Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Copycat

Via the Washington Post:

Monica Crowley, recently appointed by President-elect Donald Trump to a key national security communications job, said Monday that she would relinquish the post amid multiple allegations of plagiarism.

Crowley, who has been named senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, said in a statement that “after much reflection,” she had decided to remain in New York and “will not be taking a position in the incoming administration.”

“I greatly appreciate being asked to be part of President-elect Trump’s team and I will continue to enthusiastically support him and his agenda for American renewal,” Crowley said in the statement, in which she made no mention of the plagiarism charges.

She added, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Make ‘Em Laugh

Like it or not, Trump is going to become president at noon on Friday.  Nothing is going to change that, even if the CIA or the FBI or the press comes up with absolute proof of misdeeds, misconduct, and mischief.  No amount of petitions or calls to Congress will stop the clock from running down to the change of terms, and all those people marching the next day in Washington, Seattle, Miami, Denver, and Kansas City won’t stop him from assuming office.  The government must go on.  The Constitution says so.

But that doesn’t mean that we cannot do everything we can to limit the damage, to push back against the chaos that is already brewing here and abroad, and it doesn’t mean that the press should stop pushing back and digging in.  Right now the current worry in the press corps is that the Trump White House might restrict their access or even throw them out of the briefing room at the White House.  The relationship between the White House and the press has always been adversarial, which is the way it should be.  So you do your reporting from the driveway.

It’s not news that Trump is a coward and a bully who has surrounded himself with sycophants and yes-people.  Take it from someone who has dealt with bullies most of his life and learned a very valuable lesson: they have very thin skin and they are destroyed when they are mocked and laughed at.  It is the ultimate form of defiance and it makes them flail, which provides even more fodder for mockery and defiance.  Note how easily Trump is pissed off by Saturday Night Live’s portrayal of him by Alec Baldwin.  A normal person would laugh it off or even offer to contribute to their own mockery, thereby deflating it.  But Trump is providing endless hours of fun.  He’s already improving the economy for actors and writers.

Yes, of course we should be concerned about what a Trump presidency will mean for the global economy and stability in the numerous hot spots around the world.  Yes, he is more than likely on the hook to Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchs of oil (which is probably redundant).  Yes, he has threatened basic civil rights of journalists and made outrageous promises that he couldn’t fulfill even if he wanted to.  But the way he wins and gets his way is by his opponents being cowed and surrendering.

I’m not a politician or an elected official so there’s not much I can do about voting against his plans.  Neither am I a journalist with the resources to dig into his dealings.  But I am a writer, and until they pry the keyboard from my cold dead hands, I will continue to document the absurd and the dangerous, the cheap and the tacky, and to make America great again by using the one weapon that actually works against a bully: their inability to take a joke.

Or, to put it more succinctly, Trump needs a pie in the face.

Short Takes

Dozens killed when Turkish cargo plane crashes into village.

FBI arrests wife of Pulse nightclub shooter.

Shootings in Miami MLK festival leave 8 injured.

Suspect in shooting in New Year’s Day Istanbul arrested.

Ten more detainees transferred out of Gitmo.

R.I.P. Eugene Cernan, 82, the last man to walk on the moon.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther KingToday is the federal holiday set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.

For me, growing up as a white kid in a middle-class suburb in the Midwest in the 1960’s, Dr. King’s legacy would seem to have a minimum impact; after all, what he was fighting for didn’t affect me directly in any way. But my parents always taught me that anyone oppressed in our society was wrong, and that in some way it did affect me. This became much more apparent as I grew up and saw how the nation treated its black citizens; those grainy images on TV and in the paper of water-hoses turned on the Freedom Marchers in Alabama showed me how much hatred could be turned on people who were simply asking for their due in a country that promised it to them. And when I came out as a gay man, I became much more aware of it when I applied the same standards to society in their treatment of gays and lesbians.

Perhaps the greatest impression that Dr. King had on me was his unswerving dedication to non-violence in his pursuit of civil rights. He withstood taunts, provocations, and rank invasions of his privacy and his life at the hands of racists, hate-mongers, and the federal government, yet he never raised a hand in anger against anyone. He deplored the idea of an eye for an eye, and he knew that responding in kind would only set back the cause. I was also impressed that his spirituality and faith were his armor and his shield, not his weapon, and he never tried to force his religion on anyone else. The supreme irony was that he died at the hands of violence, much like his role model, Mahatma Gandhi.

There’s a question in the minds of a lot of people of how to celebrate a federal holiday for a civil rights leader. Isn’t there supposed to be a ritual or a ceremony we’re supposed to perform to mark the occasion? But how do you signify in one day or in one action what Dr. King stood for, lived for, and died for? Last August marked the fifty-third anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. That marked a moment; a milestone.

Today is supposed to honor the man and what he stood for and tried to make us all become: full citizens with all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; something that is with us all day, every day.

For me, it’s having the memories of what it used to be like and seeing what it has become for all of us that don’t take our civil rights for granted, which should be all of us, and being both grateful that we have come as far as we have and humbled to know how much further we still have to go.

*

Today is also a school holiday, so blogging will be on a holiday schedule.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Reading

Obama’s Parting Words — George Packer in The New Yorker.

After eight years, few lines from Barack Obama’s Presidential speeches stay in mind. For all his literary and oratorical gifts, he didn’t coin the kinds of phrases that stick with repetition, as if his distaste for politics generally—the schmoozing, the fakery—extended to the fashioning of slogans. He rarely turned to figurative language, and he never stooped to “Read my lips,” or even “Ask not what your country can do for you.” His most memorable phrase, “Yes we can,” spoke to the audacious odds of his own run for the Presidency, not a clear political vision. He sought to persuade by explaining and reasoning, not by simplifying or dramatizing—a form of respect that the citizenry didn’t always deserve.

This aversion to rhetoric, like Obama’s aloofness from Congress, is a personal virtue that hurt him politically. It’s connected to his difficulty in sustaining public support for his program and his party. Even the President’s hero, Abraham Lincoln, was a master of the poetic sound bite.

Obama’s farewell address from Chicago last week was one of the very best speeches of his Presidency. He had one overriding message: that American democracy is threatened—by economic inequality, by racial division, and, above all, by the erosion of democratic habits and institutions. Its urgency gave the speech an unusual rhetorical punch: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life”; “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves”; “We sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” Lines like these might not prove deathless, but because of their bluntness, and because the times are desperate, they hit hard.

Politicians are always letting the public off the hook—it might be the most unforgivably dishonest thing they do. Obama was more candid than most, reminding Americans that the quality of our democracy depends on us—on our capacity to reason and to empathize, our attachment to facts, our willingness to get our hands dirty even when the political game seems sordid or futile. The key word of the speech was “citizen,” which Obama called “the most important office in a democracy,” one that he’ll embrace in his post-Presidency. His exhortations and implications of blame were nonpartisan: conservatives might have heard their denial of science called out, while liberals might have been stung by the allusion to fair-weather activism. Whites and non-whites alike were urged to imagine inhabiting a different person’s skin.

Perhaps there was a degree of self-blame, too. For all the achievements that Obama is able to claim—from bringing health insurance to twenty million Americans to building a framework for slowing climate change—he couldn’t deliver a healthy democracy. He didn’t have the political skill to advance his abiding vision of a United States of America. Maybe no leader could have, but Obama’s opponents made sure of his failure.

Most Presidential farewell addresses are quickly forgotten. Hardly anyone knows that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both gave one, as did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Those which endure are memorable for their warnings. When the new republic was still taking shape, in 1796, George Washington cautioned against domestic factionalism and foreign entanglements. At the height of the Cold War, in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower described a new “military-industrial complex” and a “scientific-technological élite” that were taking over public policy. Obama’s warning in Chicago—owing to its context, ten days before the Inauguration of President Donald Trump—felt even more dire. He quoted from Washington’s address, but not its most obviously relevant passage, on the danger of partisan demagoguery: “It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”

If the President had quoted these words, he would have come close to naming the greatest threat to American democracy: his successor. Obama mentioned Trump only once, in passing. His aim was broader than one man, and his respect for the office kept the President from making it personal. (His chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, said, “If there’s one democratic norm that he can protect even as all others are shredded, it’s the peaceful transfer of power.”) Instead, the President-elect haunted the farewell address like a spirit too malevolent to be named.

The following day, Trump materialized in the flesh, in Trump Tower, for his first press conference in nearly six months. He was even looser and cockier than usual. He insulted media organizations by name. He reversed his avowed position on Russian interference in the American election, as casually and as brazenly as he had once reversed himself on President Obama’s citizenship. He relived the night of his victory, one more time. He revelled in his immunity from conflict-of-interest law. (“I didn’t know about that until three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have.”) He disparaged his Vice-President, who was in attendance, for not being rich enough to benefit from the same immunity. He congratulated himself for turning down a two-billion-dollar deal, which looked like a cartoonish bribe, from an Emirati businessman. He pretended to disentangle himself from the prospect of non-stop corruption during his Presidency. He told his sons to take care of the family business while he’s away, or else.

All the while, a retinue of aides cheered and laughed like the nervous flunkies of a Mob capo. It was impossible not to feel that, for Trump, the Presidency means a supreme chance for payback, revenge for the humiliation that seems to be his constant fear.

This is the last week of the Obama Presidency. Historians will argue over its meaning and its merits. But, for democratic integrity, there’s no argument, no contest. Obama’s final speech wasn’t just a warning—it will stand as an emblem of what we have been and perhaps can be.

The Illegitimate President — Joan Walsh on John Lewis.

On the day more unconfirmed, and maybe unconfirmable, details came out about the intelligence community’s intensifying investigation into ties between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government, tensions in Washington, DC, spiked. Dozens of House Democrats poured out of a briefing by FBI director James Comey and other intelligence agency leaders obviously furious, though they couldn’t disclose what they heard in the classified briefing. Representative Maxine Waters of California walked out to reporters and spit fire: “It’s classified and I can’t tell you anything. But the FBI director has no credibility!”

A short time later, Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press released a remarkable clip of his recent interview with Representative John Lewis, which will air on his show Sunday. In his calm, thoughtful, deliberate way, Lewis channeled Waters’s rage—and opened a new front in the campaign against Trump.

Would Lewis look for ways to cooperate with Trump, Todd asked? “It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” Lewis told Todd. “I don’t plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.”

Todd seemed shocked. “That’s gonna send a big message to a lot of people in this country,” the Meet the Press moderator said.

“I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others,” Lewis replied calmly. “That’s not right. That’s not fair, that’s not the open Democratic process.”

Mic drop.

I’m not in the habit of trusting US intelligence agencies. I am in the habit of trusting Lewis. Right now progressive Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, are hearing things from the intelligence agencies they are overwhemingly inclined to doubt, and yet they are reacting by at least demanding a bipartisan investigation into Russian interference with the election—and at most, like only Lewis so far, to say that Trump is not the “legitimate president.”

Will others follow? Representative Barbara Lee, another progressive stalwart, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she agrees with Lewis. The sole opponent of the Afghanistan intervention, a stalwart foe of the Iraq war, Lee had already said she would boycott Trump’s inauguration, but she acknowledged that Lewis went beyond where she did. And then she went there.

One Democrat who stepped out to kneecap Lewis is President Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod. The CNN contributor told the network Friday night that “I’m not comfortable” with Lewis’s calling Trump “illegitimate,” adding, “The greatest triumph for Russia would be to legitimate their charges about our democracy. I worry about our institutions. I worry that we’re in this mad cycle of destruction. I understand the outrage. But where is this all going?”

Axelrod acknowledged that Trump was the number-one peddler of birtherism—but insisted that this bolstered his argument. “One of my great concerns about the president-elect is that I think sometimes he has disregard for our institutions and norms and that contributes to a weakening of our democracy,” he continued. “So, I just don’t want to see this constant churning that leads to kind of a reflexive reaction every time a president gets elected who we don’t like.”

Let me break this down for Axelrod, though he knows everything that I do about American politics, and then some. Republicans are the ones who have a “reflexive reaction” to Democratic presidents they don’t like: peddling birther garbage and obstructing Barack Obama, after obstructing, then impeaching, Bill Clinton. The last GOP president, George W. Bush, although he lost the popular vote (like Trump) and owed his presidency to the Supreme Court, nonetheless got Democratic backing for his education-reform push, his Medicare-drug legislation, his tax cuts, and even his Iraq War authorization. There was no “reflexive” attempt to undermine Bush. He brought greater opposition on himself, including GOP opposition, with his disastrous war of choice in Iraq, his bungling of the occupation, his shameful neglect of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and his passivity in the face of evidence that shady banking practices were going to crash the economy.

So I’m going to go with Lewis, Lee, and Waters over David Axelrod on this one. I don’t want to bring race into anything where it doesn’t matter, but I did happen to notice all three leaders are African-American. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Or maybe it means that people who’ve seen the worst of American injustice are trying to warn the rest of us when it’s coming for us again.

Charlie Pierce:

Well, they did it as quickly as their Senate colleagues did, but at least the House of Representatives drove in the coffin nails during the daylight hours. After a morning of debate that was little more than two sides talking out loud past each other, the House voted 227-198 in favor of the kabuki budget resolution shipped across the Capitol from the Senate, a document that exists primarily as a mechanism for killing the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process. They want what they want and have the votes to get what they want, and that’s the way it’s going to be down here for a while.

On Thursday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, appeared at a televised town hall with Jake Tapper, and Ryan gave us all a preview of the various mendacities and inadequacies out of which his “bridge” from what we have now to whatever the Republicans finally devise will be built. It’s been seven years, and the answers are still fantastical (buy insurance across state lines), implausible (health-savings accounts!), total fakeouts (high-risk pools) and downright cruel (block-granting Medicaid back to the states).

As to the first, welcome to the Visa-MasterCard model of health insurance. As to the second, you, there, 52-year old unemployed steelworker, hope you put 200K away for chemotherapy instead of, you know, buying a house or eating dinner for your entire adult life. As to the third, high-risk pools will effectively bring back the pre-existing conditions nightmare, because no Republican legislator is going to vote to fund them at anywhere near the level at which they’ll need to be funded. (h/t Harold Pollack for pointing out the Tumulty piece.) And as to the last, all that’s going to get the country is some lovely paved roads leading to some Texas legislator’s fishing cabin.

The only real highlight came when a cancer survivor told Ryan that the ACA had saved his life and Ryan responded as though the guy were a waiter who’d mixed up his wine order.

But the cause of unspooling not merely the ACA, but a good part of the overall American healthcare system, went rolling along. The debate in the House Friday afternoon was instructive: There seems little doubt that a lot of energy being thrown into demolishing the ACA is pure, unresolved spite aimed at the president who signed it. Republican after Republican came to the podium to rail against Obamacare.

The rookie Republicans by far were the most entertaining. Jodey Arrington of Texas began by calling the ACA “Soviet-style central planning of our healthcare system,” which is hilariously wrong, but which must dazzle ’em back in Lubbock. Meanwhile, Matt Gaetz from Florida began his one-minute oration with a Shakespearean flourish, which brought to the proceedings all the gravitas of the average middle-school book report.

“Mr. Speaker, I come to bury Obamacare, not to praise it. The evil that men do lives on after them…”

Oh, just shut up, Fenwick. Honest to god.

The debate broke down along some easily distinguishable lines, although noted bag of hammers, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, spent a lot of time talking about how the ACA was part of a plot against marriage. The Republicans threw around numbers and the Democrats told stories about people from their districts who’d been helped by the ACA. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who was managing the floor for the Democrats, and whose amendment to repurpose the budget gimmick to pay for infrastructure improvements sank like a stone later in the afternoon, responded to the numbers by reading off how many people in the states represented by Republican speakers would lose their health care and their jobs, and how much money each state would lose over the next five years.

When the Republicans ventured onto the narrative turf of the Democrats, they mostly spoke about small businesses that they claimed had collapsed under the weight of the new law. But Lloyd Smucker, who represents a district in and around Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, had a different tale to tell.

Smucker talked about the case of two of his constituents, Tim and Phyllis Hollinger. Tim’s on Medicare. (Good luck, Tim! Paul Ryan’s got just the scam for you!) Meanwhile, Phyllis got her insurance through one of the exchanges. She makes, according to Smucker, $53,000 a year. Her policy costs more than $1000 a month and her deductible is $2700. Luckily, though, through the provisions of the ACA, Phyllis gets a subsidy that covers 35 percent of the cost. Good for you, Phyllis. That’s the way the law is supposed to work. That’s the Affordable part of the Affordable Care Act at work.

However, according to Congressman Smucker, the subsidy is the problem.

Phyllis receives a federal subsidy that covers 35% of that monthly cost. She takes pride in the fact that she’s never taken a government handout in her life. Now that she’s on Obamacare, the American taxpayers have to subsidize her healthcare. (Ed. Note: also yours, Congressman.) To Phyllis, that’s not right. To Phyllis, this is about her pride and she’s not asking for a lot. She’s simply asking that she have access to affordable healthcare that doesn’t require the American taxpayers to help her pay for it.

And that, not Meryl Streep, is how Donald Trump became president.

I have no idea whether or not Smucker is making this whole thing up, but I do know that, if and when the ACA is finally chloroformed, Phyllis’ pride better be convertible into gold or hard cash money because she’s going to need it. And, as an American taxpayer, I’d like to tell Phyllis not to worry. She’s good for it.

I mean, Jesus, who thinks like this—besides approximately 45 percent of American voters, that is? It’s one thing to make a political career out of calling people moochers, but it’s a vast distance from that to convincing people that they are somehow moochers themselves. You have to admit, the messaging against the ACA has had a remarkable market penetration among the people who need it the most. Let me get sick and die rather than have your help.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin watched how that messaging played out in the last campaign.

“They were very effective with a political message saying ‘We’re going to repeal and replace it.’ And then they won! They won the White House, the Supreme Court arguably, both chambers of the Congress, and now it appears to have been a fig leaf because now it looks like they’re going to unravel the whole health care system, not just the 20 million who benefitted directly from the Affordable Care Act, but those people with the private plans who are going to be facing lifetime caps, facing the pre-existing conditions. It’s confounding to me. They now have the message—we’re gonna repeal it and then we’ll replace it once you guys give us another kick at the can two years from now. They’re hoping the people are stupid.”

The project continues apace, however, and sometime in the next few months, Phyllis Hollinger and millions like her will be free of the guilt that comes from being healthy at the public expense. The cool breeze of freedom once again will blow across the fields and prairies, across the rivers and mountains, and through the doors of overcrowded emergency rooms. Feel the cool breeze.

Unless, of course, you have chronic asthma. Then you’re on your own, pal.

Doonesbury — Survival of the twittest.

Rest in peace, SLW.

SLW Resting Place 01-15-17

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wait, You Were Serious About That?

The Republicans have voted over 60 times to repeal Obamacare, knowing full well that it wouldn’t happen, but what would the Republicans be if they couldn’t fill the air with empty gestures?  But now that there’s the real possibility that it might happen…

House Republican leaders attempted to quell concerns of a skittish rank and file before a key vote Friday to begin unwinding the Affordable Care Act.

The assurances came after lawmakers across the GOP’s ideological divides sounded anxious notes this week about advancing legislation that would repeal Obamacare without firm plans for its replacement.

“We just want more specifics,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday. “We need to know what we’re going to replace it with.” Meadows said he was personally undecided on his vote Friday and that other caucus members were leaning toward no.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said members of that caucus have “serious reservations” about starting the process without replacement plans spelled out. “We’d like to have this conversation prior to the repeal vote,” he said.

Those jitters hint at a rocky road ahead as Republicans start trying to fulfill a long-standing campaign promise. They have forced GOP leaders to reassure lawmakers that they will not move precipitously and open Republicans to charges they threw the health-care system into chaos.

So upwards of 15 million people could lose their health insurance without any plan in place to replace it with something better as promised by Trump.  (Note that he did not detail what that would entail; just that it would be “better.”)  If they don’t, then what?

All of a sudden “Repeal and Replace” is a lot harder to pull off than just some chant at a political rally.

And five will get you ten if the Republicans aren’t racking their brains to figure out how to blame all of this on Barack Obama.

No Extra Rights

Via the Hill:

Trump Cabinet pick Ben Carson reiterated his belief Thursday that LGBT Americans don’t deserve “extra rights.”

During Carson’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pressed the Housing and Urban Development nominee about whether he would enforce LGBT protections in the public housing sector.

“Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson responded. “Of course, I think all Americans should be protected by the law.”

“What I have said before is I don’t think anyone should get ‘extra rights,’” he added.

Carson’s remarks mirror those from his 2014 CPAC speech: “Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get extra rights,” Carson said at the time. “They don’t get to redefine marriage.”

No one is asking for “extra rights,” Dr. Carson.  I’m certainly not; I have enough trouble exercising the ones I already have.  I just want to have the same rights as everyone else, like the right not to be fired for whom I’m married to or whose picture I have on my desk; not to be denied housing because of whom I share the house with; not to be denied the right to visit a sick friend in the hospital; and not be denied the dignity of not having to make a big deal out of the fact that should I ever be fortunate enough to meet someone and fall in love and get married, buying a wedding cake doesn’t require a court order.

According the LGBTQ community the same rights as everyone else isn’t a zero-sum game.  When we have them, they’re not taken away from the non-LGBTQ folks.

What is both ironic and telling is that within my lifetime people such as Dr. Carson were routinely denied the very rights I’m seeking assurance of.  He of all the people in Trump’s world should be especially mindful of just what is at stake when we demand equal rights under the law.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Checklist

Via Robert Reich in the Baltimore Sun:

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1. Exaggerate their mandate to govern — claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2. Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3. Call anyone who opposes them “enemies.”

4. Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them “deceitful” and “scum.”

5. Hold few press conferences, preferring to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements.

6. Tell the public big lies, causing them to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.

7. Blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and even violence against them.

8. Attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within,” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.

9. Threaten mass deportations, registries of a religious minority, and the banning of refugees with particular religious beliefs.

10. Seek to eliminate or reduce the influence of competing centers of power, such as labor unions and opposition parties.

11. Appoint family members to high positions of authority and power.

12. Surround themselves with their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public.

13. Put generals into top civilian posts.

14. Make personal alliances with foreign dictators.

15. Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

These warning signs should be of concern to everyone, regardless of political party. In fact, historically, conservatives have been especially vigilant against potential threats to our constitutional rights.

All Americans must join together to protect American democracy against tyranny.

Consider yourself warned.

Moving Right Along

Here’s a shot of what’s on a local TV station’s news site concerning the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport last Friday that killed five people:

FLL Shooting Stories WTVJ 01-12-17

Well, I’m glad the little girl got her teddy back after dropping it in the chaos, and it was poor judgment on the part of the Broward Sheriffs Office deputy to post the video.  But the shrug about the shooting suspect’s “mental issues” is just another way of saying, “Well, shit happens.”

I suppose, in the world of tweeting autocrats and instant news feeds on phones, we should now be accustomed to the idea of moving on, leaving the mourning and the legal issues to others.  So don’t expect any in-depth investigation into why a man who recognized he was so tortured by his illness that he went to the FBI and basically said “Stop me before I kill someone,” then went out and did it.

No, we can’t arrest someone for a crime they haven’t yet committed, and yes, there are people among us who sincerely believe that someone who is suffering from obvious violent thoughts is still entitled to his Second Amendment rights.  All we have to do is just wait for the next news cycle to move on.

In The Dead Of The Night

Via the Washington Post:

The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday morning to approve a budget resolution instructing House and Senate committees to begin work on legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday.

Senate Democrats made a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The measure narrowly passed without the support of any Democrats.

The hours-long act of protest culminated in the early hours of Thursday when Democrats made a dramatic display of rising to speak out against the repeal measure as they cast their votes. The Democrats continued to record their opposition over their objections of Senate Republicans.

“Because there is no replace, I vote no,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) as she delivered her vote.

Here’s the nightmare scenario I see playing out: The Republicans whoop through a repeal of Obamacare much to the delight of their constituents who have railed against “socialism” for the last eight years.  Then they can’t figure out how to replace it because, well, the only way to do that is to put in place what they took out and just call it something else.  Fine.  But in the meantime you will have several million people who once had insurance going without and then people start to get sick without it or have no way to pay for the medical care they need and then the bills — and the bodies — start to pile up.

But hey, they got a cool hat that says Make America Great Again.

Then What? — A Continuing Series

I didn’t watch the Trump presser yesterday but all indications were that it was, as Josh Marshall wrote, not normal.

The President-elect personally dressed-down a CNN reporter in scathing terms. He limited his comments on what a replacement plan for Obamacare would look like to a vague promise to “repeal and replace” the healthcare law “essentially simultaneously.” His responses were cheered on enthusiastically by a small group of staffers.

In short, two months after winning the White House in a historic upset and nine days out from Inauguration Day, Trump appeared no closer to adhering to the norms that have traditionally regulated the office he is poised to assume.

[…]

Little of the press conference was devoted to laying out a policy vision. There were few comments about working with Congress on healthcare, an overarching foreign policy strategy or a job creation plan.

Instead, Trump spoke in broad terms about his intention to be “the greatest jobs producer that God ever created” and to create a healthcare system that is “far less expensive and far better” than Obamacare. Asked about the plan his lawyer outlined in the presser for disentangling himself from the Trump Organization, Trump gave himself credit for turning down “$2 billion to do a deal in Dubai” with Middle Eastern developer Hussein Damack, who he deemed “a friend of mine, great guy.”

“The language that Trump will bring into the office is very different than that of most presidents, who have certainly been cheerleaders for themselves, but still much more measured and operating in a kind of collective discourse rather than a kind of I, I, I discourse where it’s all about him,” Bruce Miroff, a political science professor and expert on the U.S. presidency at the University of Albany, told TPM.

We are told by pundits and Very Serious People that this is why Trump was elected in the first place: to shake up things, not do the presidency in the way it’s been done before, and that’s what the voters wanted.  They were tired of the nostrums and jibber-jabber of the forty-four men that came before him.

The problem with that is that the structure of our government, whether or not you like it, wasn’t built to withstand that kind of seismic activity.  You can’t just ignore the rules because you don’t like them or say they don’t apply to you when clearly history has proved that they either do or were put in place to prevent people from doing exactly what you’re doing.  It’s like saying “I don’t want to stand in line at the bank waiting to make a withdrawal and filling out a bunch of paperwork.  Hand me that Glock 9, willya?”

There’s another problem, and that is building up expectations.  If you say you’re going to be the greatest jobs creator or the best friend of the downtrodden, you had better get results, and fast.  The attention span of the American public is notoriously short, but they do remember when they’ve been promised something and are waiting to get it.  If they don’t, then what?

Bonus Track: Charlie Pierce’s take on the presser.

What was beaming in from New York was nothing less than a genuine aspiring American dictator having what amounted to a very public tantrum. By the way, you knew it was a bag job when you saw that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago had brought in his own personal claque of hecklers and cheerleaders. (It should be noted for the record that the “fake news” chant is merely lugenpresse for the digital age.) And the first thing he did on Wednesday morning was intimate that it’s the American intelligence community that is a bunch of fascists.