Monday, April 17, 2017

The Right Person For The Job

Via TPM:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ choice to help lead the department’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that in college she had experienced discrimination for being white, ProPublica reported Friday.

Candice Jackson was tapped to serve as the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. But she will serve as the interim head of the office until the assistant secretary has been named. At the office, Jackson will be charged with helping protect students from discrimination.

She once recounted her experience in a class at Stanford University in the 1990s, where she was an undergraduate student, in a piece for the Stanford Review. She complained that she was unable to join a section of a math class that offered minority students additional help with tough problems, according to ProPublica.

“I am especially disappointed that the University encourages these and other discriminatory programs,” Jackson wrote, per ProPublica. “We need to allow each person to define his or her own achievements instead of assuming competence or incompetence based on race.”

The lady has a point… if you assume that the ability to define his or her own achievements is based on how much money you give to the party.  That’s how Ms. DeVos got her job.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Search Is Over

We have found the most arrogant and ill-informed member of Congress.

A Republican congressman said at a town hall that it was “bullcrap” that his constituents paid his salary, because he had paid enough federal taxes to have effectively paid his own way.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) made that claim, and a similar one about effectively paying for his own health care, in two town hall events, recordings of which were later posted online.

“You said you pay for me to do this,” he said in one recorded exchange, posted online Monday. “Bull crap, I paid for myself. I paid enough taxes before I ever got here and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to do it. I do it as an honor and a service.”

[…]

The congressman’s communications director, Amy Lawrence, has not responded to TPM’s request to confirm that Mullin actually refuses a congressional salary, or otherwise pays it back in some way.

Lawrence said in a statement to the Tulsa World that “the congressman is referencing the federal taxes that he and his businesses have paid to the government over the years, prior to his being in office. Like all business owners, Congressman Mullin pays his taxes, which contribute to congressional salaries.”

Someone needs to teach this little pipsqueak about how the tax system works, and preferably how collecting unemployment works, too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It Was In All The Papers, Sean

Didn’t they teach history at Portsmouth Abbey?

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was widely criticized Tuesday for comments about Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that were seen as downplaying Adolf Hitler’s crimes during World War II.

Spicer quickly walked back the comments, saying he did not intend to “lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust” when he suggested during a daily briefing that Assad’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in rebel territory last week made him worse at least in one respect than Hitler, who Spicer said “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer told reporters, as he criticized the Russian government for its support of Assad. “Someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. You have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you, and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”

In fact, Hitler’s Nazi Germany did use chemical weapons, most notably through the Holocaust, the genocidal program intended to murder Europe’s entire Jewish population. Many of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were killed in gas chambers using Zyklon B and other poisons.

Sarin gas, the weapon believed to have been used by Assad’s regime, was first created and weaponized by Nazi scientists in 1938.

What an idiot.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Short Takes

U.S. blames Assad for chemical attack in Syria; Trump blames Obama.

North Korea launches missile into the sea.

ISIS calls Trump “idiot” in its first message acknowledging him.

New GOP healthcare plan undercuts popular provisions of Obamacare.

Russia to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremist” group.

The Tigers opened the season by beating the White Sox 6-3.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Small Crack In The Base

Trump’s grip on the base is probably secure, but at least one of his minions is making his constituents shift uncomfortably in their seats.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa — A year ago, Evan Wielenga, 40, believed — as does his congressman, Steve King — that undocumented immigrants should all be deported. They broke the law to enter the country. They spoke little English. They strained schools and public services.

But as talk of a border wall and a Muslim ban overtook the presidential campaign, Mr. Wielenga, the agronomy manager of a farmers’ co-op here in northwestern Iowa, had a change of heart.

He heard dairy farmers say they couldn’t get their cows milked without immigrants. “You can put an ad in the paper and you won’t get two white guys to apply,” said Mr. Wielenga, who grew up on a dairy farm himself.

He heard of the ruinous damage an immigration raid had done to families. “Some of these kids were born in the U.S.,” he said. “These families had lived here 10 years, and all of a sudden, Dad’s gone, Mom’s gone. When you think of it from that perspective, what’s the lesser of two evils?”

Mr. King, a Republican who has displayed a Confederate battle flag on his desk in Washington, shows no sign of budging in his views. His latest anti-immigrant tirade — “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he said — once again drew wide condemnation and critical attention to Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, whose voters overwhelmingly reelected him to an eighth term in November.

Sioux County, Mr. Wielenga’s home, provided the largest margin in the 39-county district, Iowa’s most conservative. And there is no shortage of voters who echo Mr. King’s contention that “culture and demographics are our destiny,” as he said earlier this month to cheers from white supremacists.

But in conversations over four days with residents who voted for Mr. King, a new chorus of earnest naysayers could also be heard in many corners of the district. Some said the congressman’s latest provocation — uttered in support of a far-right Dutch politician — was finally more than they could brook. Several said they were rethinking their support.

“I’ve always voted for him, but I think this was way out of line,” said Bill Kooi, a retired farmer, sipping coffee at a Hardees in Orange City, as the friends who shared his table — to a man, older white conservatives — all nodded.

Again and again, voters brought up how much Mr. King’s district has changed since his election 15 years ago. Though still overwhelmingly white, it has absorbed a sizable population of Hispanics who have taken hard-to-fill jobs and opened small businesses in the empty storefronts of struggling towns. As a generation of non-Hispanic white children leaves for college and seldom returns, immigrants are keeping many of those communities alive.

The more the rhetoric of the Trump campaign turns into real-world consequences, the more the reality is hitting home in places like Orange City and Sioux County.  Deport 11 million undocumented workers got big rah-rahs from the MAGA crowd at the rallies until they realize that families will be separated, the work force could be decimated, and the economy begins to suffer.

They’re not going to blame Trump, though.  They’re not going to blame themselves for continuing the tradition of voting against their own self-interests.  But when you have an obnoxious racist ignoramus such as Steve King making such a fool of himself, getting him out of office, even if he is replaced by another Republican, would be one small crack in the base.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday Reading

Taking Back Kansas — Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker on how moderate Republicans are bring sanity back.

This week, the Kansas Senate voted by a wide margin to expand the state’s Medicaid coverage. A majority of Democrats supported the bill, as might be expected, but so did a majority of Republicans. That the vote was both bipartisan and decisive is a modest but promising sign for the future of public health insurance. But the vote had an added significance because it took place in Kansas. For the six years that Sam Brownback has been Governor, the state has been the scene of what may be the nation’s most extreme experiment in conservatism. The Medicaid vote capped an extraordinary year-long turn against Brownback, in which many of his allies in the legislature were defeated in primary and general elections, and, in the legislative session now coming to a close, his budget and priorities were rejected. The political history of the past quarter century has been one of deepening polarization. The reaction in Kansas suggests that it is still possible for a party to go too far—that there is still a center in American life which may yet hold.

Brownback, who has a law degree from the University of Kansas, is possessed of a low-key personal style and a high-intensity conservative politics. He has been the defining figure in Kansas political life for two decades, since he won Bob Dole’s Senate seat in the 1996 election. In the mid-aughts, when evangelical conservatives were understood to be the country’s most powerful political bloc, Brownback had seemed a plausible representative for the G.O.P.’s future—a rigid social conservative who found some ways to appeal to moderates. He made increasing American aid to Africa his cause, and cited the example of William Wilberforce, the Christian abolitionist who helped lead the campaign to end the slave trade in the British Parliament, so often that there was a rash of editorials about the rise of “Wilberforce Republicans.” But national politics grew more liberal and optimistic, and after a brief bid for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination Brownback returned to Kansas, where he won the Governor’s office in 2010. In his first term as Governor, he focussed on a different kind of problem. People were leaving his state for “faraway places that entice our children to abandon the communities that nurtured them,” he wrote, in 2012. “I don’t have oceans and I don’t have mountains,” he pointed out to an interviewer last year. “Just got mountains of grain.”

Brownback decided to remake Kansas by radically cutting taxes, an experiment to draw new business and people to the state. “We can no longer afford to view our current economic crisis as something distinct and apart from the crisis of family and community decay,” he wrote in an op-ed, in 2012. Brownback persuaded the legislature to adopt budgets that would eventually eliminate taxes on three hundred and thirty thousand small businesses, and cut the state’s top income-tax rate by a third. Brownback chose to opt out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which denied coverage to more than seventy-five thousand Kansans.

But the flight out of Kansas did not reverse, and as revenues diminished even basic state functions began to erode. Budget shortfalls were so severe that Kansas turned to raiding its highway-construction fund, which meant that highways were not repaired. Without Medicaid patients, a large rural hospital in Independence had to close. Public schools saw their performance on standardized tests decline, as the state contributed less to their budgets; the Kansas Supreme Court held in two different cases that the state’s underfunding of education was in violation of its own constitution. Brownback became the least popular governor in the country—last September, his approval rating was at twenty-three per cent. Seven separate organizations were founded with the goal of electing moderates, and one of them, the Save Kansas Coalition, persuaded the four living former governors of the state—two Democrats and two Republicans—to denounce Brownback and endorse moderate candidates for legislative offices. Mike Hayden, a former Republican Governor, said that Brownback and his allies “should be ashamed” of what their tax cuts had done to the state. “We virtually don’t have a penny in our pocket,” Hayden said. “The experiment is failing.”

In the Republican primaries last year, moderates ousted more than a dozen Brownback supporters, most of them explicitly declaring their opposition to the Governor. In the general election, more than a dozen more Brownback Republicans lost to Democrats. When the legislature reconvened, in January, a moderate coalition rejected Brownback’s budget and voted to expand Medicaid. (Yesterday, Brownback vetoed the legislation; the moderates may be a few votes short of overriding him.) At a forum after the election, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party suggested that there were “some voters who were anti-Brownback and there were others whose main motivation was they didn’t like the status quo.” He conceded, “They had this uncomfortable feeling about Kansas.”

State legislative elections receive little attention, but their stakes are high, making them a good target both for lobbyists and for ideological factions. Harvard’s Theda Skocpol has found that the best predictor of whether a state legislature voted to curb public-employee bargaining in 2011 was not public opinion within the state but whether the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, which was pushing the issue, had a paid staffer there. In Kansas, legislators make less than twenty thousand dollars each year, which may mean that candidates tend toward the committed fringes. In 2011, a Brownback ally in the legislature named Virgil Peck said, about a bill proposing that feral hogs be shot from helicopters, “Looks to me like, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a solution to our illegal-immigration problem.”

The revolt of the Kansas moderates has some of the feel of a social restoration, in which small-town institutionalists reclaimed Republican politics from the ideologues who had taken over. Peck was beaten in the Republican primary by a retired Air Force commander. A school superintendent in Stafford beat a more conservative incumbent; so did a retired school superintendent from Tonganoxie. The moderate coalition that voted to expand Medicaid coverage was led by a retired anesthesiologist, Republican Barbara Bollier, who had been kicked off the Health Committee when the State Assembly was in more radical hands. Last week, shortly after the vote to expand Medicaid coverage, the State Senate passed a resolution condemning pornography. That seemed like a good hint at where Kansas politics might go, guided by the remnant faction of religious conservatives and the rising one of school administrators.

For all its excess, the Brownback era obeyed a certain logic, which also helped fuel the rural support for the Trump campaign. If you believed that your home was under existential threat, then an extreme politics made sense. In 2015, the Times Magazine published a moving story by Chris Suellentrop, a journalist and Kansas native, whose uncle, a state legislator with a serious and temperate disposition, had joined the Brownback movement. Gene Suellentrop was sensitive to his fellow-Kansans’ plight. Without an aggressive effort like Brownback’s to draw business and attention, he told his nephew, “everyone else will see us as flyover country.” In retrospect, voters’ perceptions of the state’s precariousness and Brownback’s radical politics acted as mutual accelerants. The question now is whether those levers can act in reverse—whether moderate politicians can persuade residents that no social precipice is near, that Kansas is not dying.

Do It Now — Jonathan Chait on the need to filibuster Neil Gorsuch.

Neil Gorsuch will be the next Supreme Court justice. “He’ll be on the floor of the Senate next week and confirmed on Friday,” promised Mitch McConnell, and there is no reason to doubt him. Either Democrats will filibuster, and Republicans will change Senate rules to prevent filibusters of Supreme Court nominees, resulting in Gorsuch being confirmed, or Democrats will fail to filibuster, resulting in Gorsuch being confirmed. The only question at issue is in what fashion Gorsuch takes his seat. Republicans are fervently working to persuade Democrats to let Gorsuch take his seat without a change in the filibuster rule. Why do you think they care so much?

If Republicans are telling Democrats that any attempt to filibuster the Republican nominee will lead to the Republicans abolishing the filibuster, it stands to reason that the filibuster is not worth keeping around. What value is there in a weapon one’s adversary can disarm at any time?

Republicans have devised a somewhat complicated response to this objection. Yes, they concede, the filibuster is useless right now, in this instance. But that is only because the merits of this particular nomination so obviously and clearly lie on their own side. “If Neil Gorsuch isn’t good enough, there’s never going to be a nominee good enough, and so I don’t see any advantage to rewarding bad behavior,” says Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. Republican senators’ “appetite is entirely a function of circumstance,” argues Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist. “Only seeing such a model jurist held hostage to cynical political whims would be enough to compel the righteous indignation necessary to go nuclear.” (Going “nuclear” means changing Senate rules to limit the filibuster.) If Democrats drop the filibuster, Republicans will leave it in place, and maybe Democrats will get to use it next time. Maybe!

One flaw in this argument is that it utterly ignores the circumstances by which Gorsuch came to his nomination. Yes, he is well qualified and respected by liberal peers. On the other hand, he only has the opportunity to claim a Supreme Court seat because Republicans violated a long-standing norm that allows presidents to nominate somebody — the exact parameters of who that somebody is being the subject of regular dispute — to fill a vacant seat.

The Republican incredulity that Democrats would have the gall to object to fine, upstanding Neil Gorsuch is quite special. (How can you complain about me picking up some money I found lying there on the sidewalk? Never mind whether it got there because I ripped the wallet out of your pocket.)

The notion that Republicans would somehow not be willing to abolish the filibuster for Trump’s next nominee, after being willing to do so to complete the wake of the judicial heist of the century, defies plausibility. Every Supreme Court vacancy counts for one vote. The next vacancy will matter just as much as this one. Sure, if Trump decides to nominate Michael Cohen or Scott Baio to the Court, some Senate Republicans might object. But Trump has clearly indicated that he defers on this subject to regular Republicans. The next judicial vacancy will seem at least as crucial as this one, and the pressure on Senate Republicans to confirm their party’s choice will be overwhelming.

We already live in a world where a Republican president has a 50-vote standard to confirm a nominee to the Court. The only question is whether Democratic presidents have the same standard. The worst possible outcome for Democrats would be to allow Republicans to fill a vacancy with 50 votes while forcing their party to muster 60. And there is a lot of reason to believe this is the case right now. Barack Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, the highly respected and moderate jurist Elena Kagan, got the support of just five Republican senators, of which two were driven into retirement by actual or threatened primary challengers in part because of those votes. Once Democrats lost their supermajority, their ability to seat a justice probably disappeared with it.

In 2014, Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Elle that she did not want to retire in part because she believed Senate Republicans would filibuster any left-of-center nominee to replace her:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided.

Mitch McConnell wants to preserve an ambiguous situation where the norms say one thing and the rules say another. This is to his advantage, because he is a serial violator of norms. This isn’t a moral question — he’s a brilliant tactician and he’s very good at identifying political strategies that are legal but which have not been used due to social convention. If McConnell can use the threat of the nuclear option to make the filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee a useless weapon for the opposing party, he can preserve it as a potential useful one for himself. If Democrats don’t make McConnell abolish the Supreme Court filibuster, he may use it to blockade their next nominee, and they will have only themselves to blame.

Double Bill — Two plays by William Inge that epitomize the plain-speaking charm of his characters and home town are running in repertory.  Elisabeth Vincentelli has a review.

Hal and Marie are young, gorgeous, vital. They’re also inopportune outsiders, wreaking havoc on seemingly tranquil communities.

As the catalysts in two William Inge plays of the 1950s, Hal (in “Picnic”) and Marie (in “Come Back, Little Sheba”) are inadvertent agents of change. But don’t expect melodramatic fireworks: The shows depict lives in turmoil with deceptive simplicity — an elusive quality that the Transport Group captures in the graceful revivals now in repertory at the Gym at Judson.

Inge doesn’t have the reputation of his contemporary Tennessee Williams, perhaps because he lacked Williams’s incantatory flamboyance, which encouraged myriad staging possibilities, audience devotion and a thousand campy spoofs. But his work burst with generous humanity and possessed a sure grasp on the power of intimacy — something these productions skillfully bring to the fore.

The director Jack Cummings III has staged both shows in close quarters for about 85 people at a time. The Kansas porches where the “Picnic” action takes place are gone, and Dane Laffrey’s scenic design consists of a few rusting deck chairs in front of a plywood back wall. There is period furniture in “Sheba,” which only reinforces the play’s take on claustrophobic middle-class despair. In each case, theatergoers are never more than a few feet from the actors — in some scenes, a few unsettling inches — turning from passive viewers to emotionally invested neighbors.

In “Picnic,” Hal (the likable but distractingly gym-buffed David T. Patterson) is an ebullient drifter who lands in a small Kansas town and starts doing odd jobs for Mrs. Potts (Heather MacRae). The mere presence of this pulchritudinous life force sends the local women into a spin, from a suddenly giddy Mrs. Potts to the young beauty Madge (Ginna Le Vine) to the single schoolteacher Rosemary (Emily Skinner). Even Madge’s boyfriend, Alan (Rowan Vickers), gets a touch of Hal fever.

The contaminant in “Sheba” is Marie (Hannah Elless), a pretty coed who rents a room from Doc (Joseph Kolinski) and his wife, Lola (Ms. MacRae). The older couple appear happy enough, but their obsession with Marie suggests fault lines. Doc is in Alcoholics Anonymous and sticks to meticulous routines as a way to cope; he also sneaks looks at Marie, his fixed expression imbued with guilt and creepy desire.

As for Lola, she engages in conversation with deliverymen (all portrayed by John Cariani); the connection is played as a result of unbearable loneliness rather than misguided flirtation. She treats Marie like a surrogate daughter (her actual child died soon after birth), pouring onto her the affection she probably unleashed on her now-missing dog, Little Sheba.

The story is fairly predictable, especially with a bottle of whiskey sitting on top of the fridge like a malevolent lighthouse luring Doc to the shoals. But the play proves spoiler-proof, the payoff simply devastating.

“Sheba” and “Picnic” have a lot in common, most notably their juxtaposition of disappointed older characters with younger ones who still have the luxury of options. Some of these options may not be healthy or enduring, but at least the young’uns can try again. They don’t realize what their older counterparts know: Nothing lasts, least of all joy and looks.  [Photo by Richard Termine/New York Times]

 Doonesbury — Topic of the day.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Who’s Left?

If Trump dumps all over that raggle-taggle gang of right-wing moonbayers that call themselves the “House Freedom Caucus” (and they use the word “Freedom” the same way North Korea calls themselves “Democratic”), then who is left to defend him and cover his base?

Trump threatened Thursday to try to knock off members of the House Freedom Caucus in next year’s elections if they don’t fall in line — an extraordinary move that laid bare an escalating civil war within a Republican Party struggling to enact an ambitious agenda.

In a series of tweets that began in the morning, the president warned that the powerful group of hard-line conservatives who helped block the party’s health-care bill last week would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast.”

The president vowed to “fight them” as well as Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, a warning that his allies said was intended in the short term to make members of the Freedom Caucus think twice about crossing him again. But Trump’s pledge was met with defiance by many in the bloc, including some members who accused him of succumbing to the establishment in Washington that he had campaigned against.

Advice to Democrats: stand back and shut up.

The Poor People of Kansas

I’m not just talking about those folks in that nice state who don’t have enough money to pay for medical care on their own and are now being denied expanded Medicaid because their governor is a religious fanatic.

I mean everybody, rich or poor, who has to live with this kook who drove the state’s economy into the ground on purpose, decimating the public school system in the process, and tried to tell the world it was actually an improvement.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Complex Solution To A Simple Problem

North Carolina is on the verge of repealing House Bill 2, the “bathroom bill” that got them in so much trouble over where people can relieve themselves.  But it’s running into trouble.

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and its Democratic governor announced late Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to repeal the controversial state law that curbs legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and sets rules that affect transgender bathroom use in public buildings.

But gay rights advocates raised objections, arguing that the compromise would continue to allow discrimination. And it was unclear late Wednesday whether the deal, if approved, would end the boycotts by sports leagues, businesses and others that have harmed the state’s reputation and economy.

The law in question, often referred to as House Bill 2, was signed in March 2016 by the state’s governor at the time, Pat McCrory, a Republican. One of the most contentious measures requires transgender people in public buildings to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.

Phil Berger, the Senate leader, and Tim Moore, the House speaker, announced late Wednesday that they had reached the agreement with the new Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. A bill repealing House Bill 2, which the legislature will consider on Thursday, would also create a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020 and leave regulation of “multi-occupancy facilities,” or bathrooms, to state lawmakers.

Leaving the regulation of biffys up to state lawmakers is what got the whole thing started.  Why are they regulating them at all?  What’s next, a fine for not putting the seat back down?

This micromanagement at the behest of people obsessed with the bathroom habits of other people is what needs to be regulated, if not medicated, and it’s one reason why good people don’t like government.  Government works best on the macro level and trusts the common sense of the population who by and large don’t care who is in the next stall.

Just repeal the whole thing and be done with it.  As opposed to Obamacare, no one is going to die because this law goes away.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Out Of Reach

Even if Trump’s poll numbers suck wind with a lot of voters, there’s one group he’s doing just fine with: his Republican base.  As far as they’re concerned, he’s the next Ronald Reagan.

So even if he doesn’t repeal Obamacare, doesn’t build the wall, doesn’t bring back jobs to the coal mines, raises their taxes and gives more breaks to the rich while piling up the deficit, and poisons the air and water around them, they’ll still support him and cheer him on.

And why not?  These folks have been voting against their own self-interest for the last fifty years.  Why stop a good thing?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stinking Up The Joint

Via the Washington Post:

President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions.

The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.

“This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the directive Monday evening and asked for anonymity to speak in advance of the announcement. “When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.”

For someone who ran slamming China for all of their trade practices and currency manipulation, he might want to take a lesson from them.

The only jobs that are created by reducing environmental regulations are, ironically, in the field of healthcare, namely pulmonary and respiratory care.

The saving grace is that reversing President Obama’s orders can’t happen overnight.

Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables. The order is silent on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, because the administration remains divided on that question.

Hopefully by the time they get around to doing any damage, we’ll have someone in office who can reverse the reversal.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Party Of No

And about time, too.

Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the body’s top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch’s expected confirmation and ultimately upend the traditional approach to approving justices.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will vote no on President Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.

[…]

In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said: “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”

I think Merrick Garland is available.

Rest assured that the Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, will storm around and run to the microphones to call Mr. Schumer an “obstructionist” and we’ll hear the minions on Fox News carry on about how it’s the Democrats who want to keep anything from getting done in Washington which is why Trump won the election by an overwhelming majority.  And then they’ll smile and burst into flames from the irony overload accelerated by the gallons of rank hypocrisy doused on them by Karma.

It is way past the time for the Democrats to utilize the tactics that are available to every minority party on Capitol Hill that are either written or unwritten in order to put a check on the roughshod running by the majority.  When the Republicans were in the minority they did it very well, most recently when they declared even before the litter had been picked up from the first inauguration of Barack Obama that nothing he did would get past them without a fight because he was… well, there had to be something that was coloring their judgment.  Even if they agreed with the principle of the policy, they were not going to allow it to become law.

For the Democrats, the difference is that not only is it sauce for the gander time, they actually will look at what is being proposed by Trump and consider it on its merits, not just because he sent it up.  They will stop it because it is bad policy, harmful to a lot of people, benefits just a few, or poses a threat to what we commonly call “democracy.”

So go on, Democrats, and become the party of No, the obstructionists, and the naysayers.  And if the Republicans complain, tell them you had a good teacher.

The Art Of The Dud

Heh.

They blinked.

In a major setback for the Republicans’ years-long effort to repeal Obamacare, GOP leaders were forced to delay a House vote planned for Thursday as negotiations continued around the legislation. The delay comes after the conservative hardliners who have been resisting the legislation emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump with no clear deal to win over their votes.

According to various reports, the floor vote on the American Health Care Act will be pushed until at least Friday, with a meeting with the full House GOP conference slated for Thursday evening, followed by a procedural vote to make way for the final bill.

As the White House negotiated Thursday with members of the conservative hardline House Freedom Caucus, more and more members of Republicans’ moderate flank came out of the woodwork to say they oppose the repeal bill due to the rightward direction in which it was heading.

The Republicans have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, and according to Himself, he’s the greatest deal-maker in history.  They have been talking about repealing Obamacare for exactly seven years since the day it was signed into law and they can’t even get their own right-wing to fall in line.

And when they do, the Senate will take one look at it, hear the hoofbeats of ten thousand Democrats ready to run against each and every one of them who voted to take back everything that everyone — even Trump voters — like about Obamacare and say Are You Fucking Kidding Me and run away from it like it was a toddler with a paint gun.

Oh, and when this miserable excuse for legislation finally screws itself into the ground, guess who they’re going to blame: Yep, you got it.  Obama.

Go on, have an extra helping of schadenfreude.  They’ll make more.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Let’s Play Dodgeball

I caught a few minutes of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) questioning Neil Gorsuch at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday afternoon, including the part where Mr. Franken asked him point-blank where he stood on marriage equality.

Sen. Franken asked Judge Gorsuch how he felt volunteering to help re-elect President George W. Bush knowing that same-sex couples were facing having their relationships attacked as unequal.

“The amendments sent a clear message to lesbian and gay couples that their unions were not equal in the eyes of the law,” Franken said. “How’d you feel about the right to marry being put to the popular vote?”

Dodging, and saying he didn’t remember any involvement in the push to ban marriage, Gorsuch was then asked how he felt about marriage being banned for same-sex couples.

“My personal views? Any revelation of my personal views on this matter would indicate to people how I might rule as a judge – mistakenly, but it might,” Gorsuch insisted.

After reading a statement made by Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay several years ago, Franken asked Gorsuch how his views on marriage have changed since the 2004 election.

“Senator, my personal views, if I were to begin speaking about my personal views on this subject which every American has views on, would send a misleading signal to the American people – ”

“It is settled law,” Franken interjected.”

“It is absolutely settled law,” Gorsuch acknowledged. “There’s ongoing litigation about its application, and its impact, right now, and I cannot begin to share my personal views without suggesting mistakenly – ”

Franken again interjected and moved on.

This whole kabuki of asking a Supreme Court nominee a question like that isn’t to get him or her to come out and actually make a statement.  We all know that they’re going to dodge the questions just as Mr. Gorsuch did.  We saw that from every nominee going all the way back to Sandra Day O’Connor, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a nominee from a Democratic president — assuming they even get a hearing — or a Republican.

So why bother?  Why go through all of this ritual knowing that they will hedge and dodge and then once they’re on the court do exactly what the president who appointed him and the groups that backed him hired him to do?  Once he’s on the court it’s too late; he can’t be fired.  (It should be noted that presidents of both parties have been sandbagged by their own appointees.)

In this case I don’t think it’s aimed at Judge Gorsuch so much as it is at the senators who will vote to confirm his appointment.  I fully expect the Republicans to back him all the way, but I will be interested to hear from any Democrats who vote in favor of him how they can justify their vote after what the Republicans did to Barack Obama and Merrick Garland.  I’d like to see how they dodge that question.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just Enough Compassion

Frank Rich has a very long piece in the current issue of New York magazine in which he expresses no sympathy for the Trump voters who will inevitably find themselves completely screwed over by the man they voted for and who fell for his bullshit.

There’s no way liberals can counter these voters’ blind faith in a huckster who’s sold them this snake oil. The notion that they can be won over by some sort of new New Deal — “domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance),” as Mark Lilla puts it — is wishful thinking. These voters are so adamantly opposed to government programs that in some cases they refuse to accept the fact that aid they already receive comes from Washington — witness the “Keep Government Out of My Medicare!” placards at the early tea-party protests.

Perhaps it’s a smarter idea to just let the GOP own these intractable voters. Liberals looking for a way to empathize with conservatives should endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes — or in some cases failure to vote — and live with the election’s consequences. If, as polls tell us, many voters who vilify Obamacare haven’t yet figured out that it’s another name for the Affordable Care Act that’s benefiting them — or if they do know and still want the Trump alternative — then let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests. That they will sabotage other needy Americans along with them is unavoidable in any case now — at least until voters stage an intervention in an election to come.

The people who elected Trump are all over the age of eighteen.  They may act like children, but they’re adults in the eyes of the law and therefore are responsible for what they’ve brought upon themselves, so they have no one to blame for what’s to come but themselves.  I don’t need to feel any sympathy for their plight when their health insurance becomes unaffordable, when their elderly shut-in parent doesn’t get fed, and their blind rage when the rich get a great big tax cut and use it for the house in Antigua instead of reopening the coal mines.

I’m assuming they’re now a part of this collapse of the support for Trump.  They may even regret their vote now or are at least beginning to wonder if perhaps they got conned.  Well, okay, nice of them to realize that.  But they voted for this racist sexist cowardly bully; let them own that.

In This Corner

Via the Washington Post:

FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged Monday that his agency is conducting an investigation into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign in a counterintelligence probe that could reach all the way to the White House and may last for months.

The extraordinary disclosure came near the beginning of a sprawling, 5½ -hour public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in which Comey also said there is “no information” that supports President Trump’s claims that his predecessor ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

[…]

Remarkably, Trump’s presidential Twitter account continued to fire away throughout the widely watched hearing, live-tweeting comments and assertions that lawmakers then referred to and used to question Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers.

Comey and Rogers both predicted that Russian intelligence agencies will continue to seek to meddle in U.S. political campaigns, because they consider their work in the 2016 presidential race to have been successful.

So the director of the F.B.I. testified before a congressional committee that the nation’s top criminal investigative agency is looking into evidence that Russia manipulated the last presidential election and it was likely they would continue to do so; that Trump was repeating a right-wing nut-job website story about spying that has as much truth to it as the one about Elvis working at a Burger King in Grand Rapids; and meanwhile Trump was still tweeting about all of it and giving the Democrats on that committee fodder for their questions to the director.

At what point does Franz Kafka show up and say “Too weird for me, fellas, I’m outta here”?

Actually, it might be worth it to stick around just to see how he gets out of this one.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

No Sympathy

Set it to music, Pat.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory says the backlash against House Bill 2 is making some employers reluctant to hire him but he’s currently doing consulting and advisory board work.

McCrory has been appearing frequently in interviews with national media outlets to defend the controversial LGBT law, but he hasn’t announced what’s next for his career. In a podcast interview recently with WORLD, an Asheville-based evangelical Christian news website, McCrory talked about his challenges on the job market.

The former Republican governor says HB2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”

Pro tip: If you have to tell people you’re not a bigot, you probably are.