Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Reading

Kavanaugh Cursed Either Way — Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg on the doomed nomination even if he’s confirmed.

One way or another, Brett Kavanaugh will have to pay.

He will not necessarily pay explicitly for whatever it was he did or didn’t do on that contested night long ago. Although if Christine Blasey Ford appears to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if she acquits herself credibly, then Kavanaugh is unlikely ever to sit on the Supreme Court – no matter what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says.  [Ed. note: Prof. Ford has agreed to appear before the committee on Thursday, September 27.]

Kavanaugh can wait to see if Ford’s allegations fall apart under questioning. It’s possible she’ll prove a jumble of contradictions. But from what we know so far, it’s hard to imagine she would. Ford doesn’t have to be sure of the color of paint on the wall 35 years ago. She only needs to be sure of the details of the attack as she has already described it.

Conservatives viewing her actions as a product of Democratic skulduggery fool themselves. Her allegations were problematic for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who first received them in confidence. If Democrats had plotted to weaponize the allegations for best effect, this late-inning muddle would not have resulted.

If McConnell is correct and Republicans manage to push Kavanaugh through to the high court, no matter what, Kavanaugh won’t be out of the woods.

This is not 1991, when Anita Hill accused soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And Kavanaugh, the beneficiary of virtually every privilege that status and education can afford, is not Thomas.

Democrats in 1991 were already the party of feminists. But many of the Democratic men in Congress – Barbara Mikulski was the lone Democratic woman in the Senate – were just as doltish toward a female accuser as Republican senators are today.

That’s no longer the case. Democrats have four women on the Judiciary Committee, and the men are so different from the cast of 1991 that Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has publicly mused that maybe he should cede his committee time to his two female colleagues who are former prosecutors and superior interviewers.

More important, the Republican Party of 1991 is not the party of 2018. The party leader then was George H.W. Bush, a war hero with pronounced social graces. The current leader is a habitual liar and crude demagogue who has been accused of sexual predation by more than a dozen women while continuing to behave as cad-in-chief.

The GOP of 2018 views the Supreme Court differently as well. Republicans were not facing electoral attrition in those days, desperately trying to sabotage the future. Republicans had held the presidency for three terms and were on the verge of a historic victory in the House over a corrupt and complacent Democratic majority.

Now, Republicans are investing in a partisan court to deliver partisan outcomes to advance partisan goals that are insulated from democratic accountability, such as elections and popular opinion, which Republicans increasingly fear.

That’s why they killed the legitimate nomination of Merrick Garland to the court. And it’s why bad faith saturates their every act concerning the court; they view it as an antidemocratic firewall to protect their culturally narrow and politically unpopular agenda.

It will be in Democrats’ political interest to delegitimize a partisan Republican court waging war against a Congress and state governments under Democratic control. When Democrats regain sufficient strength in Washington, Kavanaugh will appear to them as a wounded, vulnerable prey.

Democrats can revisit evidence of his misleading testimony. They can pursue documentary corroboration, among the vast trove to which Republicans denied the Democrats and the public access, to buttress potential claims of perjury. And if Ford is bullied out of her moment now, they can give the alleged victim a belated but still-powerful platform, designed to her specifications.

A public re-vetting of Kavanaugh would take place in a very different context – almost certainly after special counsel Robert Mueller has given an accounting of his investigation into Donald Trump. By the time Kavanaugh’s case would be reopened and relitigated by a Democratic majority, perhaps not until 2021, everything Trump previously touched will likely appear tainted, and suspect.

The Kavanaugh saga is still fluid and its outcome uncertain. Kavanaugh might yet make it to the Supreme Court. But barring the unlikely collapse of Ford’s allegations, questions of Kavanaugh’s legitimacy will not end. Sooner or later the chalice will reveal itself to be poisoned.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the rush to social media judgment.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” Jesus preaches that in the book of Luke.

But then, Jesus never had Twitter. Or, for that matter, Instagram or Facebook. He never had, in other words, one of the social media platforms on which millions of us routinely judge other people every day. It’s a habit we might do well to reconsider.

Not that anybody should feel remorse over the online humiliation administered to someone like Aaron Schlossberg, captured on video berating people at a New York City cafe for speaking Spanish. And the social media beatdown Jeffrey Whitman took after following another driver to his home in Columbus, Ohio to yell racial slurs should make no one’s eyes sting with sympathy tears.

But what about Geoffrey Owens, the former “Cosby Show” actor who was infamously job-shamed for working at Trader Joe’s? And what about Anthony Torres?

He was video recorded by another passenger a little over a week ago, shaving his face on a New Jersey Transit train as it pulled out of New York City. At one point he even flicked shaving cream to the floor. The clip was posted to Twitter – it has since been removed – where it racked up over 2 million views. The reaction was, not surprisingly, swift and brutal.

Torres was called “disgusting,” a “dumb drunk,” a “slob,” – and an “animal.” Then the Associated Press found him and got his side of the story.

“My life is all screwed up,” Torres told the AP. “That’s the reason I was shaving on the train.”

Torres, it turned out, came to that moment from a lifetime of hard knocks: peripatetic years of chasing work from state to state, sometimes sleeping in motels and bus stations, two strokes since 2016. That day, he was fresh from a homeless shelter. One of his brothers had bought him a ticket so he could go to another brother in South Jersey. Torres, 56, was shaving because he didn’t want to look like what he’s been through.

As to why he didn’t do the obvious — shave in the restroom — Torres’ brother Thomas told the AP that even as a child, Anthony lacked the ability to conceive the consequences of his actions. “When he did what he did, that, to him, was normal.”

After all this came out, the response was what you’d expect: lots of recrimination and a Go Fund Me account that, as of Thursday afternoon, had raised $37,000.

The Internet taketh away, the Internet giveth.

In the process, it leaveth an observer ruminating on the hazards of an era of digital lynch mobs wherein one can carp and fault-find without ever leaving the comfort of one’s couch. Problem is, there is something about viewing other people on screens — viewing them at a remove — that tends to objectify them, make them not quite real. And there is something about the anonymity of social media that does not encourage us to be our best and most compassionate selves.

That can be a toxic combination, as Owens and Torres would surely attest. It’s given us a culture of instant, online opprobrium that falls on both the evil and the unlucky with indiscriminate force. Social media empower us to shame the shameful, but they also allow us to victimize the vulnerable. What does it say about us when we can’t — or won’t — tell the difference? What does it say about what we’ve become?

Someone called Torres an “animal.” But he’s no animal. He’s just a guy whose life hasn’t worked out, just someone’s brother who was trying to get home.

And you can’t deny someone else’s humanity without losing a little of your own.

Doonesbury — Report from the swamp.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rush To Judgeship

The Republicans are in an awful hurry to get Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, pushing Prof. Ford with the “take-it-or-leave-it” deadline to testify on Monday.  It’s as if they know that if they can’t whoop him through next week, it’s all going to go sideways until after the election when perhaps the rising tide and gorge of voters see what they’re pulling off sweeps a bunch of Republicans out of office and their chances go a-glimmering.

Ironically, they were smugly content to keep the Scalia seat open on the court for over 400 days while Merrick Garland cooled his heels waiting for so much as a postcard from Mitch McConnell, and now all of a sudden it’s really important to get it done.  Kinda like there’s some political reason for it, huh?

A lot of us were hoping that they learned a lesson from the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991.  Unfortunately the lesson the Republicans learned and still practice is that you can vilify a witness and defend a predator and get your creepy guy onto the court, and that’s all that matters.  They’ve learned nothing from history, and to them the #MeToo movement is nothing but a bunch of shrill women with made-up stories and exaggerated claims because some dude brushed up against them in the elevator and didn’t fall over with apologies and a court settlement.  They got their guy on the Supreme Court and that’s all that matters.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Brett And Circuses

The first day of the Kavanaugh hearing devolved quickly to consternation and shouting matches.

Through most of the day, the nominee sat silently in the center of the room, alone at a table below the senators and in front of more than 100 reporters and nearly that many citizens who had waited for hours in line for their few minutes of inspirational democracy in Hart Senate Office Building Room 216.

All around him, democracy happened. It wasn’t pretty. The first seven hours of the Kavanaugh hearing broke down like this:

About three hours consisted of Democrats saying to their esteemed Republican colleagues that they did not provide the documents Democrats need to decide if Kavanaugh should get a lifetime appointment to the nation’s top court, with the Republicans responding to their friends across the aisle that yes, we actually did.

The debate in the greatest deliberative body in the world proceeded more or less as follows:

Did not.

Did so.

The Republicans and their pundit minions were shaking their heads and tut-tutting about the complete lack of decorum and class that the Democrats and protestors brought to the hearing, even though it came off as a tepid imitation of the warm-up acts for a Trump rally.  The shouters have nothing on the #MAGA crowds in airplane hangars and county fairs.

I think the most telling moment of the day was one that passed in silence, hardly even noticeable by the hundreds of reporters and flashbulbs.

It happened in the middle of a contentious meeting taking place in a country whose political divide seems to grow deeper by the day.

As the room broke for lunch during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a man approached the judge from behind and was able to get his attention. Kavanaugh turned to look at the man, who later identified himself on social media as Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting in February, as he stuck out his right hand. He appeared to say, “My daughter was murdered at Parkland.”

Kavanaugh gave the man a look but declined to shake his hand. It is not clear whether he heard Guttenberg’s introduction, though the two were standing within a few feet of each other. Another man, who a White House spokesman later said was a security guard, had come to Guttenberg’s side by that point.

(Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

The interaction was captured on camera — both in an arresting photograph shot by the Associated Press and multiple video cameras recording from different angles. And it quickly began to circulate on social media, an instant visual artifact trending as a stand-in for a politically complex and emotionally intense moment in American history.

As they say, a picture says a thousand words, so there you have it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Confederacy Of Dunces

If you turned on MSNBC yesterday, you probably saw the live testimony of Peter Strzok before the congressional committee made up of a majority of Trump lickspittles and GOP weirdos.  I saw some of it, but I leave it to Charles P. Pierce to wrap it up and deliver the verdict.

There’s no real point in recapping the highlights. The videos are going to be in regular rotation for quite a while now. It was, as it was called at various points in the hearing, a kangaroo court, a show trial, and a travesty of a sham of a mockery of a sham of two mockeries. But it was designed to be that. It was a performance piece. It was not a very well-cast one, and several of the lead actors fell into the orchestra pit, but it managed to run from curtain-up to curtain-down.

Have you ever seen those videos of fist-fights breaking out in parliaments of third-world countries where they really go at it with furniture and farm implements?  I wish we had that kind of decorum.

(HT to the memory of John Kennedy Toole.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Now That’s Chutzpah

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the one man who held up the appointment of a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia for nearly a year and who is the majority leader of the Senate, which means the Democrats can’t do much more than just watch, is cancelling summer break:

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement on Tuesday. “Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Yes, the party that decided on January 20, 2009, that Barack Obama wouldn’t get a thing done and they’d use every trick in the book to obstruct his agenda and make him a one-term president, is complaining about obstructionism by the Democrats.

The real reason, of course, is that the August recess before an election is prime campaign time and either McConnell is trying to hobble the Democrats from storming the beaches or he is trying to fend off a landslide — or both.  But c’mon; he’s got to come up with a better line of bullshit than this.

By the way, the House is going out for the whole month, so I don’t really see the point of having the Senate stay in session when there’s no one on the other side of the Capitol to do anything with what they come up with.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two Thoughts

First Thought: Up to now, Trump has been running through his personnel files and firing people who either worked for him in the past or who were part of his campaign and therefore buy into his agenda.  They slunk off and didn’t make a stink about losing their hard pass to the West Wing, and they didn’t write a book or go on cable TV and talk about what’s going on in Trumpland.

But now he’s going after people such as Andrew McCabe who have no tie-in with him other than the fact that they got in his way, and he’s getting it done in such a ham-handed way — 20 hours before his pension kicks in — that he’s basically unaware of what kind of blowback there might be.  And he’s apparently unaware that there’s a difference between firing a crony and firing someone who was just doing their job.

History has shown that Trump is made up of venality and cowardice, and if someone pushes back, he runs away.  He’s a lot of bark but no bite, and I think if Andrew McCabe has the goods on him, be they memos or incriminating testimony, the shit will truly be in the fan.

Second Thought: Watch very carefully how Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell respond to the antics in the White House.  When Trump moves in to fire Robert Mueller — which he will inevitably do — and they do nothing but send thoughts and prayers, they’re just as complicit in the crimes as Trump.  We’re going to need to truly work up a wave in the November elections to the point that the Democrats and opponents of Trump have enough people elected to render Trump irrelevant and impotent for the remainder of his miserable term in office.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Shutdown Again

This may all be over by the time the sun comes up today, but for now we have another shutdown.

The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan spending bill Friday morning, but not before the federal government shut down when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delayed the vote past midnight to complain about the budget deficit. It was the second government shutdown in less than three weeks.

The spending legislation passed 71-28, with wide bipartisan support. The bill would reopen the government while showering hundreds of billions of dollars on defense and domestic priorities, speeding disaster aid to hurricane-hit regions, and lifting the federal borrowing limit for a year. But first it must pass the House, where opposition from the left and the right made the outcome uncertain.

House votes were expected later Friday morning.

The shutdown was so unanticipated that the Office of Management and Budget didn’t tell federal agencies to prepare for it until Thursday evening. But depending on House action the closure could end up being brief and having little impact on federal workers and the public.

Or not.  You never know with these flakes.  So we wait and wonder why they get paid as much as they do to do as little as possible.

Update: And we’re back in business, such as it is.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dream On

Via the Washington Post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor Wednesday for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms.

The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from “dreamers” and citing Bible passages. Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.

The speech underscored that Democrats lack the leverage they insisted they would have in spending showdowns with Republicans. Pelosi and others repeatedly promised immigration activists and the party base they would force a vote sparing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation after President Trump rescinded the program in September.

Instead, Democrats’ ineffectiveness has angered those same activists and the voters critical in a midterm election year with control of the House at stake.

Pelosi, who began talking shortly after 10 a.m., sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill, the one glimmer of hope on an issue that seems to defy resolution.

“Why should we in the House be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership? What’s wrong? There’s something wrong with this picture,” Pelosi said.

Aides to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he intends to allow debate on immigration legislation that is supported by Trump. But when the debate might happen — and what kind of bill Trump can support — is still unclear.

I admire her stamina, her persistence, and her willingness to make the point that as of now, the Democrats are basically powerless in the House to leverage anything out of the Republicans.

The only way to get their way is to be in the majority, so that’s what needs to happen in November.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Must-Not See TV

Given my nocturnal habits and complete lack of interest in the C-SPAN version of reality TV, I’m not going to watch the SOTU tonight, and you can’t make me.

To be fair, I have a tough time watching it no matter who’s delivering it.  I could barely make it through President Obama’s speeches, and I liked them.  It’s not just the late hour — 9 p.m. usually has me turning out the light — it’s that what he was proposing was pearls before swine.  The GOP-led Congress wasn’t going to pass anything he proposed, and his well-written rhetoric was wasted on those clowns.  The post-game analysis by the punditry is an exercise in epigrams, and the only thing worth waiting for is to see if Chris Matthews makes a complete sugared-up fool of himself.  On that he rarely disappoints.

So the TV will be off and I’ll be reading.  The book on my Kindle now is Philip Roth’s excellent “The Plot Against America,” his 2004 alternative look at history as if FDR lost the 1940 election to a nativist isolationist who appealed to the worst instincts of a right-wing racist political base.  It’s not so alternative after all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It All Comes Down To Trust

So we have a bill to end the shutdown.  It isn’t perfect; the hard-cores on both sides hate it and there are cries of “Sellout!” and “Sucker!” from the likes of the Tea Party to Code Pink.  That usually means it’s a deal made to end an immediate impasse with promises of goodies for both sides later, neither of whom trust the other to keep their word.

That’s the main question: Do you trust them to keep their word?

Charles P. Pierce just before final passage:

If this bill passes, CHIP will be financed for the next six years, and that’s a very good thing. The military will get its money, and a lot of people will be mollified by that, I guess. (Also, the campaign talking point that the Democrats are stealing money from Our Troops to give it to the various branches of MS-13 is somewhat blunted. Golf clap. They’re going to use it anyway.) And, depending on your relative innate optimism, Schumer and the Democrats didn’t give up much at all but, rather, decided to live to fight in February on funding the government, and to fight on DACA in March. But, for me, McConnell is a rare combination of being ruthless and being truthless, and the House has lost its mind, and the president* has disappeared. And, these days, my innate optimism is not exactly brimming.

What gives me pause is what I saw and heard over the weekend and on Monday. A political party that wants to eliminate entire Cabinet departments defended a president* whose administration* has refused to staff vital positions all over the government by weeping crocodile tears over the plight of furloughed federal employees. And Tailgunner Ted Cruz, cornered in the basement of some Senate office building, insisting that he always has opposed government shutdowns. (I thought Kasie Hunt of MSNBC was going to be orbiting Mars by the time that little episode ended.) The truth is not in these people because, given the nature of their political base, and given the essential political immorality of their donor class, it hasn’t had to be for a very long time.

So, I’m not going to scream, “Sellout!” nor sing “Kumbaya.” I am just going to sum up the state of play in three questions.

Do you trust a promise from Mitch McConnell?

Do you think Paul Ryan can be trusted to control his caucus sufficiently to pass a bill based on a promise from Mitch McConnell?

Do you think the president* can be trusted to sign a bill based on a promise from Mitch McConnell?

Your mileage may certainly vary.

If it gets to February 8 and somehow Mitch McConnell backs out of the deal because he didn’t like the way Elizabeth Warren looked at him in the hallway, or Paul Ryan can’t or doesn’t try to control his caucus, or Trump hears something on Fox and Friends that calls into question the spheroid shape of the planet and he tweets his madness, the government will shut down yet again and this time there’s no way they can plausibly blame it on the Democrats.  (They still will; I said “plausibly,” and that’s an adjective that gets no respect in Washington.)  Then we start this whole thing over again, but it will squarely be on the DACA situation with no extraneous distractions such as military pay or CHIP.

No, I don’t trust Mitch McConnell any further than I can fly to the moon on gossamer wings.  But if this blows up, the turds will be in his punch bowl and the fun part will be seeing how he explains how he can’t trust himself.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shutdown

Via the Washington Post:

The federal government shut down for the first time in more than four years Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

It seems pretty ironic to blame this on the Democrats since the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and the White House.  And why should the Democrats negotiate with Trump?  After all, the policy has been pretty simple all along: we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

The more the Trump folks try to pin this on the Democrats, the more you know that they know this shit is on them.

So as of now, Saturday, January 20 — the first anniversary of the Trump regime — a lot of people who work in the government are furloughed.  That means sent home without getting paid for the time off.  But it also trickles down to private contractors who get paid for working for the government; everyone from the folks who provide food service to the various departments to the military contractors who are providing material for the Department of Defense.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Make Them Pay

Now that the Republicans have passed their massive — $1.5 trillion in deficit increase can only be described as massive — tax bill, the vow among a lot of Democrats has been to make the GOP pay for this highway robbery and con game at the polls in 2018 and 2020.

But that won’t happen by itself.  We have seen all too often how inertia and propaganda have paralyzed organized opposition from the Democrats who have enough trouble among themselves to get their shit together to mount a campaign.  The fact that Doug Jones won in the special election is great, but that he won by less than ten points against an alleged child molester and a proven Constitutional scofflaw means that they still have a lot of hard work to do.

The Republicans will mount a rabid defense of the indefensible, using every means possible to suppress the vote, demonize the candidates, put the fear of Jesus in the hands of the paid-off preachers and religious hypocrites, and channel it all through Fox News at a rate that would make Josef Goebbels blush with pride.  And the response from the Democrats and progressives must be swift, organized, and merciless.  No Republican should go unchallenged for any seat in Congress, no district should be considered safe, and no state legislature should be unchallenged in their attempts to gerrymander the state into being held hostage by 35% of the popular vote.

Can Democrats and progressives do it?  Can they elect enough of their kind to put an end to this regime of smug kleptocracy?  They’ve done it in fits and starts in the past, but in the face of this boorish and brazen incompetence and possible treason, the hard truth is that if they cannot, then they don’t deserve to win.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Ryan Game

The only way I see Paul Ryan resigning is if he can’t keep the GOP base happy and can’t pass the Republican agenda.  That’s pretty much what happened to his predecessor John Boehner.

So far Speaker Ryan has been unable to do either, but he’s not going to give up just yet.  He’s going to wait until the Democrats take back one or both Houses of Congress in 2018 or until the entire Trump administration collapses and he’s next in line for presidential succession.

Brave Sir Marco – Updated

Via the Washington Post:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) threatened Thursday to vote against Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax overhaul unless it further expands a child tax credit to millions of working families, leaving GOP leaders searching for answers on a final deal that had appeared to be on the verge of sailing through the House and Senate.

Rubio, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), wants Republican leaders to include the expansion as they reconcile separate tax measures passed by the House and Senate, working to craft a final compromise bill that could pass both chambers and be sent President Trump for his signature.

GOP leaders had said Wednesday they believed that they had reached a broad agreement that both chambers could pass, and they planned to unveil the package Friday morning with hopes of voting on it early next week. But opposition from Rubio and perhaps Lee — who has not yet decided whether to support the bill, a spokesman said Thursday — could delay or derail the tax effort.

Mr. Rubio will hold out just long enough to get the headlines and the attention that he craves before he caves.  The leadership will come up with some token concession — a few million here, a maybe a little cut there — and he’ll be on board.  This is how the game is played, and he knows it.

Marco Rubio used to be the darling — the “Republican Savior,” as Time magazine once profiled him — of the establishment GOP; the next gen of the GOP that would take them out of the Bush era and into the bright sunlight of real 21st century conservatism: anti-choice and pro-gun but hip enough to have gay friends and quote hip-hop.  Then Trump came along and trashed the joint and took with them Mr. Rubio’s Oval Office aspirations along with demeaning him like a schoolyard bully.  He tried to quit the whole thing in a huff, saying he hated being in the Senate anyway and it was all a waste of time.  But then the realization that being the used car manager for Norman Braman in Miami — even if they were pre-owned Rolls Royces — would be too much of an ego deflater, so he promptly switched back to running for re-election.  Because Florida has no visible Democratic Party mechanism, he kept his seat.

Now he needs some way of getting atop the heap again so he can make a plausible run in 2020 against the wreckage of what’s left of Trump, and a commercial intoning, “He stood up against the tide of tax reform that threatened little children” is just what he needs to get another fifteen minutes.

He’s going to vote for the bill pretty much as it is.  He was going to all along.

Update: Told you.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Franken Sense

Via the Minneapolis StarTribune:

– Democratic Party leaders united Wednesday in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign from the U.S. Senate, an extraordinary rebuke to the Minnesota Democrat as he faced a new allegation of sexual harassment.

Franken planned to make an announcement about his future Thursday morning on the Senate floor. A top Democratic official told the Star Tribune that Franken planned to resign, but the senator’s staff insisted no final decision had been made.

It was clear that Franken’s political career was hanging by a thread, as a wave of Democrats throughout the day — first female senators, followed by many male colleagues and then other party leaders, said it was time for him to step down from the seat he’s held since 2009.

“I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first of Franken’s Democratic colleagues to come out against him, posted on Facebook.

If Franken resigns, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a temporary replacement. A high-ranking Democratic source told the Star Tribune that the likeliest replacement is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a close Dayton ally who would not be expected to run for the seat in an ensuing special election in November 2018. Dayton is expected to move quickly if Franken resigns.

I’m not going to pile on Sen. Franken about his behavior.  No one — least of all Mr. Franken himself — has made excuses, called it “fake news,” or denied it.  He’s apologized sincerely many times over, and not tried to say that because he has made an attempt to make amends, he should stay in office.  Sometimes the amends include giving up, and it looks like he’s doing it.

But he’s also being used as the bargaining chip in a political battle to claim the moral high ground against the Republicans, Trump, and Roy Moore in Alabama.  In order for the Democrats to have a clean road to campaign against Mr. Moore and his history, the Democrats have to show that they won’t tolerate bad — or possibly criminal — conduct from anyone, including a popular and well-liked figure such as Mr. Franken.

I’ve been around long enough to know that this is how the game is played.  It’s not exactly “House of Cards” (although the irony of Kevin Spacey losing the gig because he’s a sexual predator proves that karma can be a drama queen) nor “Game of Thrones” because there be no dragons here, but moving the pieces on the chessboard requires a willingness to give up a knight to protect the king.  It makes sense politically.  The one thing I’m not sure of is how well it serves the people of Minnesota, but that calculus seems to be only a minor factor in the strategy.

The hard truth is that it may all be for naught.  The race in Alabama is still too close to call, and if Roy Moore wins, the only thing it will prove is that the Democrats are willing to sacrifice in order to demonstrate their scruples while the Republicans are all too happy to show they have none and win anyway.  And we knew that long before the pictures came out.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Something Rotten

Paul Krugman on the GOP tax bill:

…this whole process involves a level of bad faith we haven’t seen in U.S. politics since the days when defenders of slavery physically assaulted their political foes on the Senate floor.

There are two further things worth pointing out about this moral rot.

First, it is not, at a fundamental level, a story about Donald Trump, bad as he is: The rot pervades the whole Republican Party. Some details of the legislation do look custom-designed to benefit the Trump family, but both the broad outlines and the fraudulence of the sales effort would have been pretty much the same under any Republican president.

Second, the rot is wide as well as deep.

I’m not just talking about Republican politicians, although the tax debate should dispel any remaining illusions about their motives: Just about every G.O.P. member of Congress, including the sainted John McCain, is willing to put partisan loyalty above principle, voting for what they have to know is terrible and irresponsible legislation. The point, however, is that the epidemic of bad faith extends well beyond elected or appointed officials.

It was remarkable, for example, to see a group of Republican-leaning economists with serious professional credentials put out an open letter clearly intended to lend aid and comfort to Mnuchinesque promises of miraculous growth. True, they didn’t explicitly claim that tax cuts would pay for themselves. But they didn’t clearly state that they wouldn’t, either, leaving Mnuchin free to claim — as they have to have known he would — that the letter vindicated his position.

The Republicans are so desperate to pass something — anything — that they will ram this through without knowing what’s in it.  And in its present form, the deficit will hit $1 trillion by 2026.  There’s a last-minute rush to try to prevent that from happening, but dollars to donuts, the bill will remain in roughly its present form and screw over the people who voted these jokers into office.

But what do they care?  By the time the shit hits the fan they will either be dead or lobbying — same thing — and the fundamental damage will be done, all for the sake of having something to brag about on Fox and Friends.