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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Literally And Seriously

Dana Milbank is the latest to note that Donald Trump is exactly who is critics said he would be.  As I wrote before, one of the real burdens of being a liberal in the US today is that you can see this shit coming, you can yell and point and carry on, but in the end, there are enough willfully ignorant troglodytes who will make decisions based on poorly understood feelings.

As Martin Longman notes, this is not going to get better with time.  Trump is exactly the person we said he was, his temperament is wrong, his abilities limited and his impulses damaging.

I don't know what our country will look like in 2021.

Monday, January 30, 2017

He Is Who We Thought He Was

Ezra Klein...

Fear And Loathing

Josh Marshall makes a point that I've made in various forms over the years.  Fear, as a motivator of action, is a terrible source for policy.  When you act out of fear, you act out of ignorance and emotion rather than reason.  This became cemented for me with the Ebola panic of a couple of years ago.  That was pure, pants-wetting fear being re-purposed as "tough guy" policy.  The fact that the targets of this "tough talk" were Africans was not an accident.

Trump's ham-fisted (tiny, but ham-fisted) ban was a pure example of fear repackaged as strength.  It was a classic projection of the cowardly towards the weak.  It was nonsensical, poorly implemented and ill-thought out.  In other words, it was the perfect expression of Trumpistan so far.

It is heartening that Americans responded so vociferously and passionately against this action.  I'm incredibly proud to be among people who responded to fear-based, hate mongering spontaneously and powerfully.  Let's be clear: these protests are working.  Trump is starting to lash out, but his tone is more wounded and defensive. The Courts are stepping up.  As I said in November: We don't elect kings.

It is difficult to see, however, how we get through three years and fifty-one more weeks of this shit.  I can very much see a scenario where Trump quits if we make things miserable enough for him.

Just don't tell him that you want him to quit.  Tell him you want him to stay in the White House so we can make him miserable.  Then he will quit thinking he is spiting us.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Checks And Balances

Trump has suffered a temporary setback on his ridiculous ban on travel from certain countries.  His order is likely illegal and/or unconstitutional.  But Trump cannot be defeated.  It is his weakness, not his strength.  He can't back down, can't admit that "maybe that was a bad idea."  If, as I expect, judges continue to erode his executive orders, he will have to lash back at them.  It's entirely central to his character.

Andrew Jackson - another nakedly populist demagogue - once famously said, "Justice Marshall has made his opinion, now let us see him enforce it."  Trump's inability to "lose" means that I could see a constitutional crisis sooner rather than later surrounding Trump and the Courts.

This transfers the arena to Congress.  Congress has the power to impeach presidents and judges or pass laws that either overturn executive orders or enshrine them into law.  They can launch investigations or sweep things under the rug.

Needless to say, Congress has not shown much backbone this week.  That does not mean that they won't, however.  Could you find two-thirds of both Houses requiring that the Director of National Intelligence attend National Security Council meetings?  You might.  Or at least launch an investigation into Steve Bannon?

As I've said before, the GOP Congress have a delicate balance to strike.  They can't destroy the GOP to save Trump, but the Trumpenproletariat represent a sizable portion of their base.

The key for Democrats is not to allow any daylight between the GOP and Trump.  Force them to decide if they support Trump or the ideals and institutions this country was founded on.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

American Exceptionalism In Trumpistan

The conservative drum-bangers for American exceptionalism have always said that America is a different and better country than any other.  Therefore the usual rules and labels don't apply to us.  That's how we can take over a country, destroy its governments and institutions and create a power vacuum that has led to a debilitating civil war and call it "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Trump's global agenda is so clearly and nakedly immoral, that it undermines any pretense of American moral exceptionalism, as my Senator makes clear here. 

Realists hold that countries have no friends, only interests.  I have certain sympathies for this position, as my increasing frustration with Israel under Netanyahu stands as an example.  Our interest: a two-state solution that drains some of the poison from the Middle East stands in opposition to our "friend" Israel.

Trump will make America a slave to what Trump determines is our "interest."  However, since he is both ignorant and unintelligent on these issues and because he has the attention span of a gnat, Trump is unable to discern American interests beyond whatever makes Trump feel like a "Big Man" in any given moment.

America created a fundamental new order after World War II.  This was based on military alliances - like NATO - and economic integration - via the various Bretton Woods institutions and free trade zones like the European Common Market and later iterations like the EU and NAFTA.  This represented a chance to end the cycle of wars that had devastated the world in the 20th century, as post-1945 conflicts could wipe out all life on earth.  American chose stability and integration over isolationism and conflict.

Trump will undo 75 years of American foreign policy in the course of his presidency.  No other president will do more to advance the power and prestige of nations like China, Germany and, yes, Russia.  The world has always had a fitful relationship with the US, admiring and needing our strength, while worrying about it's import.  Now, all their worries appear to be borne out.

Can American put global order back together after Trump?  I wonder.  I guess it depends on how badly he breaks it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

No Government, No Newspapers

Jefferson famously quipped that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers.

It is clear that for the Trumpenproletariat, newspapers don't matter.  In a "post fact" or "alternative fact" world, what use have these fine Americans for things like information?  They have their guts, and their guts tell them that Trump is awesome and doing great.  How do they know?  Because Trump tells them he is doing great.

We can take some solace that this willful ignoramuses represent a minority of the population.  But not much solace.  As long as there is a sizable number of geographically important morons who think with their gastrointestinal tract, we will be due for a great many more Donald Trumps and Louis Gohmerts and Michelle Bachmans.  Democracy reveals who we are, and the revelations coming from Trumpistan just get more and more frightening.

Martin Longman is right that we are incapable of surviving four years of a man who manifests clear - and I mean crystal freaking clear - signs of mental illness.  There have to be quite a few Republicans in Congress who are concerned about this imbalanced and unqualified clown ruining their party.

But if his supporters are looking at the first week through a lens that ignores things like fact and context, the GOP risks alienating the very rubes who install them into office in the first place.

Of course, if he goes through with things like his idiotic plan to levy a 20% tariff on Mexican goods to pay for, and I quite Vicente Fox here, "that fucking wall," then we will likely lurch into a period of stagflation that will be hard even for those who get their news from their gastric lining to ignore.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Remains Awesome

This might never be topped.

Kakistocracy, An Ongoing Series

Trumpism is Populism.  Populism is the belief that "elites" (however the populist demagogue seeks to define that group) are stifling and destroying the "authentic" people.

Part of Jacksonian Populism was the idea of the spoils system.  It held not only that "to the victor go the spoils," but also that "every person is equal to his neighbor, perhaps more equal."  Jackson said something to this effect, and I could look it up, but I have a cold and I don't want to.  The basic gist was that any red-blooded American could do the jobs of governing.  So you didn't need a professional civil service, you just needed partisan loyalists who would kick back some of their salary to finance your campaign.  It's your democracy, America, cherish it.

The result of the Jacksonian spoils system was that - in addition to funding campaigns and keeping partisan loyalty high - it created an incompetent and corrupt federal government.  This was a feature not a bug.

Today, we slide closer and closer to that Jacksonian system of incompetence and corruption.  Professional civil servants are starting to throw up their hands and quit under the pressure of trying to appease the Tangerine Nightmare.  Rather than compromise their beliefs, they are resigning.

The end result should be that Trump will replace these competent civil servants with sycophants, ideologues and incompetents.  This will also likely result in various rolling catastrophes of poor governance.

From a partisan perspective, should the Democrats be chortling over the looming clusterfuck that will be Trump's time in power?  Or will he so damage the idea of good government that even once Democrats regain power, they will inherit a landscape where no one trust the government to walk and chew gum at the same time?

Confronting Trump On His Terms

Mexico is not going to pay for that wall.

There is no voter fraud, except by three Trump voters.

Trump is already under ethics investigations

As Josh Marshall notes about the Wall, Trump's politics are dominance politics.  He never has to be "right" in any empirical sense, he just has to be sticking it to someone that his rubes dislike.  So as long as he's bashing Mexicans, Muslims, the media, women or people who actually know what the fuck they are talking about, Trump is gravy.

Marshall's suggestion is to confront him on the dominance terms.  Take every defeat and rub his nose in it.  Take every lie and force him to disown it.

It might not work, but it should be fun as hell.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bog Standard Republican

Facebook has become a political website as my friends from across the country and a few across the globe have taken to it to express their dismay over what is happening in the early days of Trumpistan.  There are a few voices in support, but they tend to be issue specific.

There is a lot of energy devoted to Trump personally.  That's understandable, I think, especially for women who were appalled by his campaign and personality.  Trump represents "that guy" who makes their skin crawl, that boss, that uncle-in-law, that neighbor.  Trump's unique brand of transgressive politics make him an easy lightning rod.

However, please, please, please keep in mind that much of what you loath about the Trump Administration would be true of just about any Republican presidency.

The Gag Rule on abortion?  President Pence would certainly sign that.

Reinvigorating the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline?  Jeb Bush would push that through.

Federal hiring and regulation freeze? President Cruz would be behind that.

Attacking the Affordable Care Act?  Mitt Romney would (ironically) be all over that.

If you care about women's reproductive rights; the environment, racial, religious and ethnic tolerance; universal health care; public education; and of course financial equity, then it really doesn't matter that it's Donald Trump in the White House.  Literally any of those guys would be working with a GOP Congress to rewrite the last 8 years.

Trump's uniquely odious personality and clear compulsive behavior makes him a target of scorn on the left and a subject of concern on the right.  But focusing on Trump as a person means that you might very well win a wave election in 2020, if he continues to be the odious fuck up that we've seen so far.  And then four years later, we will have a Democratic party that is fighting with itself over how much to embrace transgender rights, while the GOP resurrects itself from the wreckage of Trumpistan and commences to undermine the goals of a progressive coalition.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Shouting At The Right People

Charlie Pierce famously described the Occupy movement as "shouting at the right buildings" as opposed to the Tea Party, who were shouting at the wrong ones.

This is an interesting piece about a white woman who carried a sign to the Saturday march saying "White Women Elected Trump".  It's interesting and thoughtful and makes good points.

Here's where I differ.  The author notes that 53% of white women voted for Trump.  This is, of course, disturbing given who Trump is and what he will do on women's issues - issues that extended beyond the reproductive.  But white women didn't elect Trump.  White men did.  Maybe you could make a case that white women without college degrees elected him.

The reality is that about 150,000 votes across three states elected Trump.  My guess is that you could find that many combined African Americans and Hispanics in those states who voted for Trump.  To say that white women or Stein voters or whomever elected Trump misses a central point: Republicans elected Trump.

It was Republicans who nominated him.  It was Republicans who silenced their internal moral voice and excused his instances of abhorrent and criminal behavior in the service of gaining power.  It was Republicans who equated a bullshit e-mail best practices controversy to install a petulant, narcissistic manchild into the Oval Office.  And it is Republicans who will pass an agenda that crushes the priorities of women and minorities and environmentalists and internationalists and, yes, fiscal conservatives and people who think health care should be a public good and on and on and on.

It is inevitable that everyone left of the center tends to spend an inordinate amount of time an energy yelling at each other.  The People's Front of Judea spits on the Judean People's Front!  

Living now, as we do, in Trumpistan it is critical that we shout at the right buildings, shout at the right people.  I'm a feminist, but admittedly a tepid one.  If that angers you more than literally anything Trump does, I would argue you're missing the thread.

UPDATE: Same point but with Poop emojis.

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Hate This

The Washington Post has a list of things Obama promised that he succeeded at, compromised on or failed at.

He "failed to live up to his promise" on most issues, because Congress wouldn't act.

I'm sorry, but that's a terrible way of looking at things.  He didn't "break the promises" he made, he - for the most part - tried and failed.

This is why we have broken politics, because a good newspaper like the WaPo can't seem to understand that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.

Have You Ever Noticed

How much time there is for trivial things, and how little there is for the truly important?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Help Us Chris Wallace, You're Our Only Hope

Improbably named Reince Priebus went on what he presumed was the friendly confines of Fox News and got into an argument with Chris Wallace about the absurdity of arguing about crowd sizes and the obvious falsehoods that spewed forth from the White House.

All Wallace did was what anyone with a basic understanding of journalism would do: ask questions and insist on facts.  The key is that this happened on Faux News.  The amount of disinformation, outright lies and wishful thinking that the trumpenproletariat has displayed over the past year is frightening.  They believe this marmalade colored charlatan will save them from some imagined dystopian present.  He won't.  He's never cared about anyone in his life except himself.  He will wed the rhetoric of populism with the legislation of Republican plutocrats.

But if...IF... organs like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal can somehow push back on the most egregious of Trump's lies and cons, then perhaps, just perhaps, those who expect Trump to be something he most clearly is not will wake up just enough to realize that all these years, they've been yelling at the wrong people.

It's not the blacks or Hispanics or women or gays who have been making their lives harder than they have a right to be.  It's exactly people like Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Little, Little Men

Josh Marshall nails it.  Again.  I overheard Sean Spicer from the other room, and I thought: "Has any other press secretary EVER spoken this way?"  I assumed they were interviewing some schlub on the street.

I'm agnostic on marches, frankly.  I prefer organizing, though I appreciate Martin Longman's take on the intersection between the two.

In Trumpistan, however, marches might be just the thing.  Trump is clearly, manifestly suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The people around him are enablers.  Massive protest marches drive him absolutely freaking nuts.  I realize that it's not always a great idea to drive a man with the nuclear codes nuts, but in this case, I will make an exception.

Every day.  Every day, it needs to be repeated: this man is not normal.

I Get It, But No

I understand the impulse to want to punch a fascist in the face.  I do not understand the impulses of anarchists who attacked a Starbucks.  I mean, I don't understand attacking private property during a march against a governmental official, and I really don't get why anarchists seem to hate Starbucks so much.  Also, I just hate anarchists.  Freaking dilettantes.

I am sure that during today's marches (our family has 50% representation, as I have to work) there will be another episode of black clad assholes doing stuff they shouldn't.

And that becomes the narrative of the day.

During the Civil Rights movement, the radicalism of SNCC and Stokely Carmichael helped create space for King and others to negotiate the end to Jim Crow.  But that also requires someone of good faith to negotiate with in the government.  Der Gropenfuhrer yearns for these confrontations.  They validate his leadership style.

Now would be a terrible time to burn the Reichstag.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Common Clay Of The New West

Read these "hopes of Trump voters" and tell me if you aren't bumfuzzled.  Basically, most of them want good government health care, economic prosperity and the preservation of Social Security and Medicare.  The only person under 44 wants affordable child care.

From Trump.

And Republicans.


The Crazification Factor

The Crazification Factor is the famous estimation of just how low the floor is for a conservative politician.  The answer is 27% approval.  It's almost physically impossible to get lower than that.  If you want to know who makes up the 27%, here is a good example.  There simply is no amount of evidence that can dissuade these folks.  The "Good Loyal Republican" will eventually turn on some of their politicians as not being "true conservatives" and abandon them, as many did Dubya in his last years.  As Digby once wrote: Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.  Trump will be a great manifestation of this, as he was once a registered Democrat.  He will govern as a "bog-standard Republican" but when his shitty policies, narcissistic personality disorder and toxic combativeness drives this country into a ditch, we will all be regaled with how many in the GOP never wanted Trump to be President in the first place.

Why do I bring this up?

Because Trump is already circling down to the 27% threshold before he's even taken the oath of office.  He's the singular most unpopular person to ever lay his hand on the Bible and take the oath.

Why is he so low?

Consider what we have seen over the past three months.  Trump has staffed his Cabinet with the Super Rich, after promising his voters to "drain the swamp."  Everyone who wasn't a fucking fool knows he was lying, but his supporters believed him and many are now disappointed.  That goes doubly for those who assumed he was lying about destroying the ACA, or perhaps believed there really was "something better" hidden in his tiny little hands.

Since 1994, the Republican Party has gone dangerously off the rails.  They have rejected - in no particular order - empiricism, diversity, math, physics, compassion, empathy and reason.  They have devoted themselves to an ideology that prizes great wealth over all else, while draping themselves in the flag and thrusting a Bible about.  But George W. Bush was primarily interested in American power.  Even he knew enough to provide seniors with prescription drugs, as long as he could wage his mighty wars.

Since 2008, the GOP quite literally went insane.  They embraced a vision of governance so at odds with American traditions that Norm Ornstein of the rightist American Enterprise Institute called them "ideological insurgents."  The list is too long to catalog, but a sampling would have to include nearly defaulting on the debt, walking away from a 10-1 tax cuts to spending compromise and quashing Merrick Garland's nomination.

Now these nihilists have the reins of power and an idiot, narcissistic manchild at the helm.  The introduction of the Betsy DeVoses of the world has shown the limits of ideology against the real world, yet she will be confirmed and commence to fuck everything up.  Rex Tillerson will lift sanctions - which are working - on Russia.  We have an ongoing investigation of Russia's involvement in the election which will be killed - Saturday Night Massacre style - by Orange Julius Caesar.

That's why he's at 37%.  And if it turns out we can find real evidence of Russia's involvement in his campaign - looking at you Paul Manafort - then he will slip further.

But never below 27%.

Ben Franklin was famously asked about what the Constitutional Convention had created.

"Doctor Franklin, do we have a republic or a monarchy?"

"A republic, if you can keep it."

We have work to do.

Keith Ellison For DNC

I read this (lengthy) sit down with Ellison, and he seems like the right guy to lead the DNC in Trumpistan.  Democrats have been out-organized at the state level for too long.  Sounds like he has a plan to change that.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Would Ayn Rand Do?

Take a read about Tom Price's plan to take away your employer-based health insurance.

This is - to put it mildly - a terrible idea. Perhaps in the long run, it would be a good idea, because it would necessitate a move to single payer.  Single payer - as every other unfucked country in the world knows - works better than the odd patchwork of federal insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP), private plans provided by employers and individual plans covered under ACA.  Single payer produces better results at a lower price.  Yay for single payer.  Following Price's plan would presumably hasten the day when we get there.

But in the real world, that will likely be hard to realize, as long as people are willing to vote the Scary Brown People Are Taking Our Jobs ticket.  In the meantime, we would see a profound economic dislocation that would crush middle and working class people.

At the root of Price's "plan" is the idea that to every problem the solution is more market.  Education not making everyone a theoretical physicist or hedge fund manager?  More market.  Health care not perfect?  More market.  Pensions no longer viable?  More market.

Of course, the broad purpose of social insurance and social programs is to distribute precisely the sort of public goods that can't be accurately priced or delivered via the market.  The market is great for determining which toilet paper to buy at what cost and in what quantities.  The market categorically does not work when one party enjoys a monopoly.  Health care is a monopoly, in the sense that when you get sick, you need the care.  You can't negotiate with the provider, because you are fucking sick.

The GOP position is that people use TOO MUCH HEALTH CARE.  Seriously, that's the position.  People just go to the doctor because they don't feel well.  I mean....the NERVE of some people.  But if we made each visit to the doctor financially painful, we would reduce the demand on medical care, which would control costs.

Seriously, that's their argument. Forget for a minute that the point of health care is to maintain people's, you know, health, what are they saying to the people who are older and sicker and about to get a fiscal prostate exam that they DID NOT ASK FOR?

I'm 50.  I have some nerve issues in my neck that are causing pins and needles in my shoulder when my neck is at certain angles.  I have to go through my school doctor to get an MRI scrip, because I can't find a primary care doctor who won't retire on me.  Once I get the MRI, I can see a neurological orthopedic surgeon to see what the hell is going on.  Maybe it's just a pinched nerve.  Maybe it's spinal stenosis.

But it sure as shit is a pre-existing condition.  And at 50, my insurance will cost a ton of money.  People over 50 are the Republican base.

Are they really that stupid?  Or more accurately, are they really that blinded by the ideological restraints of Randian socio-economic theory that they simply can't accept there might be something as a "public good"?

Kakistocracy, Part 178,936

Seriously.  You've seen it, haven't you?  It showed up somewhere on your Facebook page.  You saw it on late night TV.  A friend mentioned it, and you assumed it couldn't be true so you looked it up.

Betsy DeVos.

The Department of Education is obviously important, but frankly, it's not THAT important since many education decisions are made at the state and local level.  I get to live in a state that actively gives a shit about educating its children, so I'm fine.  My son has benefited from the Individual with Disabilities Education Act in ways that we, as a family, can't begin to express our gratitude for.  And frankly, I imagine Connecticut will abide by this law whether Betsy Fucking DeVos gives a shit or not.

So, I'm not upset personally by Betsy DeVos.  As in so many things, I'm a well-off white guy, so I'm good.

But I AM personally upset by Betsy DeVos.  As Charlie Pierce so ably notes in his piece, she is an insult to the idea of democracy, self-government and meritocracy.  She was nominated, because she inherited money, giving her something in common with Der Gropenfuhrer.  She was nominated, because she wants to gut the fundamental truth of public education: that it be free, accessible and meaningful for EVERYONE.  She was nominated, because she has no freaking idea how to do her job.

That last part seems increasingly clear. Trump has zero idea how to be president.  So he will surround himself with various people who have zero idea who to do their jobs, too.  He will spin blame on them as needed to protect his narcissistic wound, and when it all comes crashing down, he will point at the incompetents and ideologues who he has surrounded himself with as the true engineers of the calamity.

As I mentioned yesterday, the unique hell of being a liberal in Trumpistan is seeing it all coming, warning of it, being ignored and - as time will tell - being proved right.  In the Oresteian trilogy, Cassandra can predict the future, but only the calamities, and the fact that everyone ignores her adds to her woe.  Here, there is nothing to predict BUT calamities.  We are all Cassandra now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Pain Of Being Right

My Facebook feed was clogged this morning with video snippets of Betsy DeVos showing her ignorance under questioning in the Senate.  She does not know basic tenets of education.  She holds ideas about accountability that are genuinely frightening. She has no experience in managing large organizations.  She's a shitshow.

Of course, most of these nominees are proving to be shitshows.  When Trump began announcing his picks, I thought, "Well, this will be a shitshow."  And now we are having hearings that are pretty much Shitshow 2.0.

But there are voices from the Sensible Center and the Thoughtful Right saying, "Give him a chance.  Let's see what he will do before we condemn the Trump presidency."

No.  We predicted it would be awful.  So far everything we have learned since election day has confirmed that it is awful.  It will continue to be awful after Friday.

Liberals aren't always right.  That would be arrogant in the extreme.  But holy crap are they right a lot more often than the bloviating ideologues of the right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Final Fantasy

We have reached an interesting crossroads.  Trump has promised "better, more, better" healthcare.  Everyone gets covered, no one ever dies anymore and it will be paid for by China and Mexico.  Or some shit.

In reality, we have the CBO coming out with some pretty fucking dire numbers.  ACA was designed to be permanent.  Markets acted on the assumption of that permanence.  Remove that assumption and you destroy more than the exchanges and the various forms of coverage through the exchanges.  You disrupt the entire insurance market.  The Republican replacement ideas are - SHOCKINGLY - pieces of shit that have no basis in reality.

Meanwhile, poorer Republicans are waking up to the fact that they kinda need this ACA thing.

You have an incoming president with approval ratings lower than any incoming president on record.  You have a GOP Congress with approval ratings that head lice would sneer at.

"This will not end well" feels like the new motto of the United States.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Shit This Is Good

Josh Marshall on the Press in Trumpistan.

Here is the important takeaway:

Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in American history. We only have data on this going back a few decades. But there's little reason to think any President in previous decades or centuries has been this unpopular. Indeed, he's getting less popular as he approaches his inauguration. People need to have a bit more confidence in themselves, their values and their country. As soon as you realize that the Trump wants to profit from the presidency and that the Republicans are focused and helping him do so, all the questions become easier to answer and the path forward more clear. His threats against the press are the same. He's threatening to take away things the press doesn't truly need in order to instill a relationship of dominance.

There's nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news 'fake news' or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe - pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon - actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump's threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don't need.

The Salesman Vs. The Engineer

Here we have Donald Trump, Salesman, promising magical unicorn ponies for everyone.

The obvious problem is that he's promising universal health care that is better and cheaper than Obamacare, but he has no freaking idea how to create it.  While ACA represents a series of compromises and kludges, it works, it covers people and it's relatively cheap to what we had before.  Trump is promising is something "better" at a time when the GOP Congress is taking all that away.  He's also said, he won't pursue single payer, which is pretty much the only way to make this work.

He's a compulsive liar, in the way salesmen can be.  What happens when people realize he's sold them a lemon?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Responsible One

I remember thinking that Trump's selection of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff was one of his few responsible, mature picks.  Priebus was not a barking loon like Bannon or Flynn, so that was a hopeful sign.

Just kidding.  Priebus is a hack with the morals of a sewer rat.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What Will It Take

In the early days of the Trump Administration, it looks like we will have to rely on foreign press and foreign intelligence agencies to get to the bottom of the Water Sports Memo.  While there are some stirrings of resistance to Trump's Russia ties in the Senate, in the end, we can count on the GOP either rallying behind him or muddying the waters.  This was the strategy with Iran-Contra.

The sad and almost terrifying fact is that Trump supporters simply don't care about this story.  This should come as a surprise to precisely no one.  Willful suspension of belief in evidence is prevalent on any political extreme. And currently the GOP is a party of extremists.

Friday, January 13, 2017

This Is Why I Hate The Left

This is so stupid.  Jon Chait made a point about branding or labeling the protest march next Saturday "The Women's March."  He's right.  Unless you're intimately involved in the march, it would seem to preclude male involvement.  I can't attend, but even if I could, I'm not sure I feel like the march was intended for me. I mean, it's not intended for me.  It's intended for me, only to the degree with which I can express solidarity with the march's goals.  I do, so I would go (if I could).

But most people who will hear about this march don't give a shit that the march is intended to be inclusive.  They don't know that it's for everyone.  All they will hear is the title.  The title suggests that only women oppose Donald Trump.  This is of course absurd.

Chait makes a reasonable point that if you want to make the point that a vast majority of Americans disapprove of the Trump presidency, you want to label it as such.  But he's an easy and frequent punching bag for the Left, so there you have it.

A Hill Worth Dying On

Automation will destroy what is left of the American working class.  It will then spread out and do the same everywhere.

Technology will do whatever it can.  It proceeds from what is possible not what should be done.  Nobel didn't pause to think about what dynamite could do.

It will take public policy to address this issue and one of our parties is hopeless reactive and the other is hopelessly reactionary and more or less insane.

Long Way From The Breaking Point

As Ed points out, the downfall of Nixon enjoyed strong support from the GOP right up until he didn't.  Once the smoking gun tape came out, he was toast and resigned rather than destroy his party.  As it was, 1976 was the only year Democrats won the White House from 1968-1992, and it was exceptionally close.

Republicans in Congress have to understand that their continued support for a Trump administration that looks to be breathtaking in its kleptocratic practices needs to be negotiable.  He's not "one of them" and Pence can sign their shitty bills just as easily as Trump.

Once a GOP Congressman decides that her fortunes are being hurt by Trump, she will abandon him to save her skin.  This, however, presumes two things: that their districts are not so gerrymandered that they have to worry about the electorate and that they aren't fucking kleptocrats themselves.

This is not a promising start.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Pain Caucus

If American politics functions the way the textbooks say it should, the GOP will get slaughtered for repealing the ACA.  There are some very unpopular votes in here.

But her emails...

But white people....

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


If you care about what happened there, you should read this.


That's a real word.  It means "rule by the worst people."  Here's another word: oligarchy - rule by the few.  Plutocracy - rule by the wealthy.

Which one will we have?  Tough to say, because we are short-circuiting the process by which we typically vet Cabinet appointees.  I have a very hard time imagining Trump's transition team pushed very hard on background checks and the nominees themselves have not been forthcoming with information.

The good news, I guess, is that it will be an exciting time to be an investigative journalist.

Monday, January 9, 2017


This is really insightful about Meryl Streep's comments.  As Longman notes, Trump wins through distraction.  He uses the outrage of "normal political society" as his fuel.  If he crashes the global economy, it won't matter, but if he doesn't, you're going to have to beat him on the merits.  But you have to know what the merits are.

Interesting Data

The decline in manufacturing jobs is really a recent development.

A Four Year Long Facepalm

Seriously.  WTF?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

First Good News Of 2017

Netanyahu may finally get his comeuppance.  Bibi has overseen a radical rightward lurch in Israeli politics that has forced Likud to ally with hyper-nationalists like Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett.  This has led to a de facto abandonment of the two-state solution and an increasing stance that the US should do whatever Israel wants.

It's unsustainable, and the sooner he's gone, the sooner Israel can find a leader that can provide a blueprint for peace.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

From Russia With Love

The overall divorce of the Republican party from empiricism is arguably the central fact of the past 30 years.  Global warming is a myth.  Racism is over.  Guns make you safer.  Obamacare is failing. Cutting taxes on the rich boosts the economy and doesn't add to the deficit.  Birth control leads to abortions.

Now we have the perfect distillation of this trend about to be sworn in as President.  On top of this he is a classic narcissist whose entire life is wrapped up in image protection.  Narcissists can never let an insult or a slight pass.

Trump got about as much of the popular vote as Michael Dukakis did.  Now, there is a great deal of question as to whether his very narrow victory was orchestrated by a foreign power historically inimical to America interests.

To be clear, Putin did not "hack" the election.  He didn't have his minions changing vote totals.  What he did is something Russians have been doing for decades; it's the classic form of Russian counter-intel.  They use proxies to spread disinformation and confusion in their foes.  This is now - or should be - established fact.  That it worked so well is an indictment of our media landscape, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fact.

However, the GOP isn't interested in "facts."  And Trump isn't interested in anything that shows him in a favorable light.  This is why you will see Republicans - especially the most partisan - disparage the reports and continue to flatter Putin and Julian Assange.  Winning elections and power are more important to them than American interests.

Much has been written about the growing importance of authoritarian impulses within the GOP.  Embracing Putin is partly admiration for his style of leadership, but now it is also about his efforts to help them win elections.

Remember this, the next time a Republican talking head starts blathering on about Freedom.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Please Proceed, Congressmen

Again, I'm a relatively affluent guy with employer-based health insurance, so I'm getting a fair amount of schedenfreude over the GOP's hopeless situation on Obamacare.

Martin Longman has the best advice: Repeal "Obamacare" and immediately pass almost the exact same plan, but call it "Trumpcare."  I mean, seriously, given how immeasurably dumb our press coverage of policy is, they would probably get away with it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Good Plan

Skocpol has an idea.

Governmenting Is HAAAARRRRRD

Trump is lashing out blindly on Twitter.

Members of the GOP Congress are beginning to realize that repeal without replace is dangerous.

But they appear to be egging each other on to jump off that cliff.

I can afford to be glib.  I'm not going to lose my health insurance.  Millions will and some of them will die sooner because of it.  But it is kind of fun watching the GOP realize that they have talked themselves into a corner on this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This Is A Problem

Trump's real genius is in self-promotion.  He's very good at it.

So, when he says he saved a bunch of Ford jobs, he's being half truthful.

When he says he saved the independent ethics office, he's pretty close to lying.

What Trump has realized is that the first headline is all that matters.  The subsequent follow-up is irrelevant.  People think Trump saved those Carrier jobs.  He really didn't.  But the headlines said he did and the follow-ups that explained "It's complicated" get lost.

This is Trump's media hack, and it works brilliantly (sadly).  Given our current media environment, I have little faith that they can embrace the complexity necessary for this to work in the service of factual accuracy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Again, I will go on the record as saying that the Trump years will represent a looting of the state not seen since the Harding Administration, if ever.

Here's a good clue: They've fired the night watchmen.  The reason I assume that Republicans will be more corrupt than Democrats has nothing to do with personal morality, necessarily.  For every Hastert, there's a Weiner.  But because the GOP find the functions of government ideologically repellent, they are more likely to consider the state a source of rents rather a mechanism to distribute public goods.

This is behavior we have seen in places as diverse as Venezuela and Kazakhstan.  Coming soon to America!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Future Of ACA

Jon Chait has a great breakdown of why the GOP has talked themselves into a corner on Obamacare.

The key issues are as follows:

- The GOP has told people that Obamacare is the "greatest threat to liberty since slavery."  That's hard to walk back from.

- Obamacare is fairly popular with those who have it.  They might prefer it be easier or better, but they really like having it.  And there are close to 20 million of them.

- Obamacare has created markets in both insurance and delivery of health care that will be profoundly disrupted by repeal.  Hospital corporations and smaller insurance companies could face real financial hardships.

Chait notes that there is a potential way to avoid this: Repeal the law, but delay the repeal for as many as four years.  Then essentially wait for Trump to lose re-election and then go back to complaining about Obamacare.  I don't think that will work for either political or policy reasons.  Politically, not killing Obamacare in 2017 will create a riotous backlash among the Teanderthal base.  Policy-wise, it doesn't solve any of the issues surrounding uncertainty in the markets.

I have a hunch the GOP will give in to its mouth-breathing base and repeal the funding and watch the whole thing fall apart.

And then - no shitting here - we will watch people start to die from lack of coverage.

....But her emails....