%, the list gets interesting.  Sure, there are blue states - CT and DE, for instance.  But the other states are purple - ME, WV, WI. 

Most of the states are red: SC, GA, AR, KY, TN, NE, MT, ID and MO.  All of those states will see de facto tax increases if you get rid of the federal/state deduction. 

I just don't see how they will have the votes for that.

As Chait notes, the GOP will ultimately just cave on everything but cutting the top marginal rate.  Because that is literally the only thing holding the GOP together.

Sexy Rexy

Once Tillerson gets fired, I just want Trump to know that I will serve as Secretary of State.  I will not refer to Trump as a moron.  To his face.  His pinched, orange, moronic face.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This Is A Deeply Damaged Man

WTF? Oh, and thanks Republicans.

Paul Manafort....Remember That Guy?

Yeah, he could be so very, very screwed.

That Russia story?  Not going away.

This Is Who We Are

James Fallows on Vegas: This is who we are.  We are a country that has decided - alone among developed nations - that we are OK with slaughtering our fellow citizens, because some fucking nutcase wants to own 20 guns with the capacity to kill many people at great speeds.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Party Of Roy Moore

Remember when Bush 41 said he wanted to be the Education President?  The GOP has basically become the party of White People Who Didn't Go To College, if Alabama and Trumpism is a real trend.

For Democrats, the question becomes whether they can flip college educated suburban Republicans.  At the moment, partisan loyalty is too ingrained to allow this to happen, but how many more Roy Moores and Donald Trumps can they stand?

Prediction

Why do I just know the gunman in Las Vegas will turn out to have a goatee?  Haven't seen any pictures yet, but it's the universal badge of cranky old white fuckers.

By the way, it's why I stopped having one.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

I'm Not Sure How To Argue Against This

Martin Longman makes a case that Trump is actually following the template that made him President.  So who's stupid now?

He concludes with

Those who argued against comprehensive immigration reform in the aftermath of Obama's reelection were arguing that the Republicans could win, despite growing demographic disadvantages, by polarizing the white electorate against the Democratic Party on the basis of race and religion. Trump merely executed that plan. He's still executing it.

People ought to be sick by now both of underestimating Trump and overestimating the character of the American people. No one wants to hear either of those messages, but I'm sick of losing and we'll keep losing if we keep lying to ourselves.

Is Trump a cleverly disguised genius? No. Not at all. He's not even minimally sane. He's very bad at following instructions, sticking to a plan even of his own making, or executing more than two steps ahead. This is dangerous enough in the foreign policy sphere that he should be removed from office for that defect alone.

But he says spontaneous assholish things not only because that's who he is but because that's how he's had success. It's still working for him where it counts. And it's not clear that it will ever stop working for him where it counts. What will stop working for him is everything else.

I'm not sure there is anything flawed in that analysis and that makes me sad.  I do think it is very unlikely that Trump wins re-election, but the "Assholification" of our politics is likely to remain salient - especially among Republican voters - unless we crush him and the entire GOP like a bug.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Annnnnd There We Have It

A brown person dared to criticize the Trump Administration's inadequate response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  Trump responded with racial-tinged invective, implying that Puerto Ricans are lazy moochers who want everything done for them.

At least Dubya feigned concern for the people of New Orleans after Katrina.  His response still sucked, but he knew enough not to be a dick about it.  Trump?  Congenitally incapable of not being a dick.

Thanks, Republicans.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Good Book

Kurt Anderson has a new book out that probably explains our current world in better and more depressing ways than most.

Basically, Americans have a long history of delusional thinking, and Trump is the culmination of that.  We tend to believe the narratives that make us feel better about ourselves and our lot in life.  Conspiracy theories, "one weird trick," and Fake News are all part of a long trend in American thought and culture.

I'd be interested to see if things are that much worse, or whether we are just more aware of the downside of bunkum more than we were.