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 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.


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.