January 31, 2017

Upbeat Post of the Day

Our white Labrador Retriever

Are you talkin’ to me?


Jeff Sessions for Attorney General?

Senator Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren):

Jeff Sessions is so dangerous that a Republican-controlled Senate rejected his nomination to a federal judgeship 30 years ago.

Rejected for accusations of racism, which raises the question of how he can be approved for attorney general of the United States, the country’s “top cop."

I don’t recall the hearings or the testimony. From the article linked above it appears Sessions is mainly guilty of right-wing politics, including taking a hard line on immigration. Not exactly a crime, nor a disqualifier for the office of AG.

Sticking out like a throbbing sore thumb, however, is his opposition to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sessions (The Huffingont Post):

“It is intrusive. The Supreme Court on more than one occasion has described it legally as an intrusive act, because you’re only focused on a certain number of states,” Sessions said of the act in response to a question from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “Normally when Congress passes law it applies to the whole country. So it’s a very unusual thing for a law to be passed that targets only a few states, but they had a factual basis.”

Sessions added that the act “changed the whole course of history,” mainly in the South.

(Emphasis mine.)

Yes, it is intrusive. It needed to be so. The Voting Rights Act’s purpose is guaranteeing access to the polls for voters long denied it on the basis of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other cocked-up means of discriminating against them in the Jim Crow South. It was a cornerstone of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Intrusive measures weren’t required in other states where, despite existing prejudice against non-white citizens, everyone had unfettered access to the polls.

On the basis of his own words about the Voting Rights Act, Jeff Sessions is wrong for the office of attorney general of the United States.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Jeff #Sessions #Voitng #Rights #Act #1965 #discrimination #Elizabeth #Warren

Building an Autocracy in the U.S.

A damning examination of the nascent Trump administration by David Frum culminates in this advice (The Atlantic):

Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state. Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected. Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily. Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well. Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens. Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets. Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders. Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

(Emphasis mine.)

Yesterday brought the sacking of the most public civil servant to date, Sally Yates, the acting attorney general of the United States. She was fired for directing the Department of Justice to not defend the president’s “unlawful” order banning a narrowly-defined refugee group from immigration to the United States. Yates (The New York Times):

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful”

It is not an overstatement to say the republic is under siege from within. A demagogue callously indifferent to the proper functioning of our government has been elected chief executive, his hand guided by racist muckraker Steve Bannon. They have the full-throated support of those who want to tear apart 228 years of constitutional democracy, and rebuild it in some buffoonish image of “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

If you are not taking action against this administration by such means as mentioned by Frum, you are acquiescing to it. You will be complicit in its results.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Yates #DoJ #immigration #muslims #Bannon

The Republican Fausts

David Brooks, in today’s editorial - The New York Times:

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

Those who self-identify with the GOP, voted for Mr. Trump, yet didn’t know this are fools. Trump has been a Democrat, a Republican, an independent over the decades. He’s claimed positions all over the map. The one consistent position he’s taken is pro-Trump.

I thought a Clinton win would mark a crushing defeat for the GOP. Turns out it was a Trump victory that’ll do it.

Brooks is a good read.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #republican #democrat #trumpite

History Repeats

Mr. Trump’s firing of acting AG Yates rang a bell for me. Then I remembered: the last acting AG who defied presidential intent was James Comey. I wrote about him just a week ago.

Comey kept his job working for President G. W. Bush. Yates wasn’t so fortunate.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Yates #Comey #attorneyGeneral #fired

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General

Chris Geidner - BuzzFeed News:

“Sally Yates has been relieved,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted on Monday night, hours after Yates, the acting attorney general, had ordered department lawyers not to defend President Trump’s executive order in court.

You saw that coming the moment Yates ordered the DoJ to not defend Mr. Trump’s ridiculous executive order banning refugees from seven countries. Yates, a political appointee, served at the pleasure of the president.

The following is worth keeping in mind, because similar removals will happen in the coming months (5 USC section 3331, Oath of Office):

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Everyone serving in the federal government, from the vice-president on down to the newest employee, and all of the US military recite that oath upon entry to duty. Refuse the oath, you don’t get the job. As the top executive, the president’s oath adds the words “preserve, protect” in place of “support.”

Note we do not swear allegiance to the president, the Congress, or the Court. This is the most obvious and direct example of the US being a nation of laws, not of men (John Adams, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts).

Yates willingly paid a price for her action, but she didn’t violate her oath. Good for her.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Yates #DoJ #immigrant #refugee #ban

January 30, 2017

Donald Trump, a Pawn in Steve Bannon’s Game

Call it a twofer - when Trump goes, so does his puppet master.

Emily Jane Fox - Vanity Fair:

The president himself, Bannon has admitted in the past, is just one piece of the puzzle. Trump is a “blunt instrument for us,” Bannon told Ken Stern for Vanity Fair last summer. “I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.”

#Trump #GOP #fraud #unfit #vanityfair

Worth a Thousand Words

Share of coal and nat gas for US electric generation over time

Count one tick mark back from 2010, then look up. Note the steepening of the darker line’s slope.

That’s called a legacy.

#Obama #coal #naturalGas #cleanAir

Donald Trump's First Week

Eliot A. Cohen - The Atlantic:

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

So much packed into that paragraph. So much that cannot stand. To quote a great man, "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

Reading, watching, and thinking on what’s transpired over the past week I’m in agreement with that paragraph. This will not stand.

#Trump #GOP #fraud

Upbeat Post for the Day

The AP:

Former President George H.W. Bush has been released from a Houston hospital where he received treatment for pneumonia for more than two weeks.

From ICU to home in two weeks. Good news, indeed.


Wanted: Factory Workers, Degree Required

Jeffrey J. Selingo - The New York Times:

“In our factories, there’s a computer about every 20 or 30 feet,” said Eric Spiegel, who recently retired as president and chief executive of Siemens U.S.A. “People on the plant floor need to be much more skilled than they were in the past. There are no jobs for high school graduates at Siemens today.”

Ditto at John Deere dealerships, which repair million-dollar farming machinery filled with several dozen computers. Fixing tractors and grain harvesters now requires advanced math and comprehension skills and the ability to solve problems on the fly. “The toolbox is now a computer,” said Andy Winnett, who directs the company’s agricultural program at Walla Walla Community College in Washington.

These are the types of good-paying jobs that President Trump, blaming trade deals for the decline in manufacturing, has promised to bring back to working-class communities. But according to a study by Ball State University, nearly nine in 10 jobs that disappeared since 2000 were lost to automation in the decades-long march to an information-driven economy, not to workers in other countries.

(Emphasis mine.)

This mirrors a conversation we’ve had in our home for over two decades. The well-paying jobs available to people with no more than a high school diploma, once plentiful even as late as the 1970s, are not only fewer in the US every year, but not coming back from foreign manufacturing centers. Even in those foreign centers, work comes in the form of highly repetitious manual labor assembling electronic devices. Those, too, will shortly be replaced by automation.

Erecting trade barriers, making business difficult for companies importing parts and finished goods from outside the US won’t change this. Any new factory built in the US will be filled with robotics, computer networks, and workstations. Those who work on the equipment will require special training, often including programming skills. Those who design and build this equipment will likely hold advanced degrees.

The divide, then, between the “front row kids” and the “back row kids” isn’t likely to narrow without directly addressing its root cause: lack of adequate education and unwillingness or inability to move oneself to where that education and resulting employment are available.

None of this is to denigrate the value of hometowns. Hometowns aren’t only where we come from, they’re also where we wind up and start a family's next generation. The two need not be in the same place.

#employment #education #trade #protectionism #frontrowkids #backrowkids

Trump Lies About Airport Problems

Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu - Reuters:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday continued to defend his controversial immigration order, saying disruptions at airports over the weekend were due to Delta Air Lines and protesters, and that U.S. Secretary John Kelly has said the implementation of the new restrictions is going well.

“Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage … protesters and the tears of Senator (Chuck) Schumer. Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!” Trump said on Twitter.

Delta suffered a system outage Sunday night.

Mr. Trump’s Executive Order was issued two days before the quoted Delta Airlines computer outage. Crowds spontaneously gathered in the hours after. Two federal court judges separately limited the effect of Trump’s nonsense Saturday. Delta’s computer problems had nothing to do with crowds of protesters, disruptions at airports, or anything else to do with Trump’s political gaffe.

Lie about the past to control the present. Trump is nothing if not predictable.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #incompetent #executiveorder #immigrants #refugees

Key Group Of Hill GOPers Breaks With Trump

Lauren Fox - TPM:

The Republicans are the same crew who spoke out early and often against Trump’s immigration screeds on the campaign trail. So far Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have stood against Trump’s actions.

The backlash against Trump has been broad and come from all corners of the Republican Party in Congress.

In a joint statement Sunday, Graham and McCain warned that Trump’s actions were little more than “a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

This is heartening, but they need to be louder and more aggressive  in their dissent, particularly when the new Congress begins debate on actual legislation.

Mr. Trump has had his days writing Executive Orders. The hard part of the job is working out and agreeing to legislation. Mr. Trump doesn’t know how to do that. May his way be paved with the wreckage of wrong-headed, xenophobic efforts from today until he's tossed out of office, one way or another.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #xenophobia #refugees #immigrants #incompetent

January 29, 2017

A Counterproductive Immigration Order

David Frum - The Atlantic:

If the goal is to exclude radical Muslims from the United States, the executive order Trump announced on Friday seems a highly ineffective way to achieve it. The Trump White House has incurred all the odium of an anti-Muslim religious test, without any attendant real-world benefit. The measure amounts to symbolic politics at its most stupid and counterproductive. Its most likely practical effect will be to aggravate the political difficulty of dealing directly and speaking without euphemisms about Islamic terrorism.


We need a new paradigm for a new time. The social trust and social cohesion that characterize an advanced society like the United States are slowly built and vulnerable to erosion. They are eroding. Trump is more the symptom of that erosion than the cause.

Trump’s executive order has unleashed chaos, harmed lawful U.S. residents, and alienated potential friends in the Islamic world. Yet without the dreamy liberal refusal to recognize the reality of nationhood, the meaning of citizenship, and the differences between cultures, Trump would never have gained the power to issue that order.

I’ve been reading about the “irrelevance” of borders since the rise of the internet, yet the need for well-attended and defended borders re-asserts itself every few years. As Frum wisely writes, Mr. Trump’s unintelligent and over-reaching act makes it more difficult to deal forthrightly with actual threats. He claims his actions are against “Islamic terrorists,” yet somehow Saudi Arabia didn’t make the list. America has actually been attacked by Saudis inspired by radical Islam.

Trump is the weight at the end of the pendulum, now swinging hard right. The thing about pendulums is, they always revert to mean.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #terrorism #immigration #radicalislam

Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees

Michael D. Shear, Nicholas Kulish, Alan Feuer - The New York Times:

A federal judge in Brooklyn came to the aid of scores of refugees and others who were trapped at airports across the United States on Saturday after an executive order signed by President Trump, which sought to keep many foreigners from entering the country, led to chaotic scenes across the globe.

Minutes after the judge’s ruling in New York City, another judge, Leonie M. Brinkema of Federal District Court in Virginia, issued a temporary restraining order for a week to block the removal of any green card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport.

Mr. Trump’s first no from the federal judiciary. His thin skin and easily bruised ego ought to have him seething.

Trump’s hastily implemented order banning travel to the US for even those with a green card was ill-advised. Tellingly, it’s reported that no-one in the Departments of State, Homeland Security or Justice had any idea what was going on. Counsel came from Steve Bannon, previously executive chair of Breitbart “News,” now Senior Counselor to the President.

No small wonder at the ensuing fiasco.

Mr. Trump’s response (CNN):

“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump told reporters. “You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely and we're going to have a very, very strict ban, and we're going to have extreme vetting”

Lies about the past and truth about the future conspire to give control over the present, if you believe the lies. Don’t be fooled by the fraud.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #refugees #immigration #travel #judiciary #executiveorders #breitbart #stevebannon #bannon

January 28, 2017

∴ Think on This

I’m thinking on the work of two writers, both of whom lay blame for the rise of authoritarian extremism in America on economic decline rather than bigotry alone.

Umair Haque - Medium:

The great gift of accepting that racism has a material factor which can cause it to explode — stagnation — is that then we can do something about it. Then and only then. If we moralize, we can’t, remember? When we accept that bigotry and hatred are unleashed by despair and frustration, in every human heart — not just “theirs”, but even in ours, should we be so unlucky — then and only then can we begin to act to prevent it, mitigate it, stop it.

Bigotry, Haque claims, is the moral cause of extremism, lit by the match of stagnation (and the ever-present fear of change, I’d add). He makes financial economy and racism co-equal, leading lock-step to authoritarian extremism.

Who couldn’t agree? A slow or stalled economy gives way to “me first,” and in a mixed ethnicity culture such as America’s, that becomes “us first.” In our present political distress, “America first.”

Thank you so much for giving voice to our baser instincts, Mr. Trump.

Assigning stagnation to the roll of instigator means we should also see racism in most or all of the towns blighted by the close of factories and other manufacturing facilities. We should see isolated pockets of minority communities, trapped by the too-high cost of joining other neighborhoods. And we do.

Yet there’s little evidence of greater bigotry and racial conflict in those communities than, say, functional economic centers like New York, Chicago, and Houston. There’s little evidence that the communities that supported automobile manufacturing in the north and cattle herding and exchange in Texas and Oklahoma harbor more racism than, say, leftist communities such as Berkeley, Boston, and Atlanta.

Remember that, as Michael Gerson phrased it for George H. W. Bush, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” flowed like honey from the best-intentioned liberal enclaves. There’s not a little benefit to be had from being the only hand up for struggling minority Americans.

Bigotry is a child of many fathers. Anyone can find reason to throw shade at black, immigrant, Muslim, atheist (add your group here) Americans, and have, and continue to do so when it’s convenient or expedient.

Economics has kept many a minority man and woman down. “You can’t work here” greeted those emerging from the Jim Crow South last century. It’s not the only cause of racial and ethnic hatred.

Often, bigotry is simply a fear of people who don’t look like us, bow to other gods, speak with an accent. How many families were denied access to housing in neighborhoods where they weren’t welcome? These were people who could afford the cost of living in these places, and those denying them entry weren’t suffering economic depression themselves.

Haque’s thesis is a partial explanation of why we are where we are in 2017 America.

Spend time reading through Chris Arnade’s work about the underclass - those out of work, undereducated and without much hope of improvement - to see the seeds of stagnation and hopelessness. Arnade’s trigger, like Haque’s, is economic.

Those who value education, knowledge, employment and are willing to move and earn a college degree (the “front row kids”) are politically pitted against those who value hometowns and well-paying lifelong jobs, the kind available with a high school diploma (the “back row kids”). A bigotry emerges among those who valued the move, the work, the career, looking back and down upon those who stayed behind. (The Guardian):

America has changed fundamentally over the last 35 years, and I saw and heard the impact of those changes. America had finally started upending a longstanding and ugly racial hierarchy, removing legal barriers that had made the playing field anything but level. For this, minorities overwhelmingly supported the new system, despite still suffering economically and socially more than white Americans.

Yet we replaced that system with one based on schooling, building a playing field that was tilted dramatically towards anyone with the “right” education. The jobs requiring muscle decreased (many going overseas) while the jobs requiring school increased. Compounding the pain from this, we started giving the winners a much larger share of the profits.

Arnade’s underclass isn’t a racial or ethnic group per se, but those stuck in communities our economy has forgotten. Facing stagnation, these communities turned out for Mr. Trump.

But generations of Americans have picked up and moved in search of better than they could find in their home town. What happened in America after the 1990s? How many of the successful, “front row kids” actually had advanced degrees, vs. a simple willingness to move, to act, to do whatever was necessary to succeed? How many had the singular motivator of a parent’s firm prod?

In short, if America isn’t working for people in a community, what happened to voting with your feet?

I get the argument. I don’t get the not doing something about it for oneself.

Name every form of hatred you’ve seen or read of in the ascendance of the extreme Mr. Trump.

Bigotry, avoiding rental of his New York City properties to blacks in the 1970s.

Misogyny, claiming to unpenalized sexual assault of women: “grab them by the pussy.”

Xenophobia, his executive order blocking immigrants from entry to the United States as he promised during his 2016 campaign.

Add in narcissism, his insatiable need for adulation and success.

If you agree with Haque’s thesis, stagnation lit the match that led to Trump. We had a tough stretch of it 2007-2009. Unemployment blossomed 2007-2010.

According to Arnade, those living in communities “left behind” by off-shoring of jobs in the 1980s and 1990s, and the rise of automation in the workplace in the 2000s and beyond found themselves in a dead end. Little opportunity at home, and apparently little effort to move where there was.

Behold, the sparks of extremism in America.

I have a hard time buying into the full thesis, though.

How many actually listened and acted, rather than scoffed, when candidates Clinton and Gore campaigned on retraining the American workforce? How many followed through?

In short, how do we delineate between economic stagnation and intellectual stagnation, and how much credit should we assign willingness and action to better oneself?

We can begin at first principles. A bigot stuck in dead end America, or living it up in a penthouse, is still a bigot. Putting others down to feel better about oneself is a losing game. Living through hard times need not make you hate your fellows, even if they’re doing better than you. There is no denying the economic and cultural violence done to people of color in the centuries before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and after.

My tentative take for now is that we’re seeing two long-run effects: of institutionalized racism and oppression, an unacknowledged history of America that’s always been right in front of us, and of stagnated minds and effort in a generation or two of Americans who’ve found their champion in a man besieged by personality disorder and enabled by opportunists.

America is not blameless, not its people, its politics, nor its polity. Scratch the bottom of the barrel and there’s more there than the weight of the rest of the culture bearing down on it. There’s inertia, there’s intellectual laziness evolved into distrust of intellect, there’s what Asimov famously remarked on:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”

No it isn’t, and those who believe it is are reaping what they sowed by believing it so. They will be the first to feel the sting of Mr. Trump’s ignorance.

I don’t have the full answer, yet. I’m thinking on it, reading, working my way to something. Economics and racism igniting authoritarianism makes some sense. Not all.

We’ll find it; we always do. May it not come too late. Cultures and governance do have their limits.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ChrisArnade #arnade #UmairHaque #haque #extremism #bigotry #stagnation #culture #unemployment

Upbeat Post for the Day

Sleeping Labrador retrievers


A Better Idea for Congressional Republicans

Here’s an essay by David Frum in The Atlantic about how the GOP should handle the Affordable Care Act now that they’ve gained the White House.

Frum, a conservative thinker and generally smart fellow, wrote this over a year before the 2016 election. There are some very good ideas within. First, the obvious:

“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed.”


Since 2010, the ACA has survived dozens of repeal votes in Congress, three national elections, and two Supreme Court challenges, the most recent of them only last week.

Second, some suggestions for improving the law:

Republicans should accept the Affordable Care Act as a permanent new fact of American society. They should accept universal healthcare coverage as a welcome aspect of any advanced democracy. Instead of fruitlessly seeking to repeal a law now that will in 2016 enter into its fourth year of operation, they should specify the law’s most obnoxious flaws and seek a mandate to reform them.


1) Fix the funding mechanism.


2) Let states run their Medicaid programs their way.


3) End the employer mandate.

Give it a ten-minute read for the details and see what you think.

The ACA is a distinctly American take on mass health insurance for its population. Unlike other western nations, where health care has been nationalized, the ACA incorporates private enterprise into the law. That goes a long way to explain why it’s so messy.

Another alternative is to expand Medicare to cover everyone, cradle to grave, and increase that portion of the FICA tax to cover it. This is basically what most Americans age 65 and over have right now. I’ve seen it up close with my mom. It works. It could use a tweak to the tax rate to cover the bulk of the retiring Baby Boomers, but it does work.

#ACA #Medicare #health #insurance #national #politics #david #frum

∴ Republican Lawmakers Fret

The GOP is just now realizing that they’ve become the dog that caught the car: they don’t know what to do with it. Horrifying how much of contemporary American politics resembles a Dark Knight movie, isn’t it?

Mike DeBonis - The Washington Post:

“We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created” with repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). “That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”

A dirty little secret about the GOP notion to do away with the Affordable Care Act is that they’ve never had an actual plan to do so. The House of Representatives has voted to repeal it dozens of times over the last six years, with a Republican majority carrying the vote each time. Not once has such a bill passed the Senate. And not once did the House GOP include a plan to replace the insurance that would be pulled out from under Americans who’ve just recently been able to secure it.

Whatever they end up doing this year, as the above surreptitiously gathered conversation among GOP members in Philadelphia this past week indicates, they know they’ll own the result. Recall the backlash against the enactment of the ACA? Then-President Obama’s party lost its majority in the House in the following mid-term election in what’s considered a direct repudiation of it.

Any ACA replacement will look a lot like the ACA. Why? The major aspects of the ACA are the parts that make it work, without which the exchanges collapse.

Consider the individual mandate, requiring everyone to secure a health insurance policy. Remove that key element and mainly the ill, elderly and those with or about to have children will apply. The markets tip toward the most costly insured, making it unprofitable for insurance companies to do business. Companies will pull out of unprofitable markets.

We’re already seeing this happen due to the low penalty for not complying with the mandate.

Consider the requirement that young people be able to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy until they turn age 26. That’s a hugely popular aspect of the ACA. It also adds generally healthy young people to the pool of insured, and charges their parents for the pleasure. Those additional premiums prevent the pool of insured from tipping toward those claiming benefits. Remove this aspect and the market tips unprofitable, and insurers exit.

Consider the ban on refusing insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. Another hugely popular provision, one that tips the pool of insured toward more claims, and a reason in itself to strengthen the individual mandate. This aspect simply cannot be dropped from any national health insurance law.

Point by point, much of what would constitute an as-of-yet unwritten replacement for the ACA will by necessity resemble nothing so much as the ACA itself. 

My prediction: the GOP has trapped itself in a gunfight without any ammunition, has awoken to the problem, and will not repeal the ACA at all. Instead they’ll work to remove or improve the parts most onerous to their constituency. Funny thing about that constituency, though. So many of them only have health insurance by way of the ACA. Rock, meet hard place.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ACA #repeal #replace #Republican

January 27, 2017

Upbeat Post for the Day

Zele dog 8 weeks 004

#theZele #happyPost

Found in Culpeper, Virginia


Billboard in an alley reads


Change the Past, Keep Selling the Future

Kirk Semple - The New York Times:

“The border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in, and I’m not going to let that happen.”

“We’re going to be working on a fair relationship and a new relationship,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “We’re no longer going to be the country that doesn’t know what it is doing.”

Mr. Trump said: “I have great respect for the Mexico. I love the Mexican people.”

But “as you know,” he added, Mexico “has outnegotiated us and beat us to a pulp through our past leaders.”

“They’ve made us look foolish,” he said.

Mr. Trump, playing the victim. This is a new face for him.

But you see what he’s doing now, right? Playing revisionist with the past, claiming that Mexico "outnegotiated us and beat us to a pulp,” apparently through a NAFTA treaty our government negotiated, campaigned for, signed, and ratified in the US Congress.

By falsely making the United States the victim of Mexico, Mr. Trump softens up opposition to the wall here in the US while simultaneously depicting Mexico as having an unfair advantage, weakening their standing as they make Americans “look foolish.”

As for the future, he makes a passing reference to the “soft” border, keeping alive in people’s minds his promise to complete a border wall between the two nations.

Refute the lie, listen to what he says about the future.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Mexico #border #wall #authoritarian #nafta

An Interesting Technique

A friend sent an article about what we’re hearing when an authoritarian, or a would-be authoritarian like Mr. Trump, speaks. The gist of it was the peculiar habit of lying about the past, yet speaking truthfully about the future.

While apparently setting a self-made trap, the authoritarian escapes by upending our expectations. Rather than lying about the future, which everyone expects and stands ready to question, the authoritarian speaks plainly about what he intends to do. Yet it sounds crazy. Surely, he didn’t mean he’d order a registry of Muslims! Take him seriously, but not literally!

While our minds reel at the possibility and construct indignant responses, the authoritarian slips in a few lies about the past. Standing on their own, these lies are readily challenged and debunked. Told in volume and with regularity they live on as challenged, but forgotten when the next batch arrives.

You’ve no doubt heard of “the big lie.” Mr. Trump is a practitioner of “the many little lies,” a recent example of which I wrote about here.

Repeated often enough, the lies become accepted history. An illustration from the article by Umair Haque, writing on Medium:

Imagine yourself in any position of authority. If you could say that you were going to do anything — and then rewrite it to be successful, noble, glorious, wonderful, not matter how much of an abject failure it really was, so that people believed you were smashing, awesome, amazing, the best — then you would have maximum power.

Telling the truth about the future and lying about the past is a negotiating strategy that maximizes one’s power in the present. If — and it’s a big if — you can make people believe both.

Maximum power to create the future you’ve been telling everyone about, truthfully, all along.

This isn’t to argue against refuting lies. That must be done. Haque:

Unless such lies are proven to be lies, over and over again, the authoritarian coasts on your first mistake: being wrong about him telling the truth about the future.

Pay very close attention to what people like Mr. Trump and his enablers say about the future. That’s the direction they truly intend to take us, no matter how impropbable it sounds. Watch what he does.

Notice how little we hear from establishment politicians and past leaders, particularly those in his own party. They don’t know what to do about him. Maybe some of them truly welcome this. These are people we freely elected.

It’s rather ingenious. It’s worked elsewhere. Why not here?

(Hat tip - el panadero.)

#Trump #GOP #fraud #umairhaque #authoritarian


Read the quotes in the first there paragraphs of this story by Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post:

The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.

“That speech was a home run,” Trump told ABC News just a few minutes into his first major television interview since moving into the White House. “See what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”

The most powerful man in the world continued: “You probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.”

Does this sound like someone in touch with reality?

Or does this sound like someone deliberately re-characterizing a story to lessen the negative image he cast during his speech at CIA headquarters?

Make no mistake - Mr. Trump is not crazy. This is a purposeful misstatement of events that have just happened. Authoritarians love this trick. Lie about the past, tell the (improbable) truth about the future.

Never believe his claims about the past. Never doubt a word of what he says he’ll do next.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #CIA #speech #lies #authoritarian

The Thought Occurs

We’re a week into the Trump administration. Quite a bit of maneuvering has occurred in the Oval Office, resulting in a handful of executive orders changing federal policy. At least two of Mr. Trump's trial ballon “policy statements,” what we can euphemistically call his ill-advised Twitter pronouncements, are puzzlingly un-conservative and un-Republican.

Mr. Trump’s notion that the US can raise a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to pay for his boondoggle border wall hurts the very people who voted for him. Given the volume of goods imported into the US from Mexico and to whom they sell, the net effect would disproportionately hurt lower- to middle-income Americans, those who often shop at stores selling discount items.

That trial ballon was shot down in less than a day.

The other statement was Mr. Trump’s threat to “send in the Feds” to quell violent crime in Chicago. Not only have conservatives and the GOP long advocated “state’s rights,” often a code-phrase for resisting federal civil rights laws, but the net affect of this action would be federal law enforcement taking over policing of an American city. That’s a decidedly un-conservative move, if it’s even legal.

Don’t think the criticism was in response to Chicago’s elevated murder rate, either. Recall that the mayor of Chicago is an old GOP nemesis, Rahm Emmanuel, and that Chicago is the adopted home town of Barack Obama. O’Reilly doesn’t miss a beat, and Trump, well, Trump is an eager toady.

The Chicago police superintendent, puzzled by the meaning of Trump’s statement, nevertheless welcomed the assistance, noting the force already had a close working relationship with the FBI and other federal agencies. The FBI made similar comments. Nothing more from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump appears unaware and uncaring of the effects of his words. Don’t be fooled. These tweets aren’t intended as policy statements. They’re intended as incitement of Trump’s opposition. His purpose, as ever, is to keep the opposition off-balance, bouncing from one issue to the next. It’s important to stay focused on Trump’s unprofessional and unprepared nature, and repeatedly bring it to the attention of the only body capable of putting the brakes on it: the US Congress.

One can hope.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Chicago #police #crime #Mexico #trade #tariff #NAFTA

January 26, 2017

It's a Snub, After All

Azam Ahmed, The New York Times:

The president of Mexico said on Thursday that he was canceling his scheduled meeting with President Donald J. Trump in Washington next week, rejecting the visit after the new American leader ordered a border wall between the two nations.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Mexico #Nieto #wall #fiction #diplomacy #snub

Trump Signals He'll Cancel Meeting With Mexican President Nieto

Matt Shuham - TPM:

President Donald Trump signaled Thursday that he may cancel a planned meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after he refused, again, to pay for Trump’s proposed border wall.

Don’t be fooled by Mr. Trump’s excuse. Recall that Mexican President Nieto had second thoughts about meeting Trump earlier this week (AP):

Pena Nieto said Wednesday, "I have said time and again, Mexico will not pay for any wall." He has been expected to meet with Trump at the White House next week, although a senior official said Trump's announcement had led him to reconsider the visit.

(Emphasis mine.)

Trump moved to pre-empt an embarrassing snub by Nieto with a snub of his own: dis-inviting him to Washington. Narcissists cannot stand a lack of respect and adoration. See number 4, here.

Senior GOP politicians have to begin eyeing Mr. Trump askance after today. Who’s next, the Canadians? Expect leaked chatter along these lines from Congressional aides appearing in the coming weeks.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #diplomacy #Mexico #Nieto #wall

January 25, 2017

No Congressional Investigation of Trump's Voter Fraud Claims

Lauren Fox - TPM:

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says he sees “no evidence” that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in the 2016 election that and his committee won’t be using taxpayer dollars to investigate President Donald Trump’s allegation.

Chaffetz told reporters at the congressional GOP retreat Wednesday in Philadelphia that if Trump wants an investigation, he can get the Department of Justice to look into it. He’s not interested.

Another “no.”

I imagine Mr. Trump will order a DoJ investigation, as suggested.

Gotta sting, though. “No evidence.”

Meanwhile, the leaks continue. Vox broke four as-yet unreleased Executive Orders within the last hour.

What does all this mean for Mr. Trump? His first awareness of the difference between CEO and president of the United States.

For him, though, it’ll manifest not as a learning process, but a spike in blood pressure. Stand by for a Twitter shit-fit.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #voting #election

Mr. Trump Might Not Get to Re-instate Torture Policy

United States Senator John McCain:

The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.

All it takes is one man or woman of stature to stand up and say, “no.”

#Trump #GOP #fraud #torture #johnMccain


Given that media reports showing relatively small crowds gathered for Mr. Trump’s inauguration “demoralized” him and his team, imagine what’ll happen the first time Congressional Republicans don’t rubber-stamp his wishes.

Realize no legislation has crossed anyone’s desk, yet. Mr. Trump has yet to hear the word “no” from a co-equal branch of government.

Maybe it’ll come during debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps when Mr. Trump moves to re-open CIA “black sites,” or when he asks for appropriations to pay for the wall he ordered up today.

Congress holds the purse-strings, Mr. Trump. There’s a long history of both party majorities going their own way despite holding the White House.

Whatever the issue, we’re in store for the mother of all shit-fits when that first significant disagreement occurs. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist, un-heeded and un-adored.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #narcissist #shit-fit #dissentAmongGOP

About That Wall

Ron Nixon - The New York Times:

President Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly, has been clear about his views on a border wall with Mexico: It won’t work.

When asked by senators about his views on a border wall during his confirmation hearing this month, Mr. Kelly, a retired general, said a “physical barrier will not do the job.”

Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he would order the construction of a wall along the United States-Mexico border, fulfilling his campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration and stop the flow of drugs coming into the United States.

It would appear Mr. Trump and his DHS secretary, retired general John F. Kelly, disagree on how best to secure the US southern border. According to Kelly, “it won’t work.” He should know - he commanded the US Southern Command.

Mr. Trump today signed an order to begin further construction of a border wall between the US and Mexico. Left unsaid was who will pay for it. Maybe this is the infrastructure spending Mr. Trump also promised during his campaign.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Mexico #border #wall #DHS #Kelly

Upbeat Post of the Day

Well it made me smile ...

Comic strip of Donald Trump thwarted by a rogue Park Service Ranger

#Trump #GOP #fraud #AltUSNatParkService #resist #happyPost

Trump Administration Keeps the Second-guessing Coming

Herb Keinon - The JPost:

Asked in an interview with the Post whether he feels that Trump — who was a strong advocate of moving the embassy during the campaign — has changed his mind, Giuliani responded, “I think that now that he is in office, there are a lot more facts and arguments and people you have to consult with before you make a final decision, and it is a more deliberative process. I don’t think his position has changed in any way.”

The same position, now, taken by every previous president of the United States in recent memory.

Watch what he does, not what he says (or said). His words are purposeful incitement, not policy.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Israel #Jerusalem #embassy

Say Again?

Bill Kristol (@BillKristol), arch-conservative:

Trump inaugural: "we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., & giving it back to you, the People."
Trump tonight: "send in the Feds."

Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Chicago

January 24, 2017

Commentary in the Cold Light of Defeat

Kevin Baker - The New York Times:

What they have done is a desecration, a foolish and vindictive act of vandalism, by which they betrayed all the best and most valiant labors of our ancestors. We don’t want to accept this, because we cannot accept that the people, at least in the long run of things, can be wrong in our American democracy. But they can be wrong, just like any people, anywhere. And until we do accept this abject failure of both our system and ourselves, there is no hope for our redemption.

A good writer states in one paragraph what it’d take me a page to get around to. His essay, The America We Lost When Trump Won, is direct and to the point.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #America #politics #culture

Upbeat Post of the Day

I intended to post this yesterday, but goofed. Have to find another for today, to make up.

The AP, via TPM:

Former first lady Barbara Bush was discharged from a hospital Monday while former President George H.W. Bush is expected to be moved from the hospital’s intensive care unit soon.

Politics aside, I always liked GHW and Barbara Bush. They came across as decent people, if a little detached from the world most of us inhabit. Money and a lifelong career in government will do that. But hey, today’s a good day for them both, so I’m thankful. Pneumonia in elderly patients is deadly, but not this time.

(Yes, I know Mr. Bush was a WW2 airman, and got fished out of the drink after being shot down. He’s got a lot of varied service under his belt.)


New Boss, Same as the Old Boss - James Comey

Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman - The New York Times:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, told his top agents from around the country that he had been asked by President Trump to stay on the job running the federal government’s top law enforcement agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

Quid. Pro. Quo.

I had a high opinion of Comey after his intervention of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card in 2004. They had attempted to coerce a seriously ill Attorney General John Ashcroft into approving a domestic spying program as Ashcroft lay in his hospital bed. Comey’s action stopped cold what was a direct effort by the president of the United States.

Comey’s public comments last year concerning Hillary Clinton’s email controversy, the second coming just days before the 2016 election, left many aghast at his impropriety. They likely swayed the election, already a closer-fought affair than most realized.

Clearly my trust was misplaced.

Today his acts come full circle. I’m not saying there was a de facto agreement between Comey and the Trump campaign. I am saying the result is no different than if there had been.

I see the FBI’s black eye. Do you?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Comey #FBI #election

Yes, I Am - Upbeat Post of the Day

Zele, my white Labrador Retriever, looking for dinner

Others have their cat photos. I have dogs, and dog photos.

After a day spent reading news as it unfolded and nursing a cold, I’m ready for dog photos.

The Zele, looking for dinner, two years ago. She’s nothing if not persistent.


$1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Jennifer Steinhauer, Steve Eder, Helene Cooper - The New York Times:

Republicans resisted President Barack Obama’s push for an infrastructure “surge” for eight years, arguing that the federal government couldn’t afford it and that state and local governments should shoulder more responsibility for improvements. But Mr. Trump has taken up the Democratic cause.

Time for Mr. Trump to put our money where his mouth is. Federal interest rates are still extremely low, making the cost of borrowing a bargain.

As they say, watch what he does, not what he says. He said we will invest in infrastructure. Did you believe him?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #infrastructure #investment #domestic #politics

A Revealing Early Look Inside: Fury, Tumult and a Reboot

Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Matea Gold - The Washington Post:

This account of Trump’s tumultuous first days in office comes from interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations and moments.

Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.

We should expect gaffs from new administrations, staffed by people unfamiliar with White House operations and each other. They’ll settle in soon.

What’s remarkable is that so many were willing to speak off the record for this story, and that they were so forthcoming in particular about Mr. Trump’s temperament. Give the article a quick, five-minute read.

Politics is news. Temperament is usually left unspoken.

How many stories have we read or heard of Obama’s or G.W. Bush’s temperament? Few. Obama was cool as a cucumber; too much so, for some. W. was “the decider,” un-interested in debate among his deputies. That’s about it.

There’s governance going on at the White House, too. Years of policy effort are being undone. That’s news. Frighteningly, yet unsurprisingly it’s spearheaded by a man temperamentally unfit for the duties he is tasked to perform.

Regret will begin to surface in coming weeks, first among those whose vote for Mr. Trump was a lesser-of-two-evils act. It’ll spread among those who thought they were electing someone who, by virtue of his so-called business acumen, would be a good chief executive of the United States.

The former are fools, swayed by false news stories and personal animus. They are guilty of confirmation bias. The latter erred in their understanding of Mr. Trump’s previous successes, and by differences between business and government. Both missed the more personal story of his inner demons. It was reported, but largely ignored by mouthpiece “news” organizations.

Out in the weeds of “forgotten” America will remain those who, to quote a popular film of recent years, “just want to watch the world burn.” Their vote for Mr. Trump was a wrench purposefully tossed into the works of government, a government that hasn’t worked for them for a long while.

Shaking up the status quo is a good thing from time to time. By its nature it isn’t predictable, and not fully under control of those doing the shaking.

If you were one of us doing the shaking this story should give you pause. The wrench you threw is, now dangerously to our republic, unstable.

One final thought. I’ve had the misfortune of close association with a narcissist. I didn’t understand this person’s problem at the time. I just couldn’t seem to peacefully exist  alongside. I wrote about this person here.

Researching how to deal with this person once I figured it out, the first suggestion I found from among many sources was, don’t. Get far away, because you can never win or even co-exist with them.

Americans will come to regret Mr. Trump.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #unstable #narcissist #gotWhatYouAskedFor

Not New, but News, Israel Approves More Settlements

Yasmeen Serhan - The Atlantic:

The Israeli government approved Tuesday the construction of 2,500 settlement homes in the West Bank. The move comes two days after the Jerusalem City Council approved 566 housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their future capital ...

Stand-off, marked occasionally by extreme violence, appears the preferred mode of life among both the Israelis and Palestinians.

#israel #settlements #palestinians #twostate #middleeast

January 23, 2017

Wake-up Coming

Mr. Trump’s wake-up is fast approaching. He claimed, at a meeting with business leaders today, that he would cut middle class taxes and impose a border tax on imports (Caitlin MacNeal, TPM):

During a Monday morning meeting with business leaders, President Donald Trump said that he plans on cutting taxes for the middle class and companies.

The President also said that he would like to reduce regulations on companies in the United States and impose a tax on American companies that build products abroad and then sell them in the U.S.

There-in lies one of the problems for someone who claims that a “successful businessman” would make a great president. Government does not run like a business. There are three co-equal branches to the US government, and it’s far from sure the other two will see things Mr. Trump’s way.

A business chief executive, on the other hand, rules by fiat, with only shareholders, if any, to answer to.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #budget #taxes #neverEndingCampaign

Facts are Stubborn Things, Particularly When You Disagree With Them

Andrew Buncombe, The Independent:

Donald Trump’s controversial press secretary has defended his claim that record numbers watched the president’s inauguration – saying “sometimes we disagree with the facts”.

Arguing over how many people attended Mr. Trump's Friday inauguration is, admittedly, small ball.

Admitting that the Trump administration “sometimes disagrees with the facts” is a wholesale admission that facts don’t matter to this government.

John Adams, second president of the United States:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

And Trump’s supporters called Hillary Clinton “crooked.” My guess is, they won’t care about this at all.

These guys will be lucky if they last four years. Even Nixon was smarter about his lies. Look where it got him.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #cantHaveYouOwnFacts

Trump’s Plan to Endanger Medicaid Patients

Robert Pear, The New York Times:

President Trump’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act will propose giving each state a fixed amount of federal money in the form of a block grant to provide health care to low-income people on Medicaid, a top adviser to Mr. Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

The adviser, Kellyanne Conway, who is Mr. Trump’s White House counselor, said that converting Medicaid to a block grant would ensure that “those who are closest to the people in need will be administering” the program.

Medicaid is already administered by those who are closest to the people in need. The program provides means-tested, state regulated, medical insurance aid to older and poorer Americans. Block grants don’t put control any closer to the people in need.

As several elected officials quoted said, a block grant is a fixed sum. Unanswered remains what happens to that sum when costs rise, new, more effective and expensive drugs are introduced, and populations expand.

Do you know who Medicaid helps most? The elderly poor who cannot afford a nursing home, yet cannot take care of themselves. Single moms and their children who are un- or under-employed, and cannot afford medical care. Medicaid is specifically for poor people. That’s who we’re talking about endangering, here.

This is the cowardly way to eliminate a program. Rather than take the politically risky step of ending it outright, President Trump and the Congressional GOP will first move to fix costs, then cut those block grants over time. The program will whither and die of its own accord, leaving patients in need without health insurance coverage.

Is that what you want?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Medicaid

New Arcade Fire Single

I just heard the new Arcade Fire single, I Give You Power (Over Me). I like it. Sort of a mishmash of techno beats and vocals. Big departure from their last album, Reflektor.

What’d you think?


January 22, 2017

Politics Doesn't End With an Election

Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic:

“I believe real progress is made when people who are not part of the group also fight for their rights,” said a young man named Gbenga. He had a sign that said “Even men are better when women make choices.”

Yes, indeed.

Mid-term elections are in 2018. That’s not far off. Tune in when candidates begin speaking up.

In the mean time, today is a great day to write three brief letters, establishing a relationship with your two US senators and Representative. Be respectful, but direct. Tell them how you feel about the recent inauguration, why, and what you want them to do for you in the coming two years. Don’t pile on a list of demands. Be concise.

Use your computer, but make the letters personal in tone. Save the three letters after printing. Be sure to hand-sign them.

Write another three letters every month, using the letters you’ve saved as a start. Write more often if an issue arises that you need to be heard on. Just replace the previous body with a new one, sign, and send.

This comes at the cost of a half-hour of your time, three sheets of paper, three envelopes and three stamps per month. The result of repeated, respectful direction to your representatives will surprise you, even if their politics don’t agree with yours.

#politics #elections #congress #contact #makeYourVoiceHeard

Guess Who Still Holds Full Ownership of his Business Interests?

Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw, ProPublica:

Sheri Dillon, the Trump attorney who presented the plan, said that Trump “has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization.” Everything would be placed in a family trust by Jan. 20, she said.

That hasn’t happened.


#Trump #GOP #fraud #followTheLies

This is Selma

Chris Arnade, The Guardian:

For 10 hours they removed bricks from piles mixed with wood and metal, chipping each recovered brick free of mortar, and then stacked them. The bricks were handmade in the 1870s, and a foreman was paying them between $10 and $20 in cash for a pile of 500.

It was hard work. A pile took about half the day to gather, and most quit from fatigue after one go. An older man watched them: “Everyone heard about this job, but few want to do it, because it pays nothing, and lots of people been hurt doing it. But there are no jobs here in Selma. Especially if you got a record, and almost everyone in Selma has a record.” Nobody knew who owned the old warehouse, although most reckoned it was a white man: “They own everything around here.”

A brick buyer from a construction firm came to look at the pile. “Handmade bricks, especially historical ones like this, are in demand. They often sell for over a dollar per brick.”

(Emphasis, as usual, mine.)

Share-cropping became the primary work of southern black men and women in the years following the failure of Reconstruction. Long days spent picking cotton, tobacco, and other cash crops went unpaid until the harvest was complete. Months would roll by, bills accumulate; rent on workers’ homes, owned by the land owner, mounted. When settlement day came workers were often compensated with a few dollars after the cost of seed, rent, and other expenses were subtracted. Often the landowner re-figured his ledger until the balance came out even: no money changed hands.

In this way slavery, illegal in the wake of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, became a legacy of willing servitude. White land owners profited off the backs of black workers who, more often than not, were left with nothing more than they began the season with. Relief came only for those hardy enough to join the Great Migration out of the South.

The story of Selma today resembles nothing so much as that Jim Crow South: pennies paid for hard work that yields dollars for the one paying.

This is the town visited every year commemorating the beating of Freedom Marchers on what’s called America’s Bloody Sunday, in 1965. Visitors walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge, give a few speeches, and leave.

It is said that irony is, in this age of extremes, dead. It is not. It has become so ugly and hypocritical that no-one willingly sees it.

It’s 2017, nearly 52 years after Bloody Sunday. A half-century has passed. Selma is a shambles, the civil rights era has passed, we’ve had a black man elected and serve twice as president. We’ve had a poor white boy from Arkansas eventually become another two-term president. Yet life has become so difficult for enough people that they were willing to roll the dice on a megalomaniac like Donald Trump.

It’s not enough to say, “pull yourself up.” There’s nothing going on in Selma, or elsewhere, to pull up to.

Poor white people know this, too. When my parents retired from New York to live in eastern North Carolina they came face-to-face with what my mom called “the working poor.” Working two or three jobs each, these citizens were just getting by. At least they had a job. It seems Selma is worse-off.

Mr. Trump talks about bringing back jobs. He means well-paying work that can be had on a high school diploma, the kind of jobs once plentiful in places like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Gary. The kind of jobs that can be had in one’s home town, that can be worked for a full life and retired from on a pension.

“The jobs” aren’t coming back. Off-shoring of employment has morphed into work handled here by robotic automation. Workers tending the equipment have specialized training, and those designing, building and programming it have college degrees. All of that is out of the reach of the people of Selma.

It’s for these reasons I’m convinced of Chris Arnade’s argument that the dividing line is less employment, or even race. It’s education. From knowledge comes power. From one educated generation comes an exponential growth not only in knowledge and power, but also a basic requirement for it just to get along in the next.

Education and, to a great degree, employment often require a willingness to leave home and home town to live where schooling and, hopefully, jobs are available. Past generations of Americans picked up and left when life became impossible where they’d been.

One repeating meme heard from “back row” people is that of remaining in their home town even as jobs and opportunity dried up.

The future does not belong to the meek. The future belongs to those with the means to succeed. Those means begin with a four-year college degree. It hardly matter in what - the degree is the ticket that opens the door.

When you’re into your forties or fifties or sixties and possess a criminal record, education isn’t in the cards. You can’t afford it, there’s nowhere to get it, and few will take a chance on you even if you manage to acquire it. Moving only hauls your problems along with you. Poor decisions compound.

I don’t believe our new president has these people or their education in mind. I do believe Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton did, and do, and yet these people still suffer.

Who in our polity is pitting those who work hard, but lack a post-high school education (the “back row” kids) against those with specialized knowledge, education, training, and lofty goals (the “front row” kids)? Who denies facts, ignores and disparages science and learning, and creates a self-serving fictional America?

How do we bring along those of Selma, and elsewhere, who lack means while carrying the burdens of addiction, criminal conviction, and poverty?

I don’t know. Do you? Do you think the man inaugurated and the Congress recently seated have any idea?

#culture #economy #politics #trump #obama #clinton #selma #poverty #arnade #jimcrow #sharecropping #slavery #legacy

Happy Post for the Day

Young boy wearing sign reading

This guy has the right idea.


Trump’s Populist Promise Is a Fiction

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic:

Trump has repeatedly promised to preserve Social Security and Medicare while possibly growing defense and infrastructure. If he sticks to that commitment, it takes about half of government spending out of consideration. He also can’t really choose to cut spending on interest on the debt, which is another six percent of the budget.

As a result, Trump would have no choice but to gut the remainder of the government’s programs, including Medicaid, subsidies for food and housing, and veterans’ benefits. Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse sounds like a nice idea, but the fact is that, beyond military spending, the federal government is essentially a transfer of money from people with above-average incomes to the sick, old, and poor.

Herein lies the internal mechanism of the federal budget. After defense, Social Security, Medicare, and the handful of service programs not already contracted out to private industry it’s largely a transfer vehicle for moving money from areas and citizens of higher income to areas and citizens of lower income. It is a means of redistributing wealth.

Many disagree with this function as un-Constitutional; that the transfer of wealth is not a duty specifically enumerated within the document. Others argue, and I agree, that the this duty is clearly spelled out in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

(Emphasis mine.)

We cannot obtain general welfare when broad swaths of our citizenry live below the poverty level, are under- or un-employed. What does this leave the Trump administration to cut? Very little.

Let’s be clear. Republican administrations rarely cut the size of government. Their priorities don’t come down to how much spending, but rather where the money will be spent, and in what direction the redistribution of wealth will flow.

Note the rise and fall of federal employment, a fair metric for the size of government, in the following graph from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ FRED database:

Federal headcount rose during both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, declined just as sharply during the expansion years of Bill Clinton, was remarkably flat during George W. Bush’s presidency, and both rose and fell under Barack Obama. The tall spikes are temporary workers employed conducting our decennial census.

The gist of this article rings true. The non-politician Trump, enamored of the trappings of office will continue giving populist speeches as though his campaign never ended. Indeed, he’s already campaigning for the 2020 election. His minions will act to defund social programs and contract out to private industry those functions still held within government all the while. In this way Republicans can have their cake, and eat it, too. They will make a pretty sound, and slowly strangle the “back row” folks, the under- and un-employed, the sick and the elderly.

This is what America has wrought for itself with the election of Donald Trump. We have four years, if he lasts that long, to watch it play out.

A simple request - if you voted for this man, keep an eye open for the relief he promised and continues to promise. Watch for a return of “American Greatness.” Be honest with yourself when, month after month, you don’t find it.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #populism #sizeOfGovernment #government #transferOfWealth

January 21, 2017

A Quiet Stroll

Near emtpy reviewing stands for Donal Trump's inaugural parade

It was easy duty for the US Secret Service yesterday. Just a stroll up Pennsylvania Avenue. Guess everyone was busy with lunch, or something.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #inauguration #noCrowds

No Comment Necessary

Scanning through my Twitter feed after a couple of walks and a sampling from the taps at our new local brewpub, I had intended to offer some further thoughts on the elevation of Donald Trump to the US presidency. What I found convinced me that the ladies (and not a few gentlemen and families) made the clearest of statements by voting with their feet, their minds, and their hearts.

Take a minute to look at those photos. Compare to this set of images from yesterday’s inaugural in Washington, DC, and Barack Obama’s in 2009.

We are none of us alone in our condemnation of Donald Trump. And, I believe, we are still in the majority. How small this must make the narcissist feel, and how enraged.

Well done, ladies, very well done.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #womensmarch #politics

The Knife in the Back Came in the First Hours

The tragedy of a Trump presidency wasn’t ever going to be vesting executive as well as legislative power in one party, or even the ascendancy of someone so hell-bent on serving himself before others. The tragedy was that he’d make good on his campaign promise not to fix what’s wrong with the Affordable Care Act, but act instead to repeal it leaving the very people he reached with his campaign without health insurance, again.

Over twenty-million people newly possessing health insurance, some for the first time in their lives, and many of them children stand to be abandoned. Many of these same people are the self-identifying “deplorables” who voted for Donald Trump not as a reasoned choice, but as a “fuck it” roll of the dice. Throwing reason to the wind, these fellow citizens are often the most vulnerable among us, the un- and under-employed living in small towns, counties, and cities.

President Trump began the process of dismantling the ACA yesterday afternoon.

As evidence that the GOP has nothing to replace it with, and yet fear cutting off their base at the knees, the initial presidential order directed federal agencies to “ease the burden of Obamacare.” From reporting by The Hill,

It is not clear what practical effects will come from the order.

Of course not. Nothing is clear where there is no guiding plan or steps to be taken, just a vague idea turned into a campaign cause.

Here’s a thought: why not fix the parts that don’t work well?

Insurance companies are ratcheting up premiums both in states where competition is slack, and in response to the pool of insured - without adequate penalties for not fulfilling the individual mandate, many younger and healthy citizens would rather pay the $695 fine than spend more on a policy. This tilts the pool of insured toward less healthy citizens, lowering and in some cases eliminating profit for insurance companies. Clearly $695 does not enforce the mandate.

Businesses exist to make a profit. Where there is no profit to be had, there will be no business. Insurance companies are pulling out of states where they cannot afford to do business.

A personal example: my Blue Cross policy premium runs about $1500-$2000 per month, partly paid by me, partly by my employer. Imagine if I were a young man, healthy, and didn’t want to pay my part. I could save roughly $500 per month by not taking insurance at all and, in less than two months, break even with the penalty I’d pay come tax time.

One solution is raising the penalty to twice the premium of the least expensive policy available on any state insurance exchange. See then how many healthy, yet uninsured people sign up for coverage. This would help level the pool and allow insurance companies to offer more reasonably priced policies while still making a profit.

That’s but one idea. The GOP, in its blood lust for erasing the signature accomplishment of the Obama administration has no interest in fixing what’s broken. Trump, their toady, is only too willing to play along.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ACA #obamaCare #healthCare #repeal

January 20, 2017

Call it a Nightcap, but I Couldn't Hold my Rage

President Trump sitting at the Resolute Desk

This image of President Trump sitting at the Resolute desk in our Oval Office utterly disgusted me at first sight. I don’t imagine I’ll feel much better about it in the morning, so here it is.


#Trump #GOP #fraud #defacingTheOffice

Tonight is a Night for Peter Quill

Do you have a film or two that registers as “comfort watching?” I do. Men In Black is one of them. The Fifth Element. And Guardians of the Galaxy.

Today I saw a man take an oath, and another man I didn’t realize held so high a place in my mind and in my heart walk out of public life. Tonight I need a little Peter Quill.

This weekend will be one of long walks, visiting Warrenton’s new brewpub for the first time, a few movies, a lot of reading and writing. Maybe a few more movies.

Some wept the morning of November 9. Tonight I’d weep for my country, but instead I’ll entertain my mind and think happy thoughts.

#guardiansofthegalaxy #obama #peaceformymind

Try to Post Something Positive, Every Day


This’ll do (The Oatmeal).

Today Belongs to Trump, but Obama's Vision Will win in the end

Matt Yglesias, Vox:

Trump speaks of national greatness because it matters to most Americans that the country as a whole thrive. What he has offered as a path to greatness caters to the wishful thinking of a minority of Americans.

There are no political guarantees governing what will happen when his approach fails, but his approach certainly will fail, just as previous waves of reaction have likewise failed to deliver on their promises. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. But my best guess is that sooner rather than later someone else will come around capable of articulating the shared conviction of Obama — and of Lincoln, Douglass, Roosevelt, Johnson, and King — that only a bigger, broader conception of America will allow the country to rise to new heights of greatness.

A ten-minute essay written by keen observer of American politics and culture, Matt Yglesias. Its theme is that greatness comes from inclusiveness, that growth comes only by addition. Give it a read while you ignore today’s rainy, depression inducing inaugural of Donald Trump. It’ll give you something to feel good about.

I’m not alone in the observation that the long arc of western democracies is left-leaning. Liberalism, held from extremes by intelligent conservatism, has been the guiding light since, well, the Enlightenment. Today marks a dim day in the American version of liberal democracy. Fear not. The devil will be loosed upon us for a time, but given our cultural and political history I firmly believe the United States will yet prevail.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #mattyglesias #american #politics

The Evidence is Overwhelming

James Comey regrows a sense of ethics?

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones:

Needless to say, this is why Democratic senators were stunned yesterday when they asked Comey if the FBI was investigating Trump over his Russia ties, and Comey replied, ‘I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not — in an open forum like this, so I really can’t answer one way or another.’

I wonder where his ethics were when he made his public statement about additional investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just twelve days before the election. An investigation, recall, that had unearthed nothing for months, and unearthed nothing again. An investigation that decided the election.

A day of reckoning is coming.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Comey #FBI #election

Some Good News

Amor Toor, The Verge:

Donald Trump has given up his beloved Android phone ahead of today’s inauguration, the Associated Press reports, though it is unclear what type of device he will use in the White House.

Maybe Mr. Trump’s tweet volume will collapse, and our government can continue making policy the old-fashioned way - with thought, consideration, diplomacy, and clear enunciation.

Or he’ll phone the Chinese and piss them off directly.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Twitter

Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates

Well this seems big.

Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo, NYTimes.com:

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.

From how far out did you see this coming?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #Russia

Would You Just LOOK at This?

In US federal buildings around the world we’ll be replacing these today

Barack Obama

with these

Trump the Chump

Seriously. A Grinch-like scowl and a Vader-worthy signature. There is plainly nothing about this man worthy of liking.

I fear, too, I may have besmirched two fictional characters worthy of at least grudging admiration.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #portrait #vader #grinch

January 19, 2017

Trump Sought Military Equipment for Inauguration

Jessica Schulberg, The Huffington Post:

During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. ‘They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,’ the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.

The military, which traditionally works closely with the presidential inaugural committee, shot down the request, the source said. Their reason was twofold. Some were concerned about the optics of having tanks and missile launchers rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. But they also worried that the tanks, which often weigh over 100,000 pounds, would destroy the roads.

I seem to recall seeing parades like this, somewhere.

Trump: just another wanna-be dictator with a nuclear arsenal.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #authoritarianBoob

Irony, or Hypocrisy?

Trump before Lincoln

Look at that image. Standing before the memorial to the man who saved the Union, who emancipated countless enslaved humans, on the ground where Dr. King told the world he had a dream, Donald Trump sheds the last vestige of claim the GOP had as “the party of Lincoln."

Celebrate well, deplorables. Tomorrow sows the seed of your discomfiture (yep, that’s exactly what I meant).

#Trump #GOP #fraud #politics