Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The post World War 2 era led to the birth of a lot of new democracies as the colonial era started to wind down in earnest. European countries couldn’t rebuild and fund empires.  One of the most fascinating things to me about the current state of things in the world is that many places where democracy seemed well-rooted are plotting a path to return of autocratic forms of government. It hasn’t been that long since the USSR and its satellites broke up into many little experiments in democracy either.  What makes some countries shrug their collective shoulders and go back to strong men?

DIYARBAKIR, TURKEY – MARCH 27: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets crowd during a local election rally organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on March 27, 2014. (Photo by Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

At some point, you have to question which institutions have failed a country’s people but it’s undoubtedly an interplay of many. Turkey’s decline has many lessons for us. The similarities between Kremlin Caligula and Erdogan are eerie.  That’s why I decided to write about it today.

Modern day religious extremism ventures into politics disguised as upholding traditional culture and values. Patriotism and nationalism appeal to many. The next thing you know is there is no culture but state-approved culture. Turkey has realigned itself. It looked to the West for most of the 20th Century.  It now looks backward in time.  Many of the same warning signals are present within the US so a good look at Turkey is necessary. Foreign Policy argues that “Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t just win his constitutional referendum — he permanently closed a chapter of his country’s modern history.”

Why are the world’s democracies facing such threat to modernity?  Why place so much power in an executive branch?

Whether they understood it or not, when Turks voted “Yes”, they were registering their opposition to the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu and the version of modernity that Ataturk imagined and represented. Though the opposition is still disputing the final vote tallies, the Turkish public seems to have given Erdogan and the AKP license to reorganize the Turkish state and in the process raze the values on which it was built. Even if they are demoralized in their defeat, Erdogan’s project will arouse significant resistance among the various “No” camps. The predictable result will be the continuation of the purge that has been going on since even before last July’s failed coup including more arrests and the additional delegitimization of Erdogan’s parliamentary opposition. All of this will further destabilize Turkish politics.

Turkey’s Islamists have long venerated the Ottoman period. In doing so, they implicitly expressed thinly veiled contempt for the Turkish Republic. For Necmettin Erbakan, who led the movement from the late 1960s to the emergence of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in August 2001, the republic represented cultural abnegation and repressive secularism in service of what he believed was Ataturk’s misbegotten ideas that the country could be made Western and the West would accept it. Rather, he saw Turkey’s natural place not at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels but as a leader of the Muslim world, whose partners should be Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, and Indonesia.

When Erbakan’s protégés — among them Erdogan and former President Abdullah Gul — broke with him and created the AKP, they jettisoned the anti-Western rhetoric of the old guard, committed themselves to advancing Turkey’s European Union candidacy, and consciously crafted an image of themselves as the Muslim analogues to Europe’s Christian Democrats. Even so, they retained traditional Islamist ideas about the role of Turkey in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world.

Thinkers within the AKP — notably former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — harbored reservations about the compatibility of Western political and social institutions with their predominantly Muslim society. But the AKP leadership never acted upon this idea, choosing instead to undermine aspects of Ataturk’s legacy within the framework of the republic. That is no longer the case.

The AKP and supporters of the “yes” vote argue that the criticism of the constitutional amendments was unfair. They point out that the changes do not undermine a popularly elected parliament and president as well as an independent (at least formally) judiciary. This is all true, but it is also an exceedingly narrow description of the political system that Erdogan envisions. Rather, the powers that would be afforded to the executive presidency are vast, including the ability to appoint judges without input from parliament, issue decrees with the force of law, and dissolve parliament. The president would also have the sole prerogative over all senior appointments in the bureaucracy and exercise exclusive control of the armed forces. The amendments obviate the need for the post of prime minister, which would be abolished. The Grand National Assembly does retain some oversight and legislative powers, but if the president and the majority are from the same political party, the power of the presidency will be unconstrained. With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the Law on Fundamental Organization and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot.

There is an uptick in groups of voters drawn to authoritarianism.  This is not what I expected when I watched the “Arab Spring” unfold on Twitter.  Donald Trump is not what I expected after Barrack Obama.  There appears to be a group of people that just love themselves better in the comfort of old school religion and backwoods bullies.  Each follower of the world’s largest religions needs to discern a difference between being a person of faith and blindly following your religion over a precipice and into slavery.  It always begins with a purge of intellectuals, scientists, and scholars.

It has been painful for me to witness the immense disappointment of Turkish intellectuals, resilient by tradition, and mainly left-leaning. All I could hear by phone or on social media was tormented despair – a crushing sense of defeat. What united all those in academia and the media or in NGOs, regardless of their political stripes, was that they had hoped for democratic change under the AKP.

Many of them had given credit to the party, and its early pledges and steps towards an order where the sharing of power would break the vicious circle of the republic. They wanted to believe in human rights, freedom and an end to the decades-long Kurdish conflict. But the deliberate reversal of democratisation left all of them feeling they had been duped.

This conclusion became undeniable when last summer’s attempted coup – the details of which are still unclear – led to an immense purge. Given this mood of despair and the sense of defeat, we should expect another exodus of fine human resources in the coming months and years.

Journalists – such as me, abroad, or at home – will find themselves challenged even more after the referendum. Coverage of corruption will be a daredevil act, severe measures against critical journalism will continue and the remaining resistance of media proprietors will vanish.

The Turkish media will begin to resemble those of the Central Asian republics, where only mouthpieces for those in power are allowed to exist. Inevitably, these conditions will shift the epicentre of independent journalism to outside the borders of Turkey. My colleagues have already realised that their dreams of a dignified fourth estate were nothing but an illusion.

“At the end of the day, Erdoğan is simply replacing one form of authoritarianism with another,” wrote Cook.

“The Turkish republic has always been flawed, but it always contained the aspiration that – against the backdrop of the principles to which successive constitutions claimed fidelity – it could become a democracy. Erdoğan’s new Turkey closes off that prospect.”

Just as in this country’s election in 2016, Erdoğan won a slim victory.  That’s not stopping him from sweeping reforms that are way out of line with progress and modernity.

An emboldened Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed his win in a referendum that ratified the supremacy of his rule by taking aim at political opponents at home and abroad.

At his victory speech late on Sunday, supporters chanted that he should bring back the death penalty — a move that would finish off Turkey’s bid to join the European Union — and Erdogan warned opponents not to bother challenging the legitimacy of his win. He told them to prepare for the biggest overhaul of Turkey’s system of governance ever, one that will result in him having even fewer checks on his already considerable power.

“Today, Turkey has made a historic decision,” he said. “We will change gears and continue along our course more quickly.” The lira surged as much as 2.5 percent against the dollar in early trading on Monday in Istanbul before gains moderated.

The success of a package of 18 changes to the constitution was narrow, with about 51.4 percent of Turks approving it. It came at the end of a divisive two-month campaign during which Erdogan accused opponents of the vote of supporting “terrorists” and denounced as Nazi-like the decision of some EU countries to bar his ministers from lobbying the diaspora.

“The referendum campaign was dominated by strongly anti-Western rhetoric and repeated promises to bring back the death penalty,” said Inan Demir, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in London. “One hopes that this rhetoric will be tempered now that the vote is over,” but recent steps by the Turkish government do“not bode well for the hoped-for moderation in international relations.”

I’m not the only one curious about this trend toward dilution of democracy in Western nations. There’s actually quite a bit discussion on the topic out there today.

Now that two obese men with bad hair and nuclear weapons didn’t end the world over the weekend, let’s talk about Turkey. Maybe keeping up with the former focal point of the Ottoman empire hasn’t been on the top of your to-do list. All well and good. But you may want to know they voted to weaken or even obliterate—depending on who you ask—their democracy over the weekend.

So what does this referendum of theirs mean? Only give the Turkish president hitherto unprecedented control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Now that the Turks have voted “Yes” to these constitutional reforms, they’re signing up for a form of government in which parliament’s monitoring of the executive branch is removed from the constitution and the judiciary is even weaker and less independent than it already was beforehand.

It’s a complex case though. Turkey’s government is different than America’s and, in some ways, they’re actually embracing a system more similar to the one US citizens are used to. The main transition is one from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential one, albeit a strongly authoritative one. Traditionally, the Turkish president is more figurehead than enforcer. They’re intended to be more Queen Elizabeth than Vladimir Putin or even Donald Trump.

As head of state, they act as the public face of the country, acting in times of emergency but largely delegating the business of lawmaking and government-running to their appointed prime minister. Until April 16, 2017, the president was mandated to cut ties from his party and maintain a largely neutral and apolitical stance, regardless of personal attachments or viewpoints. Now the office of prime minister is kaput and the president will have way more control over all branches of government. Parliament will still make laws and the judiciary will still try cases. But they’ll do little else and even those duties are capable of being bypassed by the president pretty easily.

The changes don’t go into effect until 2019 but when they do, the Turkish president can pass decrees as effective and codified as any parliamentary law, dissolve parliament, call for new elections, set the budget, declare a state of emergency, make unilateral national security decisions, appoint and remove all VPs and ministry heads at their own discretion and more. Don’t worry! If the president does something illegal, they can still be investigated if there’s a simple majority in parliament and a 60% vote to be tried then convicted by presidentially appointed judges.

And it’s so completely unconcerning the person who’ll most likely have all this unchecked executive power in 2019 is current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Just think of his inspirational and relatable backstory—he sold lemonade as a teenager in a rough part of town, played soccer for a while and wrote, and directed and starred in a play called Maskomya about how Freemasonry, Communism and Judaism are evil forces hellbent on destroying the world. Presidents: they’re just like us!

Yes, well much of this sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it?  Liz Cookman has argued that Turkey could be our future under Kremlin Caligula assuming the FBI and Eric Schneiderman don’t catch up with so many of his thugs that Congress has to act.  There are some frightening similarities.

Trump has voiced his support for the use of torture. And his similarities with the Turkish leader do not end there. Both use a rhetoric of patriotism to the point of nationalism, are vocal against abortion and are infamous for their tendency to objectify women and misunderstand feminism. They have both granted their sons-in-law important positions and both have a particularly thin skin when it comes to criticism, especially when it comes from comedians and journalists.

Erdoğan and Trump have publicly supported each other’s stance on the media in the past. Anyone who has spent time in Turkey will recognise Trump’s denouncement of negative coverage in outlets such as the New York Times as “fake news”. They will be familiar with headlines such as the one that appeared in far-right outlet Brietbart (whose founding member Steve Bannon is Trump’s chief strategist), used in relation to the protests in the US on Saturday – “Terror-tied group Cair causes chaos, promoting protests and lawsuits as Trump protects nation”. This is pure Erdoğan territory – denouncing opposition by associating it with terror while glorifying the strong leader. Turkey is the home of “alternative facts”.

A country that makes the media the enemy is a country where people are too easily manipulated by those in power. Journalists in Turkey, unless they work for organisations that toe the official government line on events, constantly wobble on a tightrope between reporting what’s going on and not reporting enough to get arrested. Even foreign journalists self-censor, double-check for unintended “insults” that could land them in trouble. They flinch when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, and wonder every time they go abroad whether they will be allowed back in the country.

We need to stand up against the vilification of the free press in the US now before it goes too far. Erdoğan is no longer good for Turkey, just like Trump is no good for America. They are changing the identities of their countries.

Not only English writers but French journalists notice the similarities.

But, back to the UK and Counterpunch.

The similarities between Erdogan and Trump are greater than they might seem, despite the very different political traditions in the US and Turkey.

The parallel lies primarily in the methods by which both men have gained power and seek to enhance it. They are populists and nationalists who demonise their enemies and see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies. Success does not sate their pursuit of more authority.

Hopes in the US that, after Trump’s election in November, he would shift from aggressive campaign mode to a more conciliatory approach have dissipated over the last two months. Towards the media his open hostility has escalated, as was shown by his abuse of reporters at his press conference this week.

Manic sensitivity to criticism is a hallmark of both men. In Trump’s case this is exemplified by his tweeted denunciation of critics such as Meryl Streep, while in Turkey 2,000 people have been charged with insulting the president. One man was tried for posting on Facebook three pictures of Gollum, the character in The Lord of the Rings, with similar facial features to pictures of Erdogan posted alongside. Of the 259 journalists in jail around the world, no less than 81 are in Turkey. American reporters may not yet face similar penalties, but they can expect intense pressure on the institutions for which they work to mute their criticisms.

Turkey and the US may have very different political landscapes, but there is a surprising degree of uniformity in the behaviour of Trump and Erdogan. The same is true of populist, nationalist, authoritarian leaders who are taking power in many different parts of the world from Hungary and Poland to the Philippines. Commentators have struggled for a phrase to describe this phenomenon, such as “the age of demagoguery”, but this refers only to one method – and that not the least important – by which such leaders gain power.

So, I’m sure this isn’t what you expected to read today.  But, it appears that my interest and concerns aren’t just wild hairs.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Presidency of Horrors 

 

What a week it has been…

This presidency is like a horror show, and I’m not talking about a good one either. It is beyond Plan 9 From Outer Space…

The images are my commentary on that.

 

 

Things are very bad at home right now. Cancer is a bitch. So the post today is just links. In no particular order…

WATCH: A Yale historian explains to Maher how Trump resembles 1930s fascists — and makes the Russia connection

Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder’s latest book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century outlines some of the things that fall under dictators as they rise to power. In a conversation Friday with Bill Maher, the host asked Snyder if this was his “busy season” given President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

Maher asked Snyder to give the top three lessons from tyranny for which Americans should suit up.

“Don’t obey in advance,” was Snyder’s first instruction. He doesn’t necessarily mean obeying leaders or authority rather, “don’t follow what everyone else is doing… figure out what you stand for and be yourself.”

His second instruction was that Americans must defend institutions. Many anticipate that “the institution will save us” but Snyder said that this kind of thinking is wrong. “We have to save the institutions. They don’t do it on their own. This is the moment of ‘ask not what the institutions can do for you. Ask what you can do for the institutions.’”

His third was for Americans to believe in the truth. “Without truth, we don’t have trust. Without trust, we don’t have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don’t have democracy,” he continued.

More at the link.

Scientists turn spinach leaf into working human heart tissue | The Independent

Researchers have turned a spinach leaf into working human heart tissue.

Scientists struggle to make large-scale human tissue – while they have had success in creating small lab samples, it is much more difficult to make them at the size of tissues, bones or whole organs. But that’s what will be needed if the tissue proves useful in the treatment of disease or injury.

Now they have come closer to solving perhaps the hardest of those challenges ,and creating a vascular system that can deliver blood into the new tissue.

47 Days to Leave their Village and Never Return

An eviction notice is never the kind of letter you want to receive, but in 1943, the villagers of Imber, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, all received the very same letter, regretting to inform them “that it is necessary to evacuate” their home to be “made available for training by December 17th”, giving them just 47 days to pack up their lives and “quit” Imber, never to return.

How a new women-only cab service is helping women get around in Pakistan

One of the many barriers perpetuating that disparity is a lack of safe transportation options, as many women face sexual harassment when taking public transit — and cabs can be no better. Noor Jehan, a Pink Taxi driver, told the Independent most women in Pakistan would “think thrice” before getting into a car alone with a man.

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future | Books | The Guardian

From Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, feminist science fiction writers have imagined other ways of living that prompt us to ask, could we do things differently?

Thin-Skinned Trump Targets 17-Year-Old Coder For Kitten Website

Instead of running the country, Trump has decided his priority is sending cease-and-desist letters to high school girls for making funny websites.

Alone in the Wild for a Year, TV Contestants Learn Their Show Was Canceled – The New York Times

The remaining contestants on a reality television series have emerged after surviving 12 months in the Scottish wilderness — fending off hunger, infighting and fatigue — only to learn that the show stopped broadcasting after four episodes, the last of them in August.

The show, “Eden,” was billed as a unique social experiment in which 23 men and women living in isolation “would take on the challenge of building a new life and creating a society from scratch,” according to a statement promoting the show.

The contestants were taken to a 600-acre estate on the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, which is known for its forests, lochs and beaches.

But “Eden” proved to be anything but paradise.

 CNN analyst: Sources say Mike Flynn may have turned on Trump and become a witness for the FBI

Tasmanian tiger: ‘Sightings’ of extinct animal spark hunt in Australia | The Independent

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Carnivore hunted to extinction by European settlers may have survived in isolated wilderness area, if sightings by park ranger and tour guide are genuine

Auschwitz shuts down after nude protesters slaughter sheep, chain selves to ‘arbeit macht frei’ gate – Europe – Haaretz.com

Regretful Trump Voters Are (Mostly) a Myth

Angry Trump voters blame everyone but the president for US healthcare fail

Frank Rich: No Sympathy for the Hillbilly

 

tRump voters are assholes!

 

 

That video is sheer horror…

Some more horror tales:

Fifteen Percent Of Undergrad Women At UT Austin Reported Being Raped, Survey Finds

10 critics of Vladimir Putin who wound up dead – Chicago Tribune

Russia’s Putin Picks Le Pen to Rule France – The Daily Beast

U.S. Confirms Coalition Strike Killed as Many as 200 Civilians in Mosul

U.S. airstrikes may have killed as many as 200 civilians in Mosul.

Dem to Trump: ‘You truly are an evil man’ | TheHill

5 ways Trump is mentally torturing us now

Trump Is Dragging Us Into Another War… And No One Is Talking About It | The Huffington Post Well, we are talking about it here on the blog…

Fox Host Does Trump’s Dirty Work | Crooks and Liars

Trump’s day in tweets: Saturday, March 25 – LA Times

His tweets have the power to shape international relations, send stock prices up — or down — and galvanize the American public.

We’re watching how Donald Trump is using this platform of unfettered communication now that he’s commander in chief. Here is everything Trump has tweeted since he was sworn in as 45th president of the United States. In many cases, we look at what he was reacting to and whether what he said was accurate. And, as much as possible, we’ll relate what else was going on at the time. Check back for more as Trump continues to tweet.

Nearly 1 million pounds of chicken recalled due to ‘metal objects’ | WSB-TV This chicken was sold throughout the US…so make sure you don’t have any in your kitchen.

Caution: Your Supermarket Grocery May Be Carrying More Germs Than Your Toilet : HEALTH : Tech Times

Orcas Spew An Array Of Bacteria When They Exhale, And Human Waste May Be To Blame : SCIENCE : Tech Times

Why dissecting the brain only gives us half its story | Daniel Glaser | Life and style | The Guardian

Trump’s semi-truck photo op turned into picture book | TheHill

Anna Kendrick, Lin Manuel-Miranda and Others Vie to Be Stephen Hawking’s New Voice

Stephen Hawking is shopping for a new voice. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with his old one, it’s just that he’s had it for 30 years and he’s ready to swap it out. Happily, celebrities ranging from Liam Neeson to Anna Kendrick to Rebel Wilson to Lin-Manuel Miranda were more than willing to offer their services, each vying pitifully to have their vocal cords associated with one of the greatest minds in modern physics.

“Stephen…it’s me…surely it has to be me,” said Neeson in his fake audition tape, his neck wrapped tight in a heavy scarf despite being indoors. Kylie Minogue, standing under the shade of a tree, insisted she should be his new voice, since all of her songs are about…science. Lin-Manuel rapped.

“No.” Hawking said, his horror palpable.

The production was created for British charity Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, a high profile telethon that raises money for kids both in the U.S. and in poor communities in developing countries.

In the end, Hawking ultimately rejected each celebrity entreaty, selecting instead Sir Michael Caine. He didn’t even have to audition. Figures.

And on that note I will wrap this thread up…

Hope everyone is having a better day then we are, lol. This is an open thread…


Friday Reads: Death Spirals Real and Imagined

Good Afternoon!

It’s getting really difficult to find anything upbeat these days out there on the news front. Usually,there are several areas with persistent messes.  Today, things folks never thought we’d have to worry about are suddenly in play. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did it fall in day. It seems like the US is on a downward spiral that rivals the speed of light or at least a hefty meteor.  Bets on how long we last at this rate?

Suggestions on how can we stop this?

Much of the destruction is going on inside the federal government while Kremlin Caligula puts on a show. We’ve learned that Trump and cronies are planting lobbyists and ideologues to cripple agencies.  The State Department appears to be one of the major functions of government that is in a death spiral. The Russian Connections between Trump and his cronies run deep. There’s no longer a need to connect the dots. It’s a four lane highway between Trump Tower with off ramps all over the place.
It appears that the Trump Syndicate may have been laundering money for Russian Oligarchs.  Here are some links to get caught up on the Russia fiasco.  Many of these are updates from stories that BB wrote about yesterday.

From CNN: “The super-secret division in charge of the Russia investigation“.

From the Palm Beach Post: “Trump in Palm Beach: Why did Russian pay so much for his mansion?”

From The American Interest: “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections”

By the late 1990s the actual chaos that resulted from Yeltsin’s warped policies had laid the foundations for a strong counterrevolution, including the rise of ex-KGB officer Putin and a massive outpouring of oligarchic flight capital that has continued virtually up to the present. For ordinary Russians, as noted, this was disastrous. But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.

The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):

[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

All this helps to explain one of the most intriguing puzzles about Donald Trump’s long, turbulent business career: how he managed to keep financing it, despite a dismal track record of failed projects.4

According to the “official story,” this was simply due to a combination of brilliant deal-making, Trump’s gold-plated brand, and raw animal spirits—with $916 million of creative tax dodging as a kicker. But this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from “submerging markets” like Russia

Paul Ryan power point meme1
Rex Tillerson is incapable of doing an actual job.  The State Department is in disarray and it’s hard to see how Tillerson is doing anything to change that.  Here’s some analysis from David Ignatius writing for WAPO.

Tillerson’s State Department has been in idle gear these past two months. He doesn’t have a deputy or other top aides. His spokesman can’t give guidance on key issues, because decisions haven’t yet been made. Tillerson didn’t attend important meetings with foreign leaders.

As a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, Tillerson is accustomed to a world where a visible display of power is unnecessary, corporate planning is meticulous and office politics are suppressed. But this is Washington

“I am an engineer by training. I seek to understand the facts,” Tillerson said at his confirmation hearing. That sounds reassuring, but it doesn’t fit the glitzy, backstabbing capital that spawned the television series “House of Cards.”

“He may pay some cost up front for not meeting Washington expectations,” notes Stephen Hadley, national security adviser for President George W. Bush and a Tillerson supporter. “The short-term buzz was that he’s out of the loop, but Tillerson is playing for the long game.”

Tillerson couldn’t even get his choice for a deputy pass President Bannon.

The Republicans in the House and Senate are using the chaos to cover up their end game. Obamacare replacementThey’re trying to dismantle everything from Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, the EPA, Social Security, Dodd Frank, and just about anything used to protect citizens from the malfeasance of of short sighted, profit-oriented business practices which rule the US commerce landscape.  The GOP is planning a full scale assault on Federal Regulations.

There is a flurry of anti-regulatory legislation floating around Capitol Hill, but it is becoming clear that the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking will be Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act. A 16-page draft of the legislation obtained by POLITICO was significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives, but industry groups have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump’s desk. And even if the Portman bill won’t automatically ensure “the deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by White House adviser Steve Bannon, it could still dramatically curtail the power of government regulators in the long run.

Portman has not yet introduced the bill, but behind the scenes in Washington it is already the subject of furious lobbying by more than 150 public interest groups that oppose it as well as more than 600 business groups that support it. It is much narrower than a bill the House passed last month with the same name, but would still revamp and insert new bureaucratic hurdles into the federal regulatory process, which the Obama Administration used to enact tough new restrictions on coal plants, Wall Street banks, for-profit colleges and other corporate entities. The Portman bill would add new obstacles for agencies to overcome before enacting economically significant rules, require them to choose the most cost-effective alternative, and give judges more discretion to block regulations when the regulated interests object.

“When I visit a factory or small business in Ohio, one of the complaints I hear most from employers is that there are too many costly and unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to invest in their business,” Portman said. “We need a smarter regulatory process that promotes job creation, innovation, and economic growth.”

Portman and the Washington business community are portraying his reforms as a pragmatic approach to burdensome red tape, hoping to distinguish them from more extreme Republican bills that would give Congress a veto over all major rules, eliminate the deference that courts traditionally give to federal agencies, and even forbid those agencies from implementing rules until every lawsuit against them is resolved. House Republicans have passed five regulatory reform bills this year, and have introduced a dozen more, but insiders say most of them are doomed to die in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster. That’s why Portman is now negotiating over his more temperate language with Democratic senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who are both up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won easily. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida and independent Angus King of Maine have supported similar bills in the past.

Trump has not outlived his usefulness to the Republican Agenda of installing a warped Christian Theocracy and a kleptocracy capable of ruining the environment and killing people.  Portman obviously decided Trump was the way to sneak a lot of things through.

And then there’s Paul Ryan who thinks the only thing that should occur right now is decimation of the ACA regardless of the results.  It’s right there on his Power Point.  It pretty much looked like the Republican version was DOA yesterday but now Senate Republicans are actually talking about changing the Senate rules to get it shoved through one way or another.  This is despite the massive outrage about the repeal.

A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.

Such a gambit would require the unlikely buy-in of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a noted institutionalist who earlier this year avoided talk of changing his chamber’s rules to kill the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

If the Senate changes precedent for what can be passed under reconciliation now, a future Senate — whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats — could enact a wide range of legislation with just a simple majority.

“There are limits to what we can do” on Obamacare while complying with the Senate rules, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said in a Thursday floor speech. Under reconciliation guidelines, bills can be passed in the Senate with a simple majority and cannot be filibustered, as long as their provisions have a direct impact on spending or tax levels.

I wake up every day in fear of what’s coming next.  It seems that everything I’ve ever planned my old age around is now collapsing around me.  The Republican Plan is a massive DumpsterFire. 53_192516Paul Krugman has some great analysis.

 Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy

Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.

Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.

Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.

And the tax on those who don’t sign up becomes a small surcharge — paid to insurance companies, not the public — on people who sign up after previously letting coverage lapse.

Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.

For the combination of price hikes and weakened penalties would lead many healthy Americans to forgo insurance. This would worsen the risk pool, causing premiums to rise sharply — and remember, subsidies would no longer adjust to offset this rise. The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.

How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity?

The only thing that’s been fun about this is the Twitter Attack on Paul Ryan and his Power Points.

So, I know a few people that have been basically kidnapped by their families and put into conversion therapy.  This story of a survivor is chilling reading.

TC, a 19-year-old gay man who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously for this article in order to protect his safety, is a survivor of conversion therapy practices.

TC was subjected to conversion therapy in 2012 when he was 15 years old after his parents discovered he was gay. The conversion therapy practices took place in the basement of a church after school hours, and were explained to TC and his parents as having two separate components. He told The Huffington Post:

The first step ― which usually lasted six months ― [is] where they “deconstruct us as a person.” Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ (most of us were gay, but the entire spectrum was represented), and they knew what they were doing…. The second step of the program, they “rebuilt us in their image.” They removed us of everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus. They retaught us everything we knew. How to eat, talk, walk, dress, believe, even breathe. We were no longer people at the end of the program.

TC said that the conversion therapy sessions would take place every weekday, with shock therapy treatments lasting approximately an hour, and aversion therapy lasting three.

This is torture. Pure and Simple.

So, this is what they’d fund while getting Insurance 101 wrong.

Paul Ryan actually said “The whole idea of Obamacare is…the people who are healthy pay for the…sick. It’s not working, & that’s why it’s in a death spiral.”

No Speaker that’s a risk pool and it’s how insurance works.

011917coletoon

Everyone pays into the pot and draws on it when they’re sick. Younger people, who tend to be healthier than older people, pay for health insurance like everyone else. They’ll rely on it when when they need it, probably more when they’re older and there are younger, healthier people filing in behind them. It’s the same with car insurance

. Some people pay for decades and never get into an accident and never collect on their coverage (though the likelihood of anyone never using health insurance is unlikely).That’s what actuarial figures are all about, so an insurance system can assess the risks of segments of customers to determine what everyone needs to put into the pot so there’s enough to pay out when someone needs the money.

Ryan has perhaps been on taxpayer-paid health insurance for so long that he has forgotten how the concept works. He believes that’s only the way it works for Obamacare. “The conceit of Obamacare,” he said at his press conference on Trumpcare, is that “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people.” That’s why Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” he noted.

Twitter had a pretty predictable response to Ryan’s summary of health insurance: Duh.

Meanwhile, every one except the stupid, the greedy, the mean, and the crazy resist.

Well, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

17022314_10154505890203512_1051292543946394533_nGood Afternoon!

Our Federal Government continues to morph into something hostile, xenophobic,and corrupt as we look at yet another weekend where taxpayer money will be filtered into a private resort owned by Kremlin Caligula.  The Cabinet is now filled with corrupt and unqualified people. Entire Departments are being defunded and destroyed.  First among them is the State Department.  This all appears to part of Bannon’s crusade to “deconstruct the administrative state”.

This week began with reports that President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will drastically slash the State Department’s funding, and last week ended with White House adviser and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon telling the attendees of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that what he and the new president were after was a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” At the State Department, which employs nearly 70,000 people around the world, that deconstruction is already well underway.

In the last week, I’ve spoken with a dozen current and recently departed State Department employees, all of whom asked for anonymity either because they were not authorized to speak to the press and feared retribution by an administration on the prowl for leakers, or did not want to burn their former colleagues. None of these sources were political appointees. Rather, they were career foreign service officers or career civil servants, most of whom have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—and many of whom do not know each other. They painted a picture of a State Department adrift and listless.

Sometimes, the deconstruction of the administrative state is quite literal. After about two dozen career staff on the seventh floor—the State Department’s equivalent of a C suite—were told to find other jobs, some with just 12 hours’ notice, construction teams came in over Presidents’ Day weekend and began rebuilding the office space for a new team and a new concept of how State’s nerve center would function. (This concept hasn’t been shared with most of the people who are still there.) The space on Mahogany Row, the line of wood-paneled offices including that of the secretary of state, is now a mysterious construction zone behind blue tarp.

c59rpxrvuaa0eisUnder Trumps Slash and Burn Budget, everything loses but the military.  The EPA will be decimated.

A wide slew of Environmental Protection Agency programs could be under the knife to meet President Donald Trump’s budget proposal requirements, a source told CNN Wednesday night.

The source spelled out details of an Office of Management and Budget proposal that would cut the EPA’s budget by 24% and reduce its staffing by 20%. Some of the EPA’s most longstanding and best-known programs are facing potential elimination — including initiatives aimed at improving water and air quality as well as a number of regulations tasked with reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other programs include the Environmental Justice program, which is meant to help local communities grapple with environmental concerns, and Global Change Research, a program funded by several agencies, including the EPA, which reports humans’ impact on the planet.

The Clean Power Plan, which could also be recommended for cuts, was an initiative by former President Barack Obama meant to reduce carbon emissions from each state. Fourteen separate EPA partnership programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could also be on the chopping block.

Also among the programs up for elimination are multi-purpose grants to states and tribes, Energy Star grants, Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowships, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and initiatives aimed at environmental protections along the US-Mexico border.

Some of the grants recommended for elimination could be matching grants for local projects around the country, the source added.

Ken Cook, the head of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy and research organization, told CNN in a statement: “The Trump administration has decided fence-line communities across the country, whose residents already bear an outsized burden from pollution, are on their own to take on big polluters.”

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

The American Heritage Foundation has been out for the EPA for a long time.  Its even had a plan that may be part of the Adminstration’s vision for letting go of any kind environmental controls and regulation.

Right now, the Trump administration is crafting a budget proposal that envisions steep cuts to a number of federal agencies — including, reportedly, a 24 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency that would eliminate one-fifth of its 15,000 jobs.

There aren’t yet any final decisions on exactly which environmental and energy programs will be targeted for elimination; the White House is still discussing with the relevant agencies. But one place to look for clues is this budget “blueprint” put out by the Heritage Foundation, a major conservative think tank. According to multiple reports, Donald Trump’s team has been using Heritage’s blueprint as a rough guide in its search for $54 billion in domestic spending cuts for fiscal year 2018.

The Heritage budget explains how to get cuts of that magnitude — spreading them out across every agency. And it goes particularly hard after energy and environmental programs. The EPA’s climate-change programs? Gone. Federal research into wind, solar, electric vehicles, nuclear, and other clean tech? Gone. Environmental justice programs? Gone. There are cuts to pollution enforcement and EPA programs that deal with surface water cleanup to diesel truck emissions. Plus cuts in aid to poor countries that help deal with ozone depletion and global warming. Taken together, the blueprint’s cuts would amount to a stark change in US environmental policy.

These cuts won’t all necessarily fly with Congress — a few Republicans are already balking at some of the numbers Trump’s team is tossing about. But it’s a useful read as an aspirational document, a look at the programs that some influential conservatives with Trump’s ear would like to see rooted out of the federal government (and why)

11darcy-carson1jpg-c9d65932f15d4e86It isn’t clear at all that the Pentagon needs that much money or wants it for that matter.  It traditionally gets pretty much what it wants already.  The nation has been on a war time footing since 9/11 so it isn’t even clear that there’s been any kind of “depletion” of anything.

Defense spending accounts for almost the same proportion of the federal budget as all non-discretionary domestic spending, meaning that the Trump administration’s proposal will result in a roughly 10 percent across-the-board cut in all other federal spending programs.

Budgets for most federal agencies would be reduced substantially, said an OMB official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a call with reporters to discuss the proposal.

The announcement marks the beginning of a process in which the OMB will coordinate with agencies to flesh out the plan.

Trump said his budget, which will be submitted to Congress next month, will propose “historic” increases in spending to bolster the country’s “depleted military,” and he said it will support law enforcement in an effort to reduce crime.

court-of-donald-i-sans-text-300b

I really don’t think that any one in the administration has a clue what they’re doing in any kind of conventional sense since nearly all of them have no experience in governance at any level. Bannon’s slash and burn the state ideology appears to be driving much of this.  The cabinet appointees will have difficulty doing much of anything at this rate because staff is fleeing already.

The career executives who staff and run the approximately 250 federal departments and agencies not only formulate and implement executive orders, they also make choices every day that influence large swaths of public policy — from immigration to law enforcement to education to the environment. They use their legal authority to do what all executives do: interpret the power given them by their board of directors (in this case, Congress), set organizational priorities in formal guidance or memorandums and make decisions about where to allocate people and dollars.

The recent enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) illustrate how agency choices about what to prioritize and how to enforce the law can produce a dramatic policy change.

Trump’s success as president depends in part on his ability to get agencies to behave like ICE and choose to use their power in the ways he would prefer.

trump-cabinet-1170x864A number of agencies have already gone literally rogue on him with employees undermining him every chance they get.  This is even true of some of the agencies that are to be used to purge the country of whatever it is Trump fears.  Bannon has even indicated that the Cabinet picks were part of the Deconstruction plan.

President Trump’s critics have noted that at least some of his Cabinet picks seem uniquely unsuited to their roles. Scott Pruitt, recently confirmed as head of the EPA, had previously challenged its regulations in more than a dozen suits. Trump’s initial pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, operated a company that depended on low wages and faced allegations of labor abuse. Puzder’s nomination was scuttled by the discovery that he had employed at least one undocumented immigrant.

Trump’s FCC chairman and energy secretary have also been critics of the very agencies they’re now tasked with managing. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for energy secretary, famously called to eliminate the department while running for President in 2011.

Putting anti-regulation chairs at the top of regulatory bodies is nothing new for conservative administrations—George W. Bush’s EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, for instance, pushed back against staff recommendations and slackened enforcement. As the saying goes, elections have consequences, and lightening the regulatory load on businesses is a pillar of modern Republican doctrine.

What’s remarkable here, though, is Bannon’s framing of these moves as more anti-state than pro-business. The CPAC comments about ‘deconstruction’ are a toned-down version of startling statements made last August to the Daily Beast. Bannon impishly declared himself a “Leninist,” saying that the Soviet leader “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

It’s not a stretch to see Bannon’s comments reflected not only in Trump’s cabinet picks, but in his slow progress in filling hundreds of lower-level cabinet positions. Until they’re filled, those positions are staffed by temporary administrators with reduced power, leaving enforcement and other matters in limbo.

December 18, 2016

This is perhaps though why Paul Ryan–on top of Putin–find the Trump minions to be “useful fools”.  Ryan is known as the nation’s premier granny starver and all this chaos and cutting is pretty much right up his ally.  This is analysis by Jonathan Chait.

What is the substance of the supposed schism between Trump and the regular GOP? The Times depicts the president and the House Speaker as split over whether to cut “Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” But, while Ryan has made it known that he would like to cut Social Security (a position that has won him immense inside-the-Beltway Establishment credibility), he has not persuaded his party to go along. The “Better Way” plan crafted by Ryan and endorsed by House Republicans makes no mention of Social Security at all. It does propose privatizing Medicare, but only for workers who are not retired or are near retirement — which means, despite its long-term significance, it has no impact on the budget over the next decade. And both Trump and Ryan are planning deep cuts to Medicaid.

The similarities continue. Both favor increases in defense spending and dramatically weaker enforcement of labor, environmental, and financial regulation. Both favor deep cuts to anti-poverty spending. Trump is more enthusiastic than the regular GOP about infrastructure spending, but he has decided to postpone that issue until next year and use it as an election messaging vehicle rather than a real legislative priority. Most important, both agree that large, upper-income tax cuts are the party’s highest priority. Trump has even endorsed Ryan’s legislative strategy of sequencing Obamacare repeal first in order to grease the skids for bigger tax cuts. (“Statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do health care before we do the tax cut,” he said this week.)

It is true, as conservatives say, that Trump’s budget numbers do not really add up. But he is relying on the same voodoo economics assumptions that are de rigeur in his party. “The money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Trump said on Fox & Friends. “I mean, you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing, we were probably GDP of a little more than 1 percent. And if I can get that up to 3, maybe more, we have a whole different ballgame.” Remember that ultra-Establishment Republican Jeb Bush promised tax cuts and deregulation would produce 4 percent growth, so Trump’s 3 percent growth promise is actually moderate and realistic by Republican fiscal standards.

The illusion that Trump has radically altered his party’s agenda is convenient for all sides.

Democrats have already sent out a battle cry as have a few Republicans.  Lindsey Graham is having none of  the cuts to State.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that President Trump’s first budget was “dead on arrival” and wouldn’t make it through Congress.

“It’s not going to happen,” said Graham, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster.”

Graham, a frequent Trump critic, expressed concerns with Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department budget, especially the targeting of foreign aid.

These are trying times.  Let’s just hope we have enough leaders in the District with other patriotism or deep seated interests in some of these agencies or our country will never look the same again.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lundi Gras Reads

dscn0392It’s a beautiful day for Carnival Season today!

It’s warm and sunny!  We’re so overrun by tourists that it’s not the weather keeping me inside.  It’s work and the Krewe of Chad who all seem to be obnoxiously planted in the nasty Air BNBs around me. This season totally lacks the intimacy and family feeling of the Katrina one and the ones from years ago, that’s for sure!  The pictures on this post are ones I took at Endymion 2006 which was the first Carnival season after Hurricane Katrina.

Here’s a friend of mine telling you all about our Chad problem.  They’re a pesky tribe of entitled 20-30 something white men that are related to “bros” but not quite in the same category.  You can also find the definition of “Chad” in the urban dictionary.  Our Chads have turned parade going into a tail gating experience where they literally shove small children and families out of the way to plant their tents and keggers.

A stereotypical douchebag asshole/jock/frat boy/ with an ego the size of the planet, who needs a swift roundhouse kick to the jaw, ala Chuck Norris style (though if actually issued by Norris, this punishment may be too extreme, even s of for a chad). Basically, they think they’re the best at everything, love to talk shit, and are a general nuisance in every way possible.

A chad is somewhat easy to sight, as they’re everywhere, but the only way to know for sure is to talk to/observe one. They typically dress in a similar manner to a “bro”, though are not in fact bros. They either wear the latest fashionable clothing from big brands, or highly expensive graphic tees, most likely of the MMA (Mixed martial arts) variety. They most likely sport a tribal tattoo, or something of the like. They most commonly drive V6 Mustangs, S10 pickup trucks, or crotch rockets.

Chads can be found in large numbers at Frat houses, local hipster bars, and nu metal concerts (which are obviously real metal shows…). They often travel in groups of a few, but can be found in swarms at these establishments. Other than being cocky and talking shit, other popular pastimes of chads include, but are not limited to: beer pong, racing hondas, UFC, and blasting nu metal on their stereo because they think it makes them look like a badass.

dscn0382The Endymion parade on the Saturday night before Mardi Gras is usually ground zero for the Chads.  This weekend it took a deadly twist when a highly intoxicated Chad drove his pick up truck into a group of parade goers injuring small children and adults.  Thankfully, no one was killed.  Of course, all the right wingers initially screamed it was a terrorist.But no, it was just a Fucked up Chad in a Pick up Fuck as white as can be. His grandma and his Daddy think some evil man gave him a drink that kicked his blood alcohol up to over 3x the legal limit because, obviously, he’s a “good” kid. That means he’s a white boy and they just get led astray every now and then rather than do these constantly stupid things that make them feel good and ruin every one else’s life.

The man accused of being behind the wheel, 25-year-old Neilson Rizzuto of Paradis, had his first court appearance Sunday. His bond was set at $125,000. Rizzuto has so far been booked on two counts of first-degree negligent vehicular injuring, one count of hit-and-run driving causing serious injury and one count of reckless operation of a vehicle. Orleans Parish Magistrate Commissioner Robert Blackburn said he based the bond amount on anticipation of more charges.

The latest figures from officials say that Rizzuto’s truck struck up to 32 pedestrians, sending at least 21 to area hospitals for treatment. While an NOPD statement said there were “at least 28 victims, 21 of whom were treated at local hospitals, Rizzuto’s arrest documents said 32 people were struck. NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said the casualty list was “fluid.”

dscn0373Fortunately–as I said–no one has died but it appears that five still have very serious injuries I’m really hoping that the city will rethink its strategy of pimping us out like it’s all good. I’ve never seen so many tourists all over the neighborhoods.  I have no idea how the police are coping with it.  Usually, they’re concentrated in a few places.  I feel invaded here.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and the State of the Union Address.  I cannot bring myself to blog or watch it.  Here are some reads to indicate why the so-called President will only be an illegitimate Russian Usurper to me.  We have a problem with more than Chads.  We have a problem with White Male Terrorism and Kremlin Caligulia is a conduit and catalyst.  How many times have we written about this and discussed it only to find it ignored and enabled by Republicans?

Adam W. Purinton was charged with first-degree murder Thursday in the shooting death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old systems engineer from India. Purinton, a 51-year-old white man, allegedly shot Kuchibhotla and two other men at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, Wednesday night.

According to one witness, Purinton’s attack was motivated by bias. The Navy veteran reportedly shouted, “Get out of my country,” before opening fire on Kuchibhotla and another Indian engineer, Alok Madasani, who is 32. Purinton also shot a third victim, a 24-year-old white man named Ian Grillot, who stepped in to intervene.

“[It] wasn’t right,” Grillot — who is in stable condition, along with Madasani — said in a video obtained by the Kansas City Star. “I didn’t want [Purinton] to potentially go after somebody else.”

If Purinton’s attack was indeed spurred by xenophobia, then Wednesday’s shooting was an act of terrorism. At a time when anti-Muslim hate crimes are rising across the United States and President Donald Trump is ordering roundups of undocumented immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the country under the pretense of national security, there are few more potent forms of political violence than the kind committed by white Americans against non-whites, Muslims and immigrants.

This is not a new phenomenon. White terrorism has shaped the U.S. in countless ways, seen and unseen, for years. But in their rush to paint Muslims and immigrants as the most pressing threat to Americans’ safety, many whites and conservatives refuse to admit that homegrown white terrorism has been a threat for much longer — and with a much higher death toll.

dscn0359The White House has been silent and still plans on instructing law enforcement to focus on a small piece of our violence problem.

Earlier this month, for example, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, a young man attacked a group of soldiers: Wielding a machete, he ran at them shouting in Arabic, “Allahu akbar.” Police shot and subdued the suspect, who was taken into custody with serious injuries. The attempted attack placed terrorism back in the headlines of French politics, renewing fears and concerns around security and immigration. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump used the incident to justify his exclusionary policies toward Muslim immigrants and refugees. “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down,” said Trump on Twitter. “France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.” This was of a piece with statements Trump made in the wake of incidents in Nice, France, Berlin, and other attacks overseas claimed by militant Islamist groups.

There was no such statement about the two men in Kansas. No condemnation of the racial violence that grievously wounded an American and claimed the life of a law-abiding legal resident. But then, Trump is rarely interested in those incidents. Just two days after the attempted attack in France, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. Described by activists as a “white nationalist,” Bissonnette was known locally as a right-wing, anti-immigrant troll inspired by extreme right-wing figures like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Where Trump was vocal in the face of the incident in Paris, he was silent following the murders in Quebec. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the attack “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” which reads as a defense of the administration’s travel ban. This was an odd choice of words, as Bissonnette was a native-born white Canadian, not a refugee or Muslim immigrant.

dscn0369We continue to experience the suppression of dissent and of truth.  We get nothing on the ongoing attacks on Jewish Cemeteries and bomb threats made to JCCs.  Philadelphia is the latest place to have cemetery desecration.   As usual, American communities of Muslims has been more responsive and helpful than the Republicans.

Here’s more examples of things to file under removing democracy from the country. The White House removed Democratic Governors from a joint Press Conference.

Monday morning, Trump put an end to the bipartisan post National Governors Association and President press availability by shuttling the Democratic governors off site.

The plan is for us to become a military state as far as I can tell.

President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.

The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. But without providing any specifics, the administration said that most other discretionary spending programs will be slashed to pay for it. Officials singled out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, saying it would see “large reductions” in spending.

dscn0399The military budget is by far the largest chunk of change in our budget historically.  The rest are pittance by comparison.  I imagine it all will be announced tomorrow night.

We typically have a SOTU live blog here at Sky Dancing. I’m really sure I’m not up to it and I’m not sure any one else is interested so we can discuss below and see what comes of it. Let us know your thoughts.  Maybe BB or JJ are stronger willed than me.

So, have a good few days!  I’ll take pix if I decide to hit the streets in search of beads and fun!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Trumptovirus, you don’t want to catch it…

Trumptovirus, it is my own concoction of Trump maladies that pervade the population…it is a strange and powerful illness. Depending on your genetic makeup, certain geographic settings, early childhood nurturing experiences, you may be predisposed to developing a particular strain of the virus. I like to classify this as Trumptovirus Complex 10. Symptoms to look for are, rabid thoughts and acts of racism, misogyny and being a flat out jackass bigot, performing stalking and fascist threats, runny nose, flush skin, extreme sexual “assaultic” behavior…as in grabbing anything pussy related, such as beaver, bush, gash, poontang, coochie…oh you can get a full round up of pussy alternatives coming up. As you can see, Trumptovirus Complex 10 is a serious condition, and is incurable in some cases.

Texas congressman says he’d “consider” still supporting Trump even if he admitted to rape on tape.

 

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold’s support for Donald Trump appears to be infinite. Does a lurid video of his prefered candidate for the presidency talking about grabbing women “by the pussy” faze Rep. Farenthold? Nope. Why? As the Republicanexplained on MSNBC’s All InWith Chris Hayes Tuesday night: “Until [Trump] does something so bad to make him worse than Hillary, I’m still in.” In sum: He’s with him.

“I think this was locker room talk that happened 10 years ago… it was a private conversation that was off the record that happened to be caught on tape,” Farenthold explained. Joking about sexual assault is NBD for Farenthold. Noted. But what would cause the Texas congressman to rethink his support? Hayes came up with this hypothetical to test that boundary: “If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying ‘I really like to rape women’ you would continue to endorse him?”

There is but one answer to that question for the non-criminal population of the United States. “That would be bad. And I would have to consider… And I’d consider it,” Farenthold stammered. That wasn’t it.

On Twitter, Farenthold issued this apology for … not condemning … Hayes.

 

Are you fucking kidding me? Now this is the kind of shit that makes me physically ill. Like, it makes me feel disgusted but it brings up this anger in me that I can tell you, is beyond anything I have experienced. Like I want to hurt someone. Maybe it is because I am a rape victim…I mean survivor.

But the emotional brutality that is deep within me, if  I could release it, (well I mean if it turned into physical brutality) to assholes like this fuck face who is making excuses for Trump’s sexual assault brag…it frightens me what damage I could do.

Which brings me to the second strain of the Trumptovirus…I will classify this one as Trumptovirus Beset Complex, because this strain of the disease is forced upon it’s sufferers…in such a way…that even those with the strongest of will, have problems fighting it off.

14671099_1711428332513386_5910472947607927280_nIs Trump a “Trigger”? According to Many Women’s Reactions to Last Night’s Debate, the Answer is “Yes

He stalked. He scowled. He stood too close. He towered over her, threatening her while she sat on a chair. He entered her space over, and over, and over again. He interrupted her; spoke over her. He lied while telling her that she was the one who was lying.

The behavior that Donald Trump showed toward Hillary Clinton at last night’s debate was reprehensible. But for many women, it was more than that. It was a sickening example of the type of domineering, dismissive, abusive, and threatening male behavior that so many of us have dealt with in our lives. As a result, many of us had strong physical and emotional reactions to watching this familiar behavior unfold on television.

Reviewing the night’s Tweets, it’s remarkable how many female viewers mentioned feeling physically ill, being emotionally exhausted, crying.

Go to the link to read those tweets, I know that Boston Boomer touched on this yesterday…

Watch this Washington University in St. Louis student and abuse survivor’s emotional confrontation with Trump supporter Omarosa after Sunday’s debate. http://bloom.bg/2d5chCy

 

Link to embedded video here.

Here’s a few other links on this and a few other Trump developments:

Eric Trump: Bragging About Sexual Assault Is ‘What Happens’ When Alpha Males Are Together | Huffington Post

TRUMP: Women have ‘heard a lot worse’ than my lewd ‘locker room’ tape – Business Insider

“The Apprentice” Microphone Guy Says Trump Repeatedly Called Him A “Fucking Monkey” – BuzzFeed News

Donald Trump fired Illinois native Maria Kanellis for ‘locker room’ talk – Chicago Tribune

Pence halts Trump supporter who called for ‘revolution’ if Clinton wins – LA Times

Trump tells supporters to go vote on ‘November 28th’ | TheHill

“Make sure you get out and vote,” Trump told supporters on Tuesday at rally in Florida. “November 28th.”

Election Day is Nov. 8, 2016.

[…]

Nov. 28 is the start date of a longstanding class action suit against Trump University, the now-defunct get-rich-on-real-estate seminar program started by Trump, CNN Money notes.

Top Georgia Republican: ‘Hillary will do for gender relations what Obama did for race relations’ | Political Insider blog

There were audible gasps in the room when Evans made this prediction, should Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House: “Hillary will do for gender relations what Obama did for race relations.”

Oh, this from Ben Carson…I have no words:

Ben Carson: Your Virgin Ears Are The Problem, Not Donald Trump | Huffington Post

That leaked audio wouldn’t be such a big deal if more Americans were exposed to bragging about sexual assault.

Video at the link, you have to see the way this dickhead says this shit.

The reason Americans are so angry about Donald Trump’s leaked audio is that they probably haven’t heard enough similar language, Ben Carson said Tuesday.

“That kind of banter goes around all the time,” Carson, a Trump surrogate, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “As I was growing up, people were always trying to talk about their sexual conquests, and trying to make themselves appear, you know, like the Don, you know, Casanova.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard that,” he continued. “I really am.”

Can you believe this? Oh…but Carson went on…

“Maybe that’s the problem”: Ben Carson insists that more women should be exposed to Donald Trump’s “locker room” banter about sexual assault – Salon.com

“I haven’t heard it and I know a lot of people who have not heard it,” Keilar insisted.

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Carson responded. “Maybe that’s the problem.”

“The problem is that I haven’t —” Keilar began to ask before being cut off by Carson.

“Maybe, maybe that’s the problem,” Carson continued. “People have not heard this. Maybe that’s the problem.”

The White House has released an official statement, because of assholes like Carson:

White House Releases Official Statement, Says Trump Committed Sexual Assault (VIDEO)

And finally, it seems the Media is getting it in gear:

WATCH AND WEEP: CNN host stops show to explain genital grabbing is sexual assault

N host John King took time out of his Tuesday show to explain to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that grabbing a woman’s genitals without her permission is sexual assault.

While defending a leaked tape in which Donald Trump bragged that he grabs women “by the pussy,” Sessions told The Weekly Standard that he did not consider the act to be sexual assault.

“I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch,” Sessions insisted to the conservative magazine.

“So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?” an interviewer atThe Weekly Standard pressed.

“I don’t know. It’s not clear that he—how that would occur,” Sessions replied.

On Tuesday, King carved a minute out of his broadcast to address the senator, who he noted “was an Army veteran, a former federal prosecutor, former Alabama attorney general, a law-and-order conservative, a devout Christian and a former Sunday school teacher.”

“Sessions was asked about that tape, where Trump brags of forcing himself on women, including grabbing what we describe to our children as private parts,” King said, adding that Sessions had initially refused to “characterize that as sexual assault.”

“Forget politics for a moment, Senator,” the CNN host pleaded. “What about your daughters and your seven granddaughters. Saying Trump is a better choice than Hillary Clinton, that’s one thing. Saying what he described in that tape is not sexual assault — forgive me, Senator — that’s an outrage.”

Anderson Cooper Delivers Knockout Punch To Kellyanne Conway Over Settling Lawsuits | Mediaite

Watch CNN’s Damning Comparison Of Trump And Clinton Tax Plans

I don’t know how far this will go, but it is something to bring up: First State In America Moves To BAN Donald Trump From Entering, More To Follow (DETAILS)

After Trump’s campaign staff removed a Muslim woman who was peacefully protesting at a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, state Rep. John King (D) jumped ship on the Trump train, and said he was “not welcome” in the state.

King declared he was “sick to his stomach” over the way Trump’s cohorts treated the woman. And with good reason!

He told The Herald that he will file a House Resolution that states Trump isn’t welcome in the state of South Carolina.

According to King, Trump is:

“…a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot and is not welcome in the state of South Carolina,” which was also earlier asserted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Most people likely agree, except maybe the Trump supporters. But they probably won’t see this article, as it requires knowing how to read.

“Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much in South Carolina, but most of us agree that Donald Trump is an embarrassment to our country’s political process and stands contrary to the beliefs of our Founding Fathers and the values of the United States Constitution. Why would we welcome someone to our great state when even our senior Republican U.S. senator agrees that Donald Trump is nothing more than a modern day George Wallace who preys on people’s fears and prejudices,” King explained in his statement.

The last link today is about the show Full Frontal with Sam Bee, if you did not see these clips, go watch them now:

Samantha Bee’s ‘vagina monologue’ is the best line-by-line Trump non-apology takedown you’re going to see

Bee was unsparing of both Trump and Today show host Billy Bush, seen giggling and egging the now-GOP presidential nominee on to talk about how he sexually assaults women.

“Let’s stop that hostile work environment training module here and discuss what we’ve just seen,” she said after showing a clip. “In less than a minute, these two leering dildos turned their rape culture banter into a rape culture power move that demeaned and violated Zucker [the victim] in ways she is only now finding out about.”

“And we know this maybe  shocking for most normal men,” she added. “But every woman I know has had some entitled testosterone monster grab her like a human bowling ball.”

Bee later launched into what she called her “vagina monologue,” ridiculing cable show hosts and journalists who balked at saying what they often called, “the p-word.”

“It must be so hard to make 24 hours of television without saying the words: c*nt, snatch, cooter, silk purse, spicy taco, hoohoo,, trim, vajayjay, bearded clam, front bottom, nether region, sin grotto, red lobster, beaver, fur burger, downstairs retreat, honey pot, inner sanctum, yoni, sugar walls, peach blossom, lady treasure, roast beef curtains, gray garden — Oh! I almost forgot the most important one: box.”

“Well, that was literally a vagina monologue,” she exclaimed to the hoots of the audience.

 

Pussy Riot | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS – YouTube

 

 

GOP Fear the P | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS – YouTube

 

Debate 2: Misery in Missouri | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS – YouTube

 

We Thought We Were Done with This | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS – YouTube

 

And that is it for me, hope you all have a good morning, this is an open thread.

 

 


Monday Reads: Hillary Clinton is Every Woman

Good Afternoon!

Donald Trump should come with trigger warnings.  I believe that every person I know whose experience includes abuse from the archetypal domineering abusive boss, family member or love interest spent last evening into this morning with PTSD anxiety. While a few men believe that Trump held his own during the debate, the supermajority of women saw Hillary Clinton experiencing interaction with every awful man that’s ever crossed their path. 

He was the unwanted sexual predator that stalks you and violates your personal space to intimidate you.  He was that boss that mansplains and lies on topics he knows nothing about to you while completely ignoring your credentials and experience.  He was that teacher, that clerk, that waiter, that person who insists you’re crazy when you correct his lies and errors.  He’s the one that wants you institutionalized just because you inconvenience him.

I am still anxious and shaking this morning.  Jessica Samikow summed up a series of tweets from women during the debate with this pithy analysis.molly-ringwald-fuck-off

Clinton showed up prepared to act how women are taught we need to in order to prove ourselves in male-dominated space: She came armed with facts, kept her composure as to not seem emotional, and forced a smile when there was nothing to smile about. The democratic nominee was met by a man (if you could call him that) who interrupted her constantly to mansplain topics he knows nothing about, lost his temper when his ego was bruised, made light of his own rape-y comments, and lurked behind her intimidatingly as to imply: This is a man’s world, you’re just livin’ in it.

Last night, she was us in our continual struggle to be seen as moral agents, something other than property, and intelligent respect-worthy human beings.  Women’s tweets weren’t the only ones crying out for respect to humanity.  #MuslimReportStuff was highly enlightening.

Asked about the issue of Islamophobia, Trump said that while it is an issue, he said Muslims who come into the country must “report when they see something going on.”

The FBI says Muslims already do report what they see. This summer, the FBI’s director said “some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim,” according to Reuters.

In response to Trump’s suggestion that Muslims report what’s going on, several Muslims began to follow his suggestion. First, the following tweet went viral:

Those of us that watched were horrified.  First there was a parade of women that had accused Bill Clinton decades ago of some form of sexual harassment or assault.  The three women’s cases had been investigated and dealt with during his presidency. They were used like a human shield at the debate to intimidate and shame Hillary Clinton.  It was positively inhumane on all fronts. 

There’s an episode of the dystopian TV series Black Mirror in which terrorists force the British prime minister to fuck a pig on live television. As people gather to gawk at the spectacle, rambunctious prurience gives way to funereal sadness; the humiliation soils everyone who watches it. That’s what it felt like going into the second presidential debate on Sunday. Before it even started, Donald Trump had held a press conference with three women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and one woman, Kathy Shelton, who loathes Hillary Clinton because, as a young attorney, Clinton was assigned to defend Shelton’s indigent alleged rapist. Apparently hoping to get under Clinton’s skin, Trump put the women in the debate audience, and his campaign signaled that he intended to go nuclear on the Clintons’ marriage. In the moments before the debate started, the camera panned the members of the two candidates’ families, their faces strained and sad. There was a sense that something unprecedented and unspeakable was about to happen.

Clinton, despite rumors to the contrary, is a human being. She had to speak fluently about policy while being flayed for her husband’s sins before an audience of tens of millions. She had to appear unruffled while Trump, stewing and pacing, loomed behind her, physically menacing her with his bulk. He threatened to have her imprisoned if elected; she betrayed not a hint of rage or shock. She made, I think, a strategic decision not to fully engage with him, even if that meant letting some of his outrageous assertions hang there unchallenged. To me, she seemed a model of grace and poise, smiling through a disgusting ordeal.

b7ba8b22b57ea500b71bbf9ca43741e4Trump’s goal was to publicly humiliate Hillary Clinton. There are those that are saying that he failed including Greg Sargent at the Plum Line (WAPO).

It’s obvious that the Clinton campaign grasped that Trump’s paramount goal here was to drag Hillary down into the pig slop with him. Thus, she declined to respond directly to the claims about the 1990s, and instead immediately pivoted to a discussion of all of the other targets of Trump’s abuse and bigotry (she referenced his birtherism, his ridicule of a disabled reporter, his attacks on the Khan family and the Mexican-American judge, and his affection for belittling women). The message was that this isn’t about Clinton herself; it’s just another piece of evidence in the broader case that someone who is so bigoted, misogynist, hateful, and pathologically abusive is unfit for the presidency.

14572949_10210368362546981_7883136986897260096_n

Perhaps the most ground breaking event was when the autocratic Trump suggested he’d order his AG to arrest Clinton.  This was something one sees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, not the United States Of America.  While women are focused on all the overt brutal misogyny of last night, the men seem focused on the clear and present threat to the rule of law, the Constitution, and to U.S. Democracy as we know it.

There is no way to sugarcoat this: At Sunday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail if he wins the presidency. This — threatening to jail one’s political opponents — is how democratic norms die.

The exchange happened during a discussion of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Trump began by decrying Clinton’s conduct — which, according to the FBI, was quite bad but not illegal. He then proposed appointing a special prosecutor to investigate her, and warned Clinton that, if he were president now, “you’d be in jail”:

TRUMP: I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, and I’m going to say it, and hate to say it: If I win, I’m going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception … A very expensive process, so we’re going to get a special prosecutor because people have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace, and honestly, you ought to be ashamed.

CLINTON: Let me just talk about emails, because everything he just said is absolutely false. But I’m not surprised … It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law of our country.

DT: Because you’d be in jail.

This is so far beyond normal that it’s hard to even know where to start.

In democracies, we respect people’s rights to disagree with each other. When one candidate wins a presidential election, the loser returns to private life or another government position. In some cases, former rivals become close friends. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in the 1992 election, travel together and have spent decades jointly raising money to aid the victims of natural disasters.

They don’t get sent to jail, because we believe that political disagreement should be legal.

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about all that.

In his last line — “you’d be in jail” — he is outright saying that he would imprison Hillary Clinton in office (if he could). This comes despite the fact that there is no evidence Clinton committed a crime in her handling of the email servers, despite lengthy investigations that found evidence of carelessness and dishonesty. That would be a politically motivated prosecution — retribution for daring to run against Trump and attack him during the campaign.

 A fact checked transcript is available from WBUR.  Trump spewed an avalanche of lies last night.  Hillary Clinton noted it9b5d636ff417660f0b304a870686c4e6 seemed beyond his usual 70% rate and fact-checkers assured us it was.  He spent an inordinate amount of time last night sniffing and yelling at Martha Radditz about how every one was unfair to him on the time.  Yet, at the end of the time count, he came out ahead by almost two minutes.

Still, the interesting thing was that the media appeared reading to declare Trump as having held his own or “winning” the debate until the female correspondents–like Joy Reid–pointed out the appalling visual of Trump stalking and intimidating Clinton around the stage.  I’m not sure how that Trump debate performance exceeded any one’s expectations.  It was like watching something from the Hunger Games to me it was so dark and dystopian. It included a run on advertisement for a Trump Hotel at the old DC Post office.  The content was straight out of Alt-Right fever dreams.

Here’s David Gergen’s take for what it’s worth.  It includes one of the few scientific post-debate poll results.

Whatever chance Donald Trump still had of capturing the White House largely evaporated Sunday night in his second debate with Hillary Clinton.

Coming off the worst 10 days of any campaign in recent history, Trump desperately needed a win in order to reverse his slide in the polls. He was indeed better than in the first debate and she was not as commanding. Even so, he blew his opportunity for victory in the first 20 minutes and could never fully recover. CNN’s poll found that by 57-34%, a majority of voters watching them thought she got the best of him.

His loss came through a series of bizarre moments. The first was his surprise pre-debate appearance with four female accusers of Bill Clinton. While a case can be made for re-hearing their claims of long ago, the event seemed like a stunt and Trump never made real use of it in the debate.

But more damning still was the way he handled the disgusting video from 11 years ago in which he made vulgar sexual remarks. Trump could possibly have achieved a measure of forgiveness if he had issued a sincere, thoughtful apology about his past as well as some ugly incidents in this campaign. But his apology was limited in scope, seemed slightly dismissive, and went off track when he mixed ISIS into the conversation.

On behalf of women every where …   b5f1b6a6fa66dc803802c1046cbca62c

and Delete your Damn Life.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?