Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Breaking crazy: Donald Trump's press conference



Though I haven't been blogging, that's not because I haven't been paying attention. And certainly, it's not because the crazy in Washington has diminished in any way. I'm just worn out, I guess - depressed and dispirited.

But I had to post this. The fact that President Dumb-as-a-Trump can't see the difference between George Washington, a guy who did everything he could to support our country, and Robert E. Lee, a guy who did everything he could to destroy it, just blows my mind.

It doesn't surprise me, though. And it doesn't surprise me that Trump continues to encourage neo-Nazis and white supremacists, either. After all, we saw that during the campaign, when he tried to avoid criticizing David Duke and the KKK. So of course that's not surprising.

Will the Republican Party succeed in destroying America before they finally destroy themselves? It's looking more and more likely, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Creationists don't build starships

I haven't been blogging lately, and that's not likely to change. But I thought I'd mention this post at Stonekettle Station. I highly recommend it.

I'm not going to blog about this myself. He says everything I could say - and better. So I'll just give you the general idea with a few brief excerpts:
These sons of bitches just can’t seem to face reality.

We didn’t know.

We hoped he'd act more presidential.

I mean, we knew Trump was an ignorant self-aggrandizing jackass with no experience in government at all, right. We knew that. We knew he was a liar, a misogynist, a con artist, an abuser, and a bully. We knew he was prone to uncontrolled rage and that there was no filter between his ego and his thumbs. We knew that. We knew all of that. Of course we did. Sure. That part was obvious. But see, we hoped – we hoped – Trump would somehow just magically become a dignified adult, suddenly imbued with reason and self-control and filled with knowledge and wisdom of how to actually run a government.

That is what they told us. That is literally what they told us. He’s just doing this to get elected. Once he’s president, you’ll see. He’ll straighten out, he’ll become…

…a unicorn.

Now, admittedly, we’re not really sure how any of that would happen, but we hoped it would.

We hoped it would.

Magical thinking.

Trump is the manifestation of all the worst aspects of modern America writ large, loud, florid, and proudly ignorant. A mindset that is shamelessly hypocritical, self-important and self-involved, wrapped in a flag waving a cross and obsessed with money at the expense of everything else, downing handfuls of Viagra not because we need it but rather for instant self gratification without effort, and a sneering dismissal of any debate that can’t be compressed into a Tweet as “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

I’m not the first to note that Trump is what stupid people think a smart person sounds like and it doesn’t take much digging around on social media to find those who despite all evidence to the contrary still dogmatically believe in they’re going to get a unicorn...

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

Creationists don’t build starships.

Read the whole thing here. Seriously, read it!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Alex Jones



I don't know about the first part of this. How could Alex Jones be considered "charismatic"?

Or does "charismatic" mean "unethical, combined with batshit crazy" in the UK?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

President Trump, desperate for the validation of boy scouts



I haven't been posting here, but I couldn't resist this. How pathetic can the President of the United States get?

Monday, June 26, 2017

John Oliver: Vaccines



What has happened to my country? It's the 21st Century, yet we've got anti-vaxxers, global warming deniers, creationists who reject the very foundation of modern biology, and all manner of unscientific idiocy.

I know that Donald Trump is president, but are we all eager to return to the Dark Ages?

PS. I'm sorry I haven't been posting. But it's not going to get any better. Everything is just too depressing these days.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fight back at the polls


Sorry, but I don't have time to say much about this. In fact, I'm not sure what I would say. ("Elections have consequences"? But that's obvious.)

So I'm just going to copy the whole thing here (something I rarely do), and let you decide for yourselves.

Josh Marshall at TPM writes:
In the Senate right now, Republicans are making rapid progress on repealing Obamacare and forcing more than twenty million Americans off the health care coverage rolls. They’re doing it by making a mockery of almost the entire legislative process. The law they’ve written is secret, even apparently from most Republican Senators. It will remain secret until after a score is released by the CBO. Then, presumably, it will be rushed for an immediate vote before anyone has had a chance to even look at the law or what it does. President Trump will sign it. And it will be done.

This is awful. But, really, stop saying it’s awful.

There is a perhaps understandable but entirely wrongheaded reflex to shout from the rooftops how this is simply wrong, how it’s not the way to legislate in any way in the public interest, how it willfully breaks all the norms of legitimate legislative behavior. But seriously, stop.

The process isn’t the wrong. The corruption of the process is evidence of the underlying political bad act.

This kind of griping operates on the premise that broadcasting a situation in which you have zero power and acting as though your attempted shaming will produce any positive effect will have some positive effect. It won’t. Broadcasting weakness is never an effective strategy. Always choose to fight on a different ground. It looks hapless to try to shame people with acts they are carrying out openly, eagerly and happily. You look stupid. This kind of shaming operates on the unstated premise that the targets of the shaming care or are in some sense failing to grasp the extremity and inappropriateness of what they’re doing. Stated as such, this is obviously not true. It’s a feature not a bug and all that. Pretending otherwise makes you look stupid, weak and hapless. Those are never qualities that political victories are made of.

Rhetorically, politically and in the simplest terms of reality, Republicans know there is no justifying this legislation. The public has already spoken. It is overwhelmingly unpopular. They are trying to do it in the dead of night because they know that. They convict themselves by their actions. Not because those actions violate norms but because they are evidence of knowledge of the underlying wrong. They are trying to slip it past everyone, do it by stealth and have all the details secret until it’s too late. That’s a political crime, a corrupt bargain. That’s the message, with all the rhetorical color that can be added to it. Don’t say that Republicans shouldn’t feel the license to act this way. They can do it if they want and it is entirely in character. Accept their freedom do it and label it for what it is. Adjudicate it at the next election. Make that clear.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Trump picks fights with our allies



So, London suffers a terrorist attack, and Donald Trump attacks... London. (And lies while doing it, of course. But you expected that, I hope.)

Please, make it stop before the Republican Party completely destroys our country!

John Oliver: Paris Agreement



Pardon my French, but we Americans so completely fucked ourselves - and everyone else on Earth - last November!

And yes, if you were eligible to vote, but you didn't - or you voted, but not for Democratic candidates - this is your fault. If you can't accept that, if you're not willing to even recognize your mistakes, you'll keep making them.

All the bullshit rationalizations in the world won't change a thing. You have to do something. And, among other things, that means you have to vote, in every election. You have to make the effort, because when you don't, this is what continues to happen to us.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mr. D goes to Washington: deplorables



This guy is a comedian. He's Mr. Deity. This is how bad things have gotten in my country. We can't even laugh about things like this anymore.

And Republicans are sticking with it. Well, if using racism for political advantage didn't bother you*, what would? Treason with Russia? Nah, why bother, right?

___
* What am I saying? Heck, using racism for political advantage is what attracted most of these people to the GOP.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Timothy Snyder "On Tyranny"


This is excellent, isn't it?

I especially liked this part:
What post-truth does is it paves the way for regime-change. If we don't have access to facts, we can't trust each other. Without trust, there's no law. Without law, there's no democracy. So, if you want to rip the heart out of a democracy directly - if you want to go right at it and kill it - what you do is you go after facts.

And that's what modern authoritarians do. Step one, you lie, yourself - all the time. Step two, you say it's your opponents and journalists who lie. Step three, everyone looks around and says, "What is truth? There is no truth." And then resistance is impossible and the game is over.

Monday, May 22, 2017

White House scandals, then and now



Funny, isn't it? Of course, the biggest 'scandal' in the eight years of Barack Obama was that he's black.

And this even minimizes the differences, given that Obama's 'scandals' took place over eight years. Trump has only been in office four months! (Yeah, it feels like so much longer, doesn't it?)

Stupid Watergate



As a roundup of the Trump administration, this is depressing as hell, isn't it? Very funny - and with a great label for these scandals ("Stupid Watergate") - but fundamentally depressing.

We did this to ourselves, and there's no easy way to get out of it now. Stupid Watergate is happening because stupid Americans gave him the election - not just those who voted Republican, but everyone (far more than those who actually voted for Trump) who couldn't be bothered to vote at all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The truth about vaccines



He does a great job with this, doesn't he?

It's hard to believe that this bullshit is still going on, but then I posted a video about another measles outbreak just a couple of weeks ago. And we've still got Creationists, after all, even in the 21st Century.

Anti-scientific idiocy never dies, it seems.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fox News struggles to defend Trump



As you've no-doubt heard, former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as special counsel investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

He was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then notified Donald Trump one-half hour before it was announced in the news media. Trump doesn't seem very happy about any of this.

The whole thing's a mess, and it's still critically important that Congress investigate publicly. After all, the criminal investigation by Mueller will be secretive by necessity. And there's a lot we citizens need to know that might not reach the level of an actual crime (or, at least, a crime with enough evidence to prosecute).

But, as I noted Tuesday, it's just been one scandal after another. Every day, there's something new. And I thought it was funny - though not at all surprising - how Fox News has been desperate to defend this Republican president.

I wanted to point out this article in The Atlantic, too. It's another list of the past ten days of scandals - similar to, but slightly different from, the list I posted Tuesday.

The whole thing is worth a read, it really is. But what's it all mean? Here are a few widely-scattered excerpts:
It is difficult to assess the relative danger of each of these stories, because in any normal administration any of them could consume weeks if not months of attention as the press and politicians ferreted out each loose end. In this case, each seems to be supplanted by a new self-inflicted casualty within hours. ...

Time and again, Trump’s errors have been dismissed—even, incredibly, by his own aides and defenders—as the work of a man who simply has no idea what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand the gravity of Flynn’s duplicity. He didn’t think firing James Comey would be a big deal. He didn’t intend to make a liar of his vice president; it just slipped out! Even in the case of the classified information, National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, while refusing to state that what Trump shared was classified, said the president wouldn’t have known its status either way. These repeated lapses, taken together, create a case that Trump is simply not up to the job of the presidency. ...

The president does not help his own case. While it is fashionable to compare Trump to Nixon—a comparison Trump recently seems to be courting, from his hobnobbing with Henry Kissinger to his “tapes” threat—Nixon was a far more careful, strategic operator. His lies took time, and secret tapes, to unspool. Trump, however, keeps confirming his critics’ suspicions to the entire world. When the White House insisted Trump had not fired Comey over the Russia probe, Trump said he had. When the White House rebutted the classified-info disclosure, Trump implicitly admitted it, tweeting that he had an “absolute right” to do so. Where Nixon insisted he was not a crook, Trump boasts of his crookedness 140 characters at a time. ...

In part, Trump benefits from a double standard. Because he is not a career politician and because his reputation for crassness was well-established before he ran, he received a pass for some of his actions. This is true even now. While Hillary Clinton’s careless handling of classified information was perhaps the decisive factor in her November loss, Donald Trump appears to have handled far more sensitive information far more carelessly, even if, as he says, he was within his legal rights to do so. Yet although his position is precarious he is not finished. It is much harder to remove an elected president than it is to defeat a candidate, for reasons both legal and cultural.

Again, I recommend that you read the whole article.

But the crazy thing is, none of this has stopped. Even today, TPM talks about "a small landslide of new news this morning." Yes, this morning. It's nearly impossible to keep up, isn't it?

Well, we Americans did this to ourselves, voting for an ignorant clown with a narcissistic personality disorder for president (or not bothering to vote at all, which is almost worse). And we gave control of Congress to the Republican Party, too - as we did most states (not to mention the Supreme Court).

This is a nightmare. No, it's much worse than a nightmare. At least you can wake up to escape a nightmare. We'll be living with the results of the November election for a long, long time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Can we impeach this guy yet?



Incredible, isn't it? We can't even keep up with this stuff!

I used to think that Donald Trump was golden for political comedians, but I'm starting to feel sorry for them now. After all, every time Seth Meyers gets a monologue prepared on the latest Trump scandal, there's another scandal just minutes before he goes on air.

Yeah, Trump gave the Russians classified information - stuff so secret that it hadn't even been shared with our allies, let alone with Congress. And after having his people lie about that (National Security Advisor McMaster, who took over for disgraced General Flynn, flat-out said that the story was "false"), Trump admitted it.

That's a big deal! Both the action itself and the lying about it were big, big deals, but now, that's just... yesterday's news. Because today, we hear that Trump tried to get FBI Director James Comey - the guy he fired because, as Trump eventually admitted, of the Russia investigation - to stop the investigation into General Flynn's ties to the Russians.

Can you keep all of this straight? It seems like every day there's a new impeachable offense from our Clown in Chief. And every day, Republicans in Congress try to ignore it, or minimize it, or otherwise avoid actually doing their duty.

This might help. It's the timeline Meyers mentions in the video above:

Monday - We learned that Barack Obama had warned Trump about hiring General Flynn, the guy fired in disgrace, because of his undisclosed ties to Russia, less than a month after Trump hired him as National Security Advisor.

Tuesday - Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who's been investigating this Russia stuff.

Wednesday - Trump met with Russian diplomats, including an accused spy, in the Oval Office (giving Russian photographers access, but not the American news media).

Thursday - Trump admitted that he'd fired Comey because of the Russia investigation (after having his representatives lie about it using two other, contradictory explanations first).

Friday - Trump threatened Comey with secret tapes of their conversations (while refusing to divulge whether or not those tapes actually exist).

Saturday - The Justice Department interviews Trump-friendly replacements for Comey.

Sunday - Mothers Day. Trump was golfing.

Monday - We learned that Trump gave the Russians in that meeting highly-classified intelligence information.

Today - We learned that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the investigation into Flynn.

Thank god for the holiday, huh? This is not normal. It's excessive even by Trump standards, don't you think?

How many different ways does Trump have to attempt to obstruct justice before the Republicans who control Congress will start impeachment proceedings - or even agree that we need a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of this mess?

If Barack Obama had done any of this stuff, he would have been gone months ago.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SNL: Lester Holt interviews Donald Trump



The funniest thing about this - and the scariest thing - is how true it is. That ice cream stuff, for example? It's both silly and completely inconsequential,... yet it's Donald Trump to a 't', isn't it?

Undying loyalty? Trump says he doesn't see anything wrong with asking for personal loyalty from the FBI director who was investigating him.

And Trump himself mentioned the Russia investigation when he explained why he fired James Comey (after a week of alternate explanations which began with trying to pin the blame on Rod Rosenstein).

It never stops, does it? Trump just gets crazier and crazier, and the Republican Party either ignores it or makes excuses for it, as they continue their own crazy destruction of America more-or-less behind the scenes.

Friday, May 12, 2017

And Stephen Colbert's audience goes wild



Funny, isn't it? It's not enough that Donald Trump throws tantrums like a child, but he's actually stupid enough to say something like this in public! Does our president know nothing?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

This week's constitutional crisis



These contain more details, and lots more humor, about Trump firing the guy who was investigating him for collusion with the Russians, which I noted yesterday.

Thank god for comedians, huh?



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ravi Zacharias and quantum physics



This is about the bogus educational claims of Ravi Zacharias, rather than quantum physics itself (although "quantum" does seem to be the latest buzzword in pseudoscience and religion).

This is shorter than most videos by Seth Andrews, and I did think that the interview was interesting. Note that there are links to RaviWatch, and to the other videos mentioned, here.

Into the abyss

As you've heard, Donald Trump has fired James Comey, Director of the FBI, the guy who has been running an investigation into Russian interference with the recent election and possible collusion with Trump and his campaign team.

This is big news! This brings to mind the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon administration, when President Nixon was desperately trying to stave off impeachment.

But this situation is potentially much worse - a hostile foreign power influencing our elections and possible blackmail reaching into the White House itself - and the details are even more incredible (and I say this as someone who has no respect for James Comey's actions during the campaign).

Here's Josh Marshall at TPM:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo articulating the argument for why James Comey should be fired. I was just speaking to one of my colleagues who said that in isolation, Rosenstein’s memo was not totally off base. Comey has made a number of big mistakes as FBI Director. (You can see the memo at the bottom of this article.) But that is really beside the point. As an argument in the abstract to justify why Comey could be fired, it’s an interesting argument. As an explanation of why Comey was in fact fired it is flatly ridiculous.

We heard earlier from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that President Trump decided he wanted to fire Comey a week ago and then tasked Jeff Sessions with coming up with a rationale. But we don’t need Zeleny to tell us that. It’s obvious that this a rationale and not an explanation.

The idea that Trump fired Comey because he was unfair to Hillary Clinton or set aside DOJ guidelines in a way that was damaging to her is clearly not true. Indeed, it is so transparently nonsensical that putting it forward as a rationale suggests a certain presidential indifference to what anyone thinks.

As an accomplished lawyer, Rosenstein may have been able to justify the memo as an argument within the four corners of the document. But he knew that he was preparing an argument for firing the FBI Director while the FBI is investigating the President and his top associates for colluding with a foreign power to subvert a US election. The theory isn’t the point. The nature of the act is. This is a massive abuse of office. It is a very plausible basis for impeachment, though its plausibility in that regard is irrelevant unless and until there is political will in the Congress to take that step. Impeachment is a political not a legal process. ...

Months ago Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Russia probe. That recusal put the investigation in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Whatever his reputation to this point, Rosenstein has zero credibility to run this investigation. The taint of corruption and disgrace on him permanent and irreversible.

Here’s the fundamental issue facing the country right now.

In criminal trials there are certain actions defendants can take from which judges will tell juries they can infer guilt. In a political context, this is one of those moments. We are now hearing word from White House officials that the White House is stunned at the backlash at Comey’s firing. Didn’t Democrats think he was doing a bad job? We’re even hearing commentators speculate that maybe this may have been a huge miscalculation. The White House didn’t realize how big a deal this was. In the final analysis I think this will be judged a major miscalculation – just not in the sense they mean. Frankly, no one is that naive. It doesn’t wash.

There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.

You don't do something like this unless you have something to hide. It's the same reason why Donald Trump didn't release his tax returns. We all know that. You can't be so naive as to think otherwise.

What he's hiding, I don't know. And we may never know. The Republican Party certainly isn't eager to investigate. Yeah, the President of the United States might be colluding with Russia, possibly under blackmail by Vladimir Putin, and Republicans aren't interested.

Well, if Republicans cared about anything other than their own political ambitions, we would have noticed that by now, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anti-vaxxers cause another measles outbreak



I feel like I should apologize for even posting this. As if there's not enough depressing stuff going on these days, huh?

And our idiot president supports these anti-vaxxer morons! What is happening to my country?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Net neutrality under attack, again



Aren't you glad you didn't bother to vote in November?

OK, OK, the few people who'll read this undoubtedly did vote, assuming that they were eligible, but I'm still pissed at the turnout. And for good reason, wouldn't you agree?

That link to leave a comment at the FCC is here. (On my computer, NoScript identified a cross-scripting attempt when I used that - which is the whole point of the link - so I had to grant it permission.) Then just click on "Express" to leave your comment to the FCC.

Or you can used the more involved method, which is also clearly described in this video.

One commenter on this video clip recommended the message, ""Preserve net neutrality and Title II. I specifically support strong net neutrality backed by Title II oversight of ISPs."

That will work as well as anything, certainly. You don't need much, just a clear statement of what we internet users want, which is "net neutrality backed by Title II oversight of ISPs."

The oily crust of corruption

Will the Trump White House end up as the most corrupt in history? Check this out:
You’ve probably heard that the Kushner family was caught over the weekend literally selling visas to immigrate to the United States in exchange for funding a $150 million dollar New Jersey real estate project. [See this article.] The sale itself is actually legal. It’s part of a highly controversial and widely abused program which provides visas to foreign nationals in exchange for $500,000 investments in US projects which by certain standards are judged to create jobs in impoverished or economically distressed parts of the United States. It’s become a widely abused vehicle for real estate developers looking to fund luxury development projects.

Setting that controversy aside, what sets this apart of course is that Jared Kushner is the most senior advisor to the President of the United States, as well as being the President’s son-in-law. While nominally stepping aside from his family business, his family is in China openly trading on the Kushner family’s ties to President Trump to rake up money. As much and as quickly as possible. Kushner’s sister Nicole actually led the presentation. Reporters from the Times and the Post were on hand at the presentation in Beijing (where they were able to get in) and at a second in Shanghai (where they weren’t.)

Trump – as well as the Kushner family’s connection to him – was explicitly invoked as the “key decision maker” in getting the visas. A Times reporter posted this picture of the presentation to Twitter, which I’ve marked up to identify the people in the slide …



This is, needless to say, the most open and flagrant kind of monetizing of the Presidency – as bad as anyone could have imagined from the conjoined Trump/Kushner families. The fact that this ‘nationalist’, ‘crack down on illegal immigration’ White House is connected to cash for visas activities like this just adds a layer of oily crust to the corruption.

The article goes on to point out that reporters only happened upon this event (and weren't allowed into the Shanghai presentation at all). As it notes, "We see hints and shreds of evidence popping up – Ivanka Trump securing numerous trademarks for her company in China," but we are highly unlikely to have seen it all.

The Trump/Kushner families do seem to be cashing in on the Donald Trump presidency, don't they? But then, he is, himself. As he's been doing since the start of the campaign.

***
And speaking of corruption, here's an article about scientists being removed from the Environmental Protection Agency to make room for lobbyists industry representatives. I'm sure those industries will be very grateful to the Republican Party when it comes to campaign donations, don't you think? Even secret campaign donations? (And thanks to the Republicans on our Supreme Court, that's even legal these days.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

House Repubicans pass Trumpcare



The funny thing is that Republicans were lying when they were talking about 'Obamacare.' But everything they complained about - and more - is what they've done with 'Trumpcare.'

What hypocrites!



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How the rest of the world sees us



Thanks to Jeff for the link!

The problem with monopolies

Read this. The headline is "Our Problem with Monopolies and Why Everything Sucks." I'm not going to excerpt any part of it here. But it's worth a read.

It's just a couple of anecdotes, nothing more than that. And it's funny, though it wasn't funny for them. But this is at least one of the problems with monopolies.

Remember, we witnessed this same stuff in the Soviet Union. Communism failed because of the inherent problem of monopolies, at least in part. Monopolies in a capitalist system aren't much better.

Of course, some things are inherently monopolistic. We call those things "utilities." They require effective government regulation and political consequences when they screw up too badly.

It doesn't matter much to me if monopolistic businesses want to join the ranks of utilities, with all of the regulation and restrictions that entails, or if they want to get out of the business of being monopolies (one way or another).

My argument is just that we should be actively seeking to eliminate monopolies which aren't considered to be utilities (and regulated that way).

Of course, the devil is in the details. Monopoly power is a problem even when one single company isn't the only option. The question should be more about the degree of market control, and we won't all agree about that.

Extremely large companies have many advantages, from economies of scale to political and economic power, so large companies tend to get larger. That's natural. And that's why we need an active effort to avoid monopolies.

I'm not claiming to have the solutions. It's not likely to be simple, and it's almost certainly not going to be just one solution. But it's something we need to work on. And it's one big reason why money is such a problem in our political system.

These companies have the money to get what they want - and prevent what they don't want - in our political system, especially after such destructive Supreme Court decisions as Citizens United. Well, that's the law of the land now. We're going to have to live with it while we seek to change it.

None of this is going to be easy, and it's all going to require compromises. But we've seen what being stupid, simplistic, and unyielding did to us in November, didn't we?

If we didn't learn from that, this is just going to get worse and worse as the Republican Party continues to dominate the American political landscape.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Surreal disarray and a confused mental state


Do you think the crazy can't get worse? Take a look at yesterday:
President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War — which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the "right circumstances."

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was "looking at" breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go.

"It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. "It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president." ...

"White supremacists, lost causers, states-rights activists could latch onto this,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “I don’t know if Trump even knows he’s doing it. You can be too ignorant to know you’re ignorant.”

Fun, huh? And this presidency has barely begun!

Read the whole article. It's scary as hell. Trump seems to have completely lost his mind.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hasan Minhaj at the 2017 White House Correspondents' Dinner



That was a tough audience, but Hasan Minhaj was great, wasn't he?

I was wondering how this would go, since the president and his entire administration skipped it (for the first time since Ronald Reagan was recovering from being shot). So did many celebrities.

This was a tough gig. And I'd only seen Minhaj in brief sketches on The Daily Show. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But he killed it, don't you think? I was impressed.

Incidentally, Samantha Bee held a competing event last night, the Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Check it out.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The proof that God is evil



This is the summary of this playlist called "The Case for an Evil God."

Of course, to be technical, this is evidence, not proof, and it's only about the Biblical god. But personally, I think we're all lucky he doesn't exist.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The first 100 days of Donald Trump



Jebus, only 100 days? We are so screwed.

Luckily, this is a short video, because I really can't stand to think about it any longer than this.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hypocrisy and the GOP



The first part of this (the first three and a half minutes) is what gets me. Could Republicans be any bigger hypocrites?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ivanka & Jared



More than any other late-night comedian - and just think for a minute of the worrisome state of our country when I have to say this about a comedian - John Oliver takes the time for an in-depth look at the issues.

I know we'd all like to think that there's someone in the White House who's not batshit crazy, but hope isn't evidence.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to get climate change wrong... again and again



This is exceptionally good, I'd say. But it's also a bit depressing, given how it won't accomplish anything at all. Crowder doesn't care if he's wrong, and none of his fellow deniers do, either, as far as I can tell.

Five misconceptions about undocumented immigrants



These are good points to keep in mind, don't you think?

The case against the resurrection

I meant to post this on Sunday - Easter- but I never got around to it. Oh, well. It's still worth your time, but I'll make this post especially short.

This is a playlist of video arguments against the resurrection of Jesus Christ - ten video clips from nine different people. They're all interesting, though I'd especially recommend the video with Bart Ehrman and the two from Richard Carrier.

Again, here is the link at YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Was the United Airlines victim actually a felon?



Rebecca Watson is one of my favorite people on YouTube. It's not about this particular incident. (Frankly, I never even saw previous videos about it, and I don't normally jump on outrage click-bait, anyway.)

But she always gives me a lot to think about. And her lessons are quite valuable.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"It's not so easy"

We'll be seeing more of this, I suspect:
President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”

Four quick observations about this:
  1. Trump thought China could fix North Korea until the Chinese president politely informed him that North Korea is in fact complicated.
  2. Trump seems to have required the leader of China to explain basic facts to him that he could have Googled, or at least asked one of the many US government North Korea experts about.
  3. Trump came to a profound realization about one of the most dangerous conflicts on earth after a 10-minute conversation.
  4. Trump is getting his information about East Asian affairs from the leader of America’s largest rival in the region.

This is the problem - one of the problems - with electing a president who makes George W. Bush look smart.

Incidentally, Trump also decided to abandon another of his campaign promises:
"On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In his Contract With the American Voter describing his plan for his first 100 days in office, he pledged: "I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."

Well, it ain’t happening. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, President Trump said that he wasn’t in fact going to deem China a currency manipulator.

Yeah, like healthcare, "nobody knew" this stuff could be so complicated, huh?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Samantha Bee: Russian hacking



Samantha Bee is great, isn't she?

Of course, we've known about this Russian hacking for some time. But people don't like to think that they've been idiots. Often, even the victims of a scam don't like to admit that it happened.

So will this change anything? I doubt it.

Is the New Testament reliable?



Bart Ehrman gets pretty worked up here, but I understand it. Keep in mind that Ehrman does believe in a historical Jesus. That's not universal among scholars, although it's the majority position.

Who or what that Jesus was,... well, there's certainly no agreement about that, even among the people who think he actually existed.

And keep in mind that Ehrman was an evangelical Christian who became an expert in the New Testament for his faith. He lost that faith when he discovered too much about his own holy book, but he certainly didn't want to lose it. Just the reverse, in fact.

Finally, note that he talks about "scribal errors" in the Bible. But many of the most important of these weren't errors at all. They were deliberate changes.

For example: "Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." That entire story was added later. It can hardly be an "error."

And the entire ending of the Gospel of Mark - the first gospel to be written - was added later, apparently because the original ending seemed appropriate only for fiction. (The women who supposedly witnessed the resurrection never told anyone about it, because they were afraid. The end.)

Ehrman gives other examples, including the justification for the whole idea of the Trinity. That's certainly not a minor issue, but it's clearly not an accidental "error," either. It was added to the original text deliberately, by some unknown person, for his own reasons.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump, O'Reilly, and Fox News



Fox News has long been the propaganda arm of the Republican Party (although we've never really known who was controlling whom). And although I'm glad to see advertisers abandoning O'Reilly, what took them so long?

Besides, you know that they won't be leaving Fox News. And you know that Fox will eventually replace O'Reilly with someone equally bad.

It's certainly no surprise that Trump and O'Reilly are in bed together. As I say, Fox News is the propaganda arm of the GOP, so what else would you expect?

Still, I'll laugh at all of them while I can still find something humorous about what's happening to my country.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Is this the White House or the Kremlin?


Wow, this Russia stuff is just getting crazier and crazier. Comparing it to Watergate is minimizing the whole thing. This is about the influence of an unfriendly foreign power in the White House!

This article at TPM will make you think. I recommend that you read all of it. But let me just excerpt one part about one of the players involved - a protege of Michael Flynn (yes, that Michael Flynn) who still has access to top secret information:
[Ezra] Cohen-Watnick is a 30 year old Mike Flynn protege from the Defense Intelligence Agency who was brought in by Flynn to serve as the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs. H.R. McMaster tried to remove Cohen-Watnick after McMaster replaced Flynn as National Security Advisor. In that goal, McMaster apparently had the strong backing of Mike Pompeo, the Director of Central Intelligence. But Cohen-Watnick appealed his ouster to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner went to Trump and Trump decided that Cohen-Watnick should stay in his position.

White House factional politics are not in themselves necessarily of great interest. But having two aides with no national security experience overrule the National Security Advisor on a key NSC personnel decision is rather remarkable - even more so when the person in question apparently had the job only due to the influence of the former national security advisor who resigned in disgrace and now is reportedly the target of multiple criminal and counter-intelligence probes.

That set of facts in itself raises a lot of alarm bells. Did Flynn's influence still extend into the White House's inner circle early this month, weeks after he was fired? Is Cohen-Watnick that important a loyalist that Bannon and Kushner would refuse to see him dismissed? Was he doing work at their behest? ...

In this latest turn of events, Cohen-Watnick apparently scanned through highly classified material looking for something to justify Trump's ridiculous wiretapping tweet. He then found a way to get that material to Devin Nunes when Nunes visited the White House in the middle of the night. Nunes then returned to the White House the next day to present the information to Trump. Again, it's not altogether clear to me whether Nunes or Trump actually realized that the material was of little real consequence and had no bearing on Trump's tweets. However that may be, at a minimum Cohen-Watnick was using his access to highly classified information to mount a political pushback campaign against the various Trump/Russia probes and quite likely breaking the law to do so.

But Bart Gellman, who has a very granular understanding of the modalities and rules tied to handling this kind of material, suggests an additional possibility: that Cohen-Watnick et al. had this material because they were using their privileged access to the nation's top secrets to keep tabs on the FBI's investigation of Trump and his top associates.

There are at least two parts of this that should worry us. The first is that the Trump White House seems ridiculously unconcerned with Russian connections to people with access to highly classified intelligence material - an issue that does worry the professionals at the CIA and NSC, apparently, but not the president or his political appointees.

But the second part is that Donald Trump and/or his political appointees seem to be trying to use those highly classified intelligence findings for political gain - or, rather, political cover. Trump keeps calling these people "whistleblowers," but that's not the correct word for people who are leaking information at the direction of the White House itself.

Whistleblowers leak information which the White House, or other governmental agencies, don't want released. When you're sifting through top secret documents looking for ways to defend your boss - or just trying to give him advanced warning of anything incriminating which might be uncovered by an investigation - that's not "whistleblowing."

Meanwhile, of course, Republican politicians couldn't care less about any of this, except for the possibility that it could damage them politically. So they're far less eager to investigate Trump than to cover for him and sweep it all under the rug.

(Admittedly, I'm sure that most of them would rather have Mike Pence as president. But impeaching Trump would leave a stink behind that other Republican politicians wouldn't exactly welcome. So who knows?)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Home of the Brave


This cartoon is a few years old, but it's even more fitting today, don't you think?

FFRF and the Ark Encounter



This is basically an advertisement for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but it's important - especially in this time of widespread science-denial from the White House on down.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Art of the Deal Con



And no, Donald Trump has no shame. Admittedly, shame is in very short supply in the entire Republican Party.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Eric Hovind and dinosaur farts



I thought this was funny,... but sad, too. I wonder how many people get their 'science' from Christian apologists like these who are completely ignorant of the subject, themselves?

Even when you get your science from the media, you need to realize that journalists aren't scientists (and I'm not sure that tabloid journalists are even journalists).

The goal of scientists is to be precise. The goal of journalists is to attract paying customers with sensational stories. Most journalists try to be accurate, I'm sure, but they're not scientists, and strict scientific accuracy isn't their primary goal.

But you only have to know a little about Eric Hovind in order to laugh at the idea of him criticizing scientists, anyway!

Trumpcare and the Three-Bucket Strategy



It's Seth Meyers again. And yes, this is the Republican Party's Three-Bucket Strategy:
  • Bucket #1: Repeal Obamacare
  • Bucket #2: Gut Medicaid
  • Bucket #3: End Medicare

Unfortunately, we seem to be focusing all our attention on that first bucket, without giving anywhere near enough attention to the other two.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

One of the greatest thefts in American politics



This is all great, but I have to emphasize Seth Meyer's point from later in the video: "Of course, Republicans are probably so giddy during the hearings because they knew they were getting away with one of the greatest thefts in modern politics, the stealing of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court from President Obama."

And remember: "Fundamentally, these hearings are awkward because we're in the unprecedented situation of a president trying to fill a stolen Supreme Court seat while under the cloud of an FBI investigation."

This Supreme Court seat wasn't just stolen by the Republican Party, it was stolen with the active help of Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia!

What has happened to my country? What is happening to my country? And what will continue to happen to my country over the next four years - and over the next 30 years or more with another right-wing extremist on the Supreme Court?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The only true surprise?



The only true surprise? Well, very little surprises me these days, and idiots in the White House isn't one of them.

Of course, I was surprised when we actually elected the Idiot in Chief. After that, I'm not sure what it would take to actually surprise me.

Donald Trump lies on Twitter during a Congressional hearing on his Twitter lies!



Crazy, isn't it? This is just a very small part of last night's Daily Show with Trevor Noah, but it points out one of the most absurd things about all this. Donald Trump lied on Twitter during the Congressional hearing called, at least in part, to refute his previous lie on Twitter!

Does it get any crazier than this? Yes, it probably does, doesn't it? And Trump will undoubtedly demonstrate that (again!) within a few days, at most.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

White House cites parody as news article

The only good thing about the Trump administration is that it gives us many reasons to laugh (while we're crying for our country).

From TPM:
The White House cited a parody article published in the Washington Post as support for President Donald Trump's proposed budget.

The article, "Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why,” was penned by the Post’s Alexandra Petri for her “ComPost” column.

“This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat,” Petri wrote in the article. “America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.”

Petri then ran down a list of agencies that would be affected by Trump’s budget draft.

“There will be no LABOR in the future,” she wrote of proposed cuts to the Department of Labor. “Labor is what women do, I think. All fetuses will burst out of wombs brandishing an Uzi on each arm. (Also, we will cut the funding to the people who would have explained that this is not how birth or labor works.)”

The White House included the article at the bottom of its “1600 Daily” newsletter. (Here’s an archived copy.)

I don't want to give the Trump administration too much credit, but it's hard to believe that even they were stupid enough to think that this article was actually pro-Trump.

I think it's more likely that they just read the headline and picked it from that (probably because they couldn't find anything else that seemed to support their cruel, ignorant, and crazy budget plan).

But it is funny, at least. And in Trump's America, I really, really need the ability to laugh.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Should we just let poor people die?



The other day, I posted a video by John Oliver about the Republican healthcare bill (and I listed Trump's healthcare promises here), but I thought I'd add this one by Trevor Noah, too.

Partly, that's because The Daily Show is now on YouTube, which makes it a lot easier to embed videos. But also, I wanted to point out that example of a 64-year-old making $26,000, who would pay nearly $15,000 a year for health insurance under the Republican plan.

Who could do that? Well, no one, basically. That's just one reason why 24 million people will lose their health insurance. But the extremely wealthy will make out like bandits.

And that's Republican Party policy in a nutshell, Trump or no Trump.

Democrats suck at voting



Samantha Bee is exactly right. Democrats suck at voting. Even now! Even after 2000, 2010, 2014, and 2016.

How depressing is that? Protesting is great, but it's going to be absolutely useless without voting - and voting for the Democratic alternative when you do. (If you want better alternatives, vote in the primary, too!)

This isn't rocket science, people. In a democracy, we get the kind of governments we deserve.

Monday, March 13, 2017

John Oliver: The American Health Care Act



Yesterday, I listed the promises that Donald Trump has made about healthcare. Well, this is what Republicans are pushing and Trump is supporting.

Yeah, I don't even want to think about this crap anymore. It's too depressing. But we have to. Apathy is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Donald Trump's healthcare promises

(TPM)

TPM ran a contest asking readers for quotes from Donald Trump about his healthcare promises. These are what he claimed Republicans would do:
Late Update: TPM Reader JF strikes early with a great contest entry. 1/15/17 Donald J. Trump: "We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” ...

Latter Update: Oooooo ... TPM Reader NH is bringing it! 2/19/16: "Obamacare has to go. We can't afford it. It's no good. You're going to end up with great healthcare for a fraction of the price. And that's going to take place immediately after we go in. Okay? Immediately. Fast Quick." (CSPAN, Timestamp 34:23)

Entry #3: "Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, "No, no, the lower 25 percent that can't afford private. But-- ... I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now." - 60 Minutes, September 27, 2015. TPM Reader MM.

Entry #4: "We're gonna come up with a new plan that's going to be better health care for more people at a lesser cost." ABC News, 1/25/17. TPM Reader JH.

Entry #5: "There are people who say everybody should have a great, wonderful, private plan, and if you can't afford that, and there is a percentage, a fairly large percentage that can't afford it, then those people don't get taken care of. That's wrong. We're going to take care of that through the Medicaid system. We’re going to take care of those people. We have no choice." Dr. Oz, 9/15/16. TPM Reader JN.

Entry #6: "The new plan is good. It's going to be inexpensive. It's going to be much better for the people at the bottom, people that don't have any money. We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. Now, some people would say, "that's not a very Republican thing to say." That's not single payer, by the way. That's called heart. We gotta take care of people that can't take care of themselves." CNN GOP Townhall, 2/17-18/16. TPM Reader BS.

Entry #7: "I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." 5/21/15. The Daily Signal. TPM Reader WM.

Of course, it doesn't matter if Republicans lie, right? We expect that. We certainly expect lies from Donald Trump. It's pretty much front-page news when he doesn't lie. And he never pays a price for that.

Nevertheless, I think it's important to document their promises.

PS. Note that Republicans in Congress are already talking about cutting Medicare and Medicaid, and their plan already starts depleting the Medicare trust fund.

Do I need to remind you that none of them actually campaigned on cutting Medicare and Medicaid?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Michael Flynn is a foreign agent



Michael Flynn, Trump's first National Security Advisor, was a foreign agent.

That's not me saying that, it's not the Democrats, and it's not the 'liberal media.' It's Flynn himself, who has just registered - retroactively - as a foreign agent!

This video clip is from Fox News, no less. Admittedly, it's Shep Smith, who's almost certainly the best of a bad lot at Fox. But this is surprisingly strong language, isn't it? "There's been a lot of lying. There's been lying about who you talk to, and by lots of people. And almost inevitably, and invariably, they were lying about talking to the Russians,... about something. It's too much lying and too much Russia and too much smoke."

Again, this is Fox News talking about a Republican president! But then, the Trump presidency seems to be melting down right in front of us. Meanwhile, Republican politicians everywhere continue quietly working in the background to do as much damage as they can to our country.

___
Edit: My first video embedded here didn't last long. The whole channel was removed by YouTube!  I don't know if this one will last much longer, and I can't find this clip on the official channel of Fox News. (They seem to be pushing a much stronger pro-Trump view there.) But we'll see.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Donald Trump, troll



I watch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah every morning (on the Comedy Central website), but I just discovered they have a brand-new YouTube channel, with excerpts. And I like how Noah describes this.

Yes, Donald Trump is a proven troll who tries to distract from the last crazy thing he said by saying something even crazier. And so far, that's worked for him. The news media eagerly report it and willingly follow Trump off on a new tangent. Every time.

And then, the next week, they do it all over again. None of it ever sticks. Indeed, whenever Trump doesn't show complete insanity - for a brief period of time - the media are all about how presidential he seems, speculating on a 'new' Donald Trump which turns out to be just as imaginary as Trump's stupid claims.

The Republican Party has long put political ambition ahead of country, so of course they go along with it. And Trump's supporters are entirely faith-based, so none of this matters to them. Meanwhile, liberals bicker among themselves, and 90 million Americans can't even be bothered to get off the couch and vote.

We're doomed.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Conspiracy Enthusiast in Chief, Donald Trump



It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? Donald Trump is getting more and more unhinged, and less and less connected to reality.

Trump treats the presidency as just another 'reality TV' show. And he treats every human being as if we were all among his dimmest, most gullible supporters. He's a scam-artist, and not even a very good one.

But scam-artists deliberately look for the dumbest people to scam. Those emails from Nigerian princes? Scammers know that they won't fool everyone, but they don't have to fool everyone. And neither does Trump, especially when more than 90 million Americans can't even be bothered to vote.

___
Edit: The first video clip I embedded here quickly disappeared, as YouTube closed the entire channel. At this point, I'm not sure which video it even was. And I'm not sure if this one will last much longer. But we'll see.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Stonekettle Station

Stonekettle Station is a blog after my own heart. Well, I don't know what the blogger, Jim Wright, thinks about most things, since I just discovered it. (Thanks, Kate!) But I certainly agree with his most recent posts.

For example, let me point out a few excerpts from his most recent post about Donald Trump. (It's a long post - Wright is even more long-winded than I am - and definitely worth a full read. But there were certain parts that reminded me of... well, me.)
Conservatives, and many liberals too, have been conditioned by three generations of fear-mongering. It’s always something. Always something to be afraid of. Commies and Rooskies, Red Chinamen and Black Panthers, Ebola, the brown horde south of the border, gangs and gays and atheism, with terrorists around every corner. It’s always something with these people. Seventy-five years ago, in America’s darkest hour, a withered crippled man in a wheelchair told Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself, and Americans hitched up their pants and squared their shoulders and faced their fears. But today? Today the politicians tell the people to be afraid. Nowadays we have entire media networks dedicated to inventing things to fear, from Truthers to Pizzagate. Americans as a people are addicted to being afraid, as a nation we embrace fear, we wallow in it, but conservatives? Conservatives own the market. Hell, they even fear their God. Fear is the very cornerstone of their religion, fear of a crazy genocidal unpredictable deity who just might wipe out the entire nation because he’s mad about the idea of gay people or socialism.

Republicans have been leveraging that fear to get elected for decades, they’re coming for your guns, they coming for your religion, they’re coming for your daughters, they’re coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your way of life. Be afraid! Be afraid!

Trump was just better at tapping into that fear than anybody else.

That sounds like me, doesn't it? Well, better written, of course. But it's exactly what I would say. It's exactly what I do say.

Many Republican leaders opposed Trump because they thought he was too blatant with the bigotry and fear-mongering. But Trump has apparently shown that you can't be too blatant about appealing to the fears the GOP has been pushing for decades.

Franklin D. Roosevelt could stand up (figuratively) and call on Americans to resist fear. It was Hitler who pushed fear and bigotry and hatred, not the American president. What has happened to us?
[Donald Trump] promised to round up and deport violent gang members and dangerous criminals and rapists. Because who isn’t afraid of that, right?

I don’t think any of us, conservative or liberal, would have a problem with rounding up criminals, but ICE isn’t raiding East LA or the South Side of Chicago and clearing the streets of gangbangers. We not bussing truck loads of Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican Mafia to the border, are we?

Instead Trump is making America safe by deporting people with brain tumors, day laborers, and arresting housewives as they pick their kids up from school. ...

As if you want to actually live in a country that would let a person die of a brain tumor over politics, as if we are really – really – going to use the (alleged) money saved by letting this women die to save an actual American child. Because we’re not going to do that either. We used to be the place that happily took in these people. We were famous for it. It says so right on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty.

The hell kind of a country, the hell kind of people, arrests a woman dying of a brain tumor and throws her in jail for deportation?

We’re not rounding up criminals, we’re deporting children and sick people who never wanted anything but a better life.

But they're scary brown people, right? They're Mexicans! They're undocumented immigrants. They're automatically scary to white bigots.

Last night, in his speech to Congress, Donald Trump announced a new government office to report and highlight crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, as if crimes committed by native-born Americans were somehow less evil and their victims less important.

Imagine if he had announced an office to report and highlight crimes committed by Jews. What would you have thought of that? Jews do commit crimes, sometimes. Shouldn't we be concerned about that? Shouldn't the victims of their crimes be recognized?

Obviously (I hope it's obvious), there's a problem with that. That's the kind of thing the Nazis would have done, to push fear of Jews. That's the kind of thing Trump's many neo-Nazi supporters would probably like to see even now. But can you imagine the uproar if he'd done that?

Donald Trump is establishing this office not to help the victims of crimes, but to push fear of undocumented immigrants and for his own political benefit. He doesn't give a crap about the victims of crimes, or he wouldn't make such a big deal about this particular category of criminal - especially since undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit such crimes than anyone else.

Go ahead, create a federal office for reporting and highlighting crimes committed by Jews. Let's see how that works, shall we? If this isn't about bigotry and fear-mongering, let's see what people would think then.
This is what you get when you elect a leader out of fear.

This is what you get when you cater to the basest elements of society.

This is what you get when you hire an amateur to run the most complex country in history.

This is what you get when liberals and progressives and rational conservatives don’t show up. ...

Trump should be constrained by Congress.

But he’s not.

Why?

Because liberals didn’t show up in 2010 or 2014. That’s why.

Because conservatives keep electing their representatives out of fear.

Because we keep catering to the lowest common denominator.

The Electoral College determines the president, but it’s the popular vote that determines your Senators and Representatives. And in the elections where the popular vote actually matters, well, liberals didn’t show up.

And so we have a House led by a Tea Party hack and a Senate run by a self-serving power-mad ideologue who’d rather burn the country to the ground out of pure spite than compromise with anybody. Our representatives, the congressmen who are supposed to be our voice, they don’t show up for town hall meetings because they don’t want to hear what we have to say, because they’re actually afraid of us, because they don’t even have the guts to face the kind of crowd any women has to push through just to get a goddamned pap smear from Planned Parenthood.

And it’s that way because liberals didn’t show up when the popular vote actually mattered.

Conservatives, they always show up. Always.

They’re afraid not to.

But here’s the real problem, liberals don’t show up at the state level.

I've been saying this for awhile now, haven't I? Maybe not as well, but I've been saying it. 90 million people didn't even bother to vote in November. Donald Trump is their fault, and the fault of every single American who was eligible to vote, but didn't actually vote for Hillary Clinton.

But Trump by himself couldn't do much of anything. We wouldn't be so worried if he didn't have a Congress firmly in Republican hands. And that's the fault of every person who didn't vote (or didn't vote Democratic) in November and in 2014 and 2010, too (since Senate terms are eight years long).

If you didn't vote, this is your fault. And every Republican Senator elected in November will remain in office for the next eight years, so this won't be quick to fix even if every non-voter suddenly pulled his head out of his ass (which I'm not expecting).
Liberals are going to lose … well, everything. All the gains of the last eight years.

And they haven’t got anybody to blame but themselves.

Right now, liberals, progressive, democrats, and the more rational centrist conservatives are all fighting among themselves.

They’ve had since November to get over their defeat and get organized and get a plan on the table and get to work. Time’s a wasting, folks. But liberals haven’t done any better at getting organized than Donald Trump has at organizing his administration.

Two days ago, the DNC elected itself a new Chairman, and predictably liberals fell to fighting amongst themselves. They’re all bitching and moaning and rehashing the election, slinging blame and arguing over candidates that are long lost and who will never be president.

And they’ll still be fighting when Trump wins his second term unless they pull their heads out of their asses right now.

Gee, he even uses my phrasing, doesn't he?

But this is no laughing matter. Wright goes on to say that we have to "compromise with fear." I'm not sure I agree with that, but we are going to have to compromise. Democracies are all about compromise.

The whole point of government by the majority (the majority who show up) is that not everyone gets his own way. We're social animals. We live with other people. In order to live in peace with other people, we have to accept that not everyone is going to agree with us.

And in order to accomplish anything at all, you can't demand to get your own way. You have to work with people who agree with you on many things, even if they don't agree with you about everything. And you have to understand that progress is slow and halting and difficult,... but also quite possible, if we can just stop fighting among ourselves over how quickly we get there!

Because, if we keep fighting among ourselves, we'll never see any progress at all. Indeed, as we're already seeing, we're going to be going backwards.

And again, we have to show up!
All politics are local.

Liberals, progressives, democrats, are going to have to show up. At town halls. At community meetings. At local elections. At school boards. Everywhere in that sea of red, and they are gong to have to address those fears.

Stonekettle Station is an excellent blog. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seth Andrews: a secular State of the Union Address



This is a great speech, isn't it? But in America, no president would ever be elected who could give it, even if he believed every bit of it.

Of course, we've actually got a president who doesn't believe any of it. Now, thanks to 90 million Americans who couldn't even be bothered to vote, we've got the worst president in U.S. history, a president whose speeches are just the reverse of this one.

As Seth Andrews demonstrates, we've still got good people in America. But we've got an uphill struggle now.

Monday, February 27, 2017

John Oliver: Obamacare



One of the ways in which John Oliver distinguishes himself from the competition is in taking the time for an in-depth look at issues like this.

It's still less than 20 minutes, but that's a lot for a single video clip. He doesn't even break up these videos into smaller pieces in order to get more ad revenue!

I should note that I've had a Health Savings Account for years. They're worthless. They're exactly the wrong way to get health care. And Oliver mentioned some of the reasons why.

But there's another reason. Health Savings Accounts discourage you from getting health care, because you are paying for every doctors visit. Now, sure, that keeps you from getting medical care for every little thing, but it also encourages you to delay long enough for a minor condition to become a major one.

Ordinary health insurance - including what you get in 'Obamacare' plans - has co-pay requirements, so that you won't go to the doctor every other day, just because of the cute receptionist. But they don't encourage you to say away from doctors entirely.

And health insurance isn't expensive because of too many doctors visits. It's expensive because of cancer, heart disease, and other extremely costly conditions, often near the end of your life, which modern medical care can treat these days.

For lower cost and better outcomes, we'd be better off encouraging more doctors visits in the hope of catching these conditions early. Health Savings Accounts encourage just the reverse, unless you're wealthy enough that the cost of health care doesn't really matter at all to you.

Health Savings Accounts might be the absolute worst way to manage health care. Indeed, they might be worse than having no health care plan at all, since the rich use them to avoid paying taxes. And despite what Republicans tell you, we do need taxes.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Another child abuse scandal

This is a difficult article to read. It's another inquiry into child sexual abuse, this time of the 150,000 children sent abroad from the UK after World War II.

Those children weren't all abused, and not all of the perpetrators were from religious institutions. But many were. And the stories are horrendous!

For example, there's this one from Clifford Walsh:
He is now 72. Fremantle is where, in 1954, aged nine, he stepped off the ship from London, looking for the sheep he'd been told outnumbered people in Australia 100 to one.

He ended up at a place called Bindoon.

The Catholic institution known at one point as Bindoon Boys Town is now notorious. Based around an imposing stone mansion in the Australian countryside, 49 miles north of Perth, are buildings Walsh and his fellow child migrants were forced to build, barefoot, starting work the day after they arrived.

The Christian Brothers ruled the place with the aim of upholding order and a moral code. Within two days of arriving he says he received his first punishment at the hands of one of the brothers.

"He punched us, he kicked us, smashed us in the face, back-handed us and everything, and he then sat us on his knee to tell us that he doesn't like to hurt children, but we had been bad boys.

"I was sobbing uncontrollably for hours."

His story is deeply distressing. He tells it with a particularly Australian directness. He is furious.

He describes one brother luring him into his room with the promise he could have some sweet molasses - normally fed, not to the boys, but the cows. The man sexually abused him.

He claims another brother raped him, and a third beat him mercilessly after falsely accusing him of having sex with another boy.

"We had no parents, we had no relatives, there was nowhere we could go, these brothers - these paedophiles - must have thought they were in hog heaven."

He has accused the brothers at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the first time he has fully disclosed his experiences.

At the time he says: "I was too terrified to report the abuse. I knew no other life.

"I've lived 60 odd years with this hate, I can't have a normal sexual relationship because I don't like to hold people," says Walsh. "My own wife, I couldn't hug."

He was troubled by all the memories.

"I couldn't show any affection. Stuff like that only reminded me of what the brothers would do all the time."

Bindoon is now a Catholic College. Again, not every person who raped children was a priest. And not every priest rapes children - far from it. But these are people who get respect just because of who they are.

Churches expect - and almost always get - our automatic respect. They claim to be our moral leaders, and nearly everyone seems to go along with that. Certainly, the news media and our politicians do. The religious section of my local newspaper is titled "Faith and Values." Church leaders regularly claim that 'you can't be moral without God.'

And yet:
The Australian Royal Commission recently estimated that 7% of the country's Catholic priests were involved in child abuse.

And such is the scope of sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic and Anglican churches in the UK that entire strands of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are dedicated to them.

This story is horrific for many different reasons, and it wasn't just the churches who let such things happen to children, but the British government, too. Child rape is vile no matter who does it. I don't mean to imply otherwise.

But religious groups are different, because they claim to have the high ground. They claim to be our moral leaders. They claim to have an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving deity on their side. Well, where was he when children were being raped by his own priests?

The Catholic Church, in particular, tells us that contraception is immoral, that abortion is immoral, that homosexuality is immoral. Well, why should we listen to anything they say, when priests were not only raping children, but the church was helping them by covering it up and moving those priests to new, unsuspecting parishes where they could find fresh victims?

Of course, it's not just the Catholics, and it's not just Christian churches. But it's Christian churches here, in English-speaking parts of the world. And the Catholics have a rigid hierarchy that many Protestant denominations don't have (especially the smaller sects). With power comes responsibility.

And again, if you really do have an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving deity on your side, where the fuck was he? Your god would not be worth my worship even if he did exist. (Of course, if you've ever bothered to read your own Bible, you'd already know that.)

It is long past the time when we should have stopped giving churches and church leaders our automatic respect. If you want our respect, earn it.

It is long past the time when we should have stopped accepting the claims of religious leaders about morality. They know no more about morality than the rest of us, and many of them have demonstrated that they know far less.

It is long past the time when we should have stopped accepting all of their claims, without good evidence first backing up those claims. If child rape won't open our eyes, what will?