Friday, February 24, 2017

Go For It

Via the New York Times, Democrats are really fired up now.

Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.

Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.

Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the “party of no” — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said there had been a “tornado of support” for wall-to-wall resistance to Mr. Trump. Mr. Inslee, who backed a lawsuit against the president’s executive order banning refugee admissions and travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, said Democrats intended to send a stern message to Mr. Trump during a conference of governors in the nation’s capital.

“My belief is, we have to resist every way and everywhere, every time we can,” when Mr. Trump offends core American values, Mr. Inslee said. By undermining Mr. Trump across the board, he said, Democrats hope to split Republicans away from a president of their own party.

“Ultimately, we’d like to have a few Republicans stand up to rein him in,” Mr. Inslee said. “The more air goes out of his balloon, the earlier and likelier that is to happen.”

Yet Democrats acknowledge there is a wide gulf between the party’s desire to fight Mr. Trump and its power to thwart him, quietly worrying that the expectations of the party’s activist base may outpace what Democratic lawmakers can achieve.

“They want us to impeach him immediately,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “And of course we can’t do that by ourselves.”

Some in the party also fret that a posture of unremitting hostility to the president could imperil lawmakers in red states that Mr. Trump won last year, or compromise efforts for Democrats to present themselves to moderate voters as an inoffensive alternative to the polarizing president.

Not to be churlish, but it’s about damn time; where was this six months ago?  A year ago?  It doesn’t matter that no one took Trump seriously and a lot of Democrats were out shopping at Ikea for their West Wing furniture and Senate Majority office space.  If they had, maybe they wouldn’t be hollering up the stairs from the cellar.

What more do they have to lose?

Short Takes

Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent.

Arms Race: Trump calls for U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Hang in there, RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’ll stay on SCOTUS as long as she can.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students.

Cheap Seats — Airlines’ no-frills flying taking off.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump Gives Us The Creeps

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.

Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation’s public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.

The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.

This is what happens when you let creepy people who are obsessed with the personal habits of absolute strangers take over the government.

What we really need are protections against those people.

Praise And Shiny Objects

Via Politico, here’s how to keep Trump from blowing up the world with his thumbs.

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” said former communications director Sam Nunberg. “The same media that our base digests and prefers is going to be the base for his support. I would assume the president would like to see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall.”

Staff members had one advantage as they aimed to manage candidate Trump’s media diet: He rarely reads anything online, instead preferring print newspapers — especially his go-to, The New York Times — and reading material his staff brought to his desk. Indeed, his media consumption habits were on full display during his roller-coaster news conference this past Thursday, when he continually remarked on what the media would write “tomorrow,” even as print outlets’ websites already had posted stories about his remarks.

The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Kind of reminds me of this:

They Put The “Duh” In Florida

Via Miami New Times, here is the latest evidence that my state is run by idiots.

The federal government is run by a despotic regime that dictates laws and hands down rulings wholly incongruous with the vision laid out by America’s Founding Fathers, say two Florida lawmakers. According to state Sen. Keith Perry  — a Republican who represents Alachua, Putnam, and portions of Marion Counties — and Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, the regime now running the United States constitutes an oligarchy of wealthy elites that “must be dismantled for the sake of our republic and for the continued empowerment of its people.

Who are those tyrants? Try the entire judicial branch of the U.S. government.

In December, Gonzalez filed a resolution in the Florida House, which, if passed, would urge the U.S. Congress to straight-up invalidate the judicial branch. And this morning, Perry filed a companion bill in the state Senate. The pair is asking Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Congress can overturn any judicial decision. Under the crackpot bills, which are identical, Congress could overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions with a 60 percent vote.

Really.

“Florida Legislature respectfully petitions the United States Congress to propose to the states an amendment to the United States Constitution providing that any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the United States Supreme Court or a United States court of appeals may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by Congress pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber of Congress within 5 years after the date the ruling becomes final,” Gonzalez’s resolution reads.

It sounds like these guys were not paying attention in their junior high school civics class that explained the basics of our constitutional system; you know, the part about the three co-equal branches of government that consist of executive, legislative, and judicial.

The legislators write that the judicial branch of the government has “taken on an increasingly activist role aimed at molding legislation according to the political beliefs of its members,” adding that such an activist posture tends to excessively consolidate power in one branch of government, and, as George Washington observed, such encroachments eventually create “a real despotism.”

They also add that federal judges tend to rule by “usurpation,” and then, staggeringly, complain that “the United States Supreme Court currently possesses ultimate and unchecked authority on matters of the constitutionality of the United States’ laws such that its opinion on such matters has the same effect as amending the United States Constitution.”

The two men don’t mention that this is, quite literally, the exact job of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor do they mention that the federal courts have done nothing out of the ordinary this year, compared to other times in American history.

This morning, Perry didn’t cite Trump’s recent judicial smackdown as a reason for proposing the resolution. But the president’s influence is all over the text: Trump, too, has waged a war against the courts, the biggest check on his power, and would clearly be happier if pesky things such as the U.S Constitution, federal judges, and opposing legislators didn’t exist.

Perry, it seems, would rather we be governed by Trump alone. In the meantime, New Times is soliciting donations to send a few copies of the children’s A-Z civics book D Is for Democracy to the two lawmakers’ offices.

What we need now is immediate increased emergency funding for remedial civics education in Florida.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Turning The Tea Tables On Them

Ooh, Trump doesn’t like it that people are showing up at Republican town halls and voicing their opinion.

Our Cable News Consumer-In-Chief apparently has nothing better to do than sit around the White House in his jammies watching the likes of Jim DeMint complain about town hall attendees on the teevee machine, rather than doing his damn job.

At 6:11 PM Eastern time, Jim DeMint made the claim that the folks at town halls around the nation were “well financed and bused around to these town halls,” as if somehow liberals had the means and ability to do what DeMint’s group did in 2009. Despite the fact that many of these town hall attendees have actually resorted to wearing their zip codes as a badge to prove they’re constituents, DeMint persisted.

Then the Man Who Never Had An Original Thought sent out a tweet 12 minutes later. To be fair, he may have wanted to wait until the DeMint segment was over. It ended at approximately 6:20 PM or so, and Trump’s tweet went out at 6:23.

Apparently his takeaway was the town halls.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Tea Party was organized and funded by groups such as The Heritage Foundation — the group Mr. DeMint left the Senate for.

So what’s really got him and Trump upset about is that they took their idea and ran with it.  The difference, however, is that there are no billionaires funding it.  It really is organic.

Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

Via the New York Times:

Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.

Despite those assertions in the new documents, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

[…]

Administration officials said some of the new policies — like one seeking to send unauthorized border crossers from Central America to Mexico while they await deportation hearings — could take months to put in effect and might be limited in scope.

For now, so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as young children, will not be targeted unless they commit crimes, officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump has not yet said where he will get the billions of dollars needed to pay for thousands of new border control agents, a network of detention facilities to detain unauthorized immigrants and a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.

But politically, Mr. Kelly’s actions on Tuesday serve to reinforce the president’s standing among a core constituency — those who blame unauthorized immigrants for taking jobs away from citizens, committing heinous crimes and being a financial burden on federal, state and local governments.

There will be legal challenges in court, there will be millions of dollars wasted, there will be families separated, and at some point someone’s going to pull a gun and start shooting, all to bolster Trump’s standing with a xenophobic base of voters that he cultivated carefully to follow him whether or not it violated the Constitution or the basic fact that this country was founded by people who came here from other places and the idea of “illegal immigrant” is based on bigotry and fear.

But it works great at campaign rallies in Florida, so there you are.

Stanisław Skrowaczewski — 1923-2017

I met him once, in 1975. He was next-door neighbors to my aunt and uncle in Wayzata, Minnesota, and he was out jogging one day when we were out getting the mail.  We chatted and it was only after he went on down the road that I found out who he was.

I went to several concerts when I lived in Minneapolis. I also auditioned as an announcer for a classical music station and part of it was to read a list of the names of composers and conductors. His name was on the list and I nailed it: “Skrow-va-chev-ski” (Didn’t get the job, however.) He was a wonderful conductor and a great gift to music and Minnesota. Peace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“What He Meant Was…”

Remember when the Republicans lost their collective minds over President Obama “apologizing” for America?

So this must be a variation on that.  Let’s call it “explaining.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on the first visit by a senior Trump administration official to Iraq, worked on Monday to repair breaches of trust with Iraq’s leaders caused by his boss just as the two sides began a major offensive to oust the Islamic State from its last stronghold in the country.

Mr. Mattis found himself in nearly the same position he was in during his just-finished trip to Europe, where much of his time was spent reassuring wary allies that the United States was still committed to NATO after statements and actions by President Trump seemed to call old alliances into question.

Before arriving in Baghdad, Mr. Mattis was asked by reporters about Mr. Trump’s remarks during a visit to C.I.A. headquarters last month that the United States should have “kept” Iraq’s oil after the American-led invasion, and might still have a chance to do so.

“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mr. Mattis said during a stop in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

Don’t worry; you’re not going to hear any outrage from the right about this because, well, you’re just not, okay?

Teed Off

There are a lot more important things to be upset about than how Trump spends his leisure time, but since he made such a big deal about how much time President Obama spent playing golf, let’s take a look at what he’s doing on his time off.

Before Donald Trump became president, he sent several dozen tweets criticizing then-President Barack Obama for playing golf. “I just want to stay in [the] White House [and] work my ass off,” he told reporters in February 2016. That November, Trump acknowledged that he would play golf as president, but said he would “always play with leaders of countries and people who can help us.”

Since becoming president, Trump has played a lot of golf. Specifically, he has made six trips to the golf course in 30 days. This has caused some people to suggest Trump might be a hypocrite. The White House, which seems sensitive to those allegations, has responded by keeping the press and the public in the dark about Trump’s golfing ― sometimes literally, like on Feb. 11, when administration officials made an AP reporter wait in a room with black plastic over the windows while the president played golf.

Trump’s golfing this weekend was similarly secret. Late Sunday afternoon, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a top White House press aide, told reporters Trump had played “a couple of holes” Saturday and Sunday.

It was more than a couple, and it wasn’t all with world leaders: Trump played 18 holes on Sunday with pro golfer Rory McIlroy, who’s ranked third in the world; sports agent Nick Mullen; and Richard Levine, a Trump friend, donor and frequent golf partner, McIlroy told golf blog No Laying Up.

So why should anyone get worked up about what Trump does on the weekends?  Well, for one thing, he made a yuge deal about President Obama’s love of the links and now he’s just fine — if not a bit touchy — with it.  Which shows that old golf adage to be true: if someone will lie about their golf game, they’ll lie about anything.