"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meanwhile, back at Obamacare

Don't get me started....

Promises, promises....

"Many of the questions were without clear answers from Blackburn, who served on Trump's transition team and is carrying key legislation that will be a part of the repeal effort from the GOP-led House. She said the replacement will include provisions allowing people of certain age groups with pre-existing conditions to get insurance.

"She said the replacement plan will be 'more responsive and more affordable' as well, without going into many specifics."
Because it's money that matters in the U.S.A.:

As Republicans look at ways to replace or repair the Affordable Care Act, many suggest that shrinking the list of services that insurers are required to offer in individual and small group plans would reduce costs and increase flexibility.

"Increase flexibility" is weasel-speak for "Not cover so damned much, because people are too damned expensive!"  For example:

That option came to the forefront last week when Seema Verma, who is slated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Trump administration, noted at her confirmation hearing that coverage for maternity services should be optional in those health plans.

Pre-natal care?  Maternity care?  Why should we pay for other people's pregnancies?  And then, of course, there are the children.  We love our children; but other people's children?

Pediatric oral and vision care requirements, another essential health benefit that's not particularly common in employer plans, could also be weakened, says Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at the consulting firm Avalere Health.

If you're noticing a pattern here, it's that government should be run like a business, and business doesn't like to provide greater health insurance coverage than it has to; so a lot of this discussion is turning around what is common in employer health-care plans.  Because that's our consumer society morality:  What Would A Reasonably Pecuniary Board of Directors Do?

Before the health law passed, just 12 percent of health policies available to a 30-year-old woman on the individual market offered maternity benefits, according to research by the National Women's Law Center. Those policies that did offer such benefits often charged extra for the coverage and required a waiting period of a year or more.

The essential health benefits package plugged that hole very cleanly, says Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy organization.

"Having it in the law makes it more difficult to either exclude it entirely or charge an arm and a leg for it," Sonfield says.

Maternity coverage is often offered as an example of a benefit that should be optional, and that's what Verma has advocated. If you're a man or too old to get pregnant, critics of the requirement say, why should you have to pay for that coverage to be included in your policy?

But that a la carte approach is not the way insurance is designed to work, says Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Women don't need prostate cancer screening, she points out, but they pay for the coverage anyway.

"We buy insurance for uncertainty and to spread the costs of care across a broad population so that when something comes up, that person has adequate coverage to meet their needs," Blumberg says. 

Viagra is a drug insurance should cover; birth control is not.

It's just good business!

The Most Special of Snowflakes

I said Rick Santorum was taking his cues from Trump on anti-semitism in America and its source.  I was wrong.  Santorum isn't taking cues from Trump; Santorum is taking directions from the President.

You may have missed it amid the distraction of Trump’s insult to a Jewish reporter, but in the same press conference, SiriusXM’s Jared Rizzi circled back to the hate crimes question. “I’ll follow up on my colleague’s question about anti-Semitism,” Rizzi said. “It’s not about your personality or your beliefs. We’re talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?”

Trump’s reply: “Some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that?” In case he wasn’t being sufficiently clear, he added, “Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or live Donald Trump. They’re put up by the other side, and you think it’s like playing it straight? No. But you have some of those signs, and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They’ll do signs, and they’ll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.”
You know, like Muslims, who are definitely not Donald Trump supporters; and probably not even American, to hear Rick Santorum talk about it.

The real problem, as ever, is how events in the nation throw mud on the reputation of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mainlining the racism

Clearly the problem here is Islam....

What hath Trump wrought?

“If you look at the fact of the people who are responsible for a lot of this anti-Semitism that we’re seeing, a lot of it is coming from the pro-Palestinian, or Muslim community,” [former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA.) said on CNN.
“If you look at the fact of the people who are responsible for a lot of this anti-Semitism that we’re seeing, I hate to say it, a lot of it is coming from the pro-Palestinian, or Muslim community. So let’s lay out that fact,” Santorum responded.

And it's a fact because Santorum said so.  Hey, if the President can do it, why not a former Senator?


 "And in your dreams you can see yourself...."
Democracy has a more compelling justification and requires a more realistic vindication than is given it by the liberal culture with which it has been associated in modern history. The excessively optimistic estimates of human nature and history with which the democratic credo is linked are a source of peril to democratic society, for our contemporary experience refutes this optimism and there is danger that it will seem to refute the democratic ideal as well. Modern democracy requires a more realistic philosophical and religious basis.--Reihnold Niebuhr

I learned in seminary that the basiliea tou theou required a race to the bottom, and so a constant churning.  But not quite this kind of churning:

Just because social media isn’t as utopian a force as Friedman believed doesn’t mean that it must be a dystopian danger. Nor is social media, as some people like to say, merely a neutral means—one that can be directed, with equal ease, toward any number of ends. Instead, social media has a very specific impact: It weakens the power of insiders and strengthens the power of outsiders. As a result, it favors change over stability—and constitutes a big, new threat to political systems that have long seemed immutable.

So were my seminary professors wrong, and hopelessly idealistic?  Is the proper Christian society modeled along Pauline lines of trusting the powers that be (the basis of the European "divine right of kings")?  Or should it be a place where the first of all is last of all, and servant of all?  Is that model simply "a big, new threat to political systems that have long seemed immutable"?  And even if it isn't, is that kind of threat a bad thing?

The first issue here, not the last one, is the question of power.  Social media, the argument goes at Slate, "weakens the power of insiders and strengthens the power of outsiders."  The constant race to the bottom of the empire of God weakens the power of everyone.  Only the powerless have any power, and that power is the power of powerlessness.  So we aren't describing similar things at all, to note the fruit-basket turnover social media has created.  And what it hasn't; as Slate point out:

The mullahs still rule in Iran, and Syria lies in tatters. Social media may have helped to give rise to movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter that aspire to “more liberty.” But it has also spawned countermovements that seek to disenfranchise minorities—including the one that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. 
So social media doesn't really weaken insiders so much as give outsiders a sense they have a voice, maybe even some power.  Oddly, that sense of power is fleeting, as Trump himself seems constantly concerned with asserting that he really did win the Presidency:

“Why should Americans trust you?” asked [NBC reporter Peter] Alexander.

“I was given that information,” Trump said, cutting Alexander off. “I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.”

“Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake, when you provide information that’s not accurate?” Alexander asked.

“I was given that information,” said Trump. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”

“You’re the president,” Alexander replied. 

It doesn't even matter that Trumps margin of victory places him in 46th position out of 56 Presidential elections; he's the President.  But he isn't satisfied with that, anymore than his supporters seem to be satisfied with the fact their guy won:

“They’re stonewalling everything that he’s doing because they’re just being babies about it,” Patricia Melani, a 56-year-old New Jersey transplant who attended Trump’s campaign rally in Florida on Saturday, told The Washington Post. “All the loudmouths? They need to let it go. Let it go. Shut their mouths and let the man do what he’s got to do. We all shut our mouths when Obama got in the second time around, okay? So that’s what really needs to be done.”

It isn't enough to win; there must be no opposition at all.

“We’re backed into a corner,” a 46-year-old small business owner told The Times. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’”

As he summited up, “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”
Do these formerly powerless people feel empowered?  Apparently not.  If anything, social media feeds the illusion that power equals absolute control.  But that plays on both sides:  how many articles have I read lamenting the fact the GOP isn't yet ready to impeach Trump and remove him from office?  The Congress that can't put a bill on Trump's desk in his first month, is supposed to have finished impeachment proceedings by now?  As for social media being disruptive, the favorite buzz-word of Silicon Valley, it clearly isn't; otherwise the mullahs wouldn't still rule Iran and Syria wouldn't be in tatters, and the "Arab Spring" overall would be much more, well:  spring-like.

Social media hasn't changed the centrality of power, else Donald Trump wouldn't have won the Presidency.  It has simply changed the perception of who has access to power.  And therein lies the promise, and the danger, of democracy; especially to democracy itself.

Perhaps this is the moment to recall an example that would appear particularly symptomatic of the current situation we have been discussing regarding Islam and democracy, namely, what happened in postcololnial Algeria in 1992 when the state and the leading party interrupted a democratic electoral process. Try to imagine what the interruption of an election between the so-called rounds of balloting might mean for a democracy. Imagine that, in France, with the National Front threatening to pull off an electoral victory, the election was suspended after the first round, that is, between the two rounds. A question always of the turn or the round, of the two turns or two rounds, of the by turns, democracy hesitates always in the alternative between two sorts of alernation: the so-called normal and democratic alternation (where of one party, said to be republican, replaces that of another be equally republican) and the alternation that risks giving power, modo democratico, to the force of a party elected by the people (and so is democratic) and yet is assumed to be nondemocratic.... The great question of modern parliamentary and representative democracy, perhaps of all democracy, in this logic of the turn or round, of the other turn or round, of the other time and thus of the other, of the alter in general, is that the alternative to democracy can always be represented as a democratic alternation. The electoral process under way in Algeria in effect risked giving power, in accordance with perfectly legal means, to a likely majority that presented itself as essentially Islamic and Islamist and to which one attributed the intention, doubt with good reason, of wanting to change the constitution and abolish the normal functioning of democracy or the very democratization assumed to be in progress.
The Algerian government and a large part, though not a majority, of the Algerian people (as well as people outside Algeria) thought that the electoral process under way would lead democratically to the end of democracy. Thus they preferred to put an end to it themselves. They decided in a sovereign fashion to suspend, at least provisionally, democracy for its own good, so as to take care of it, so as to immunize it against a much worse and very likely assault....[T]he hypothesis here is that of a taking of power or, rather, a transferring of power to a people who, in its electoral majority and following democratic procedures, could not have been able to avoid the destruction of democracy itself."
And that question of destroying democracy in order to save it, can be applied to that most central of democratic practices, the vote: will never actually be able to "prove" that there is more democracy in granting or in refusing the right to vote to immigrants, notably those who live and work in the national territory, nor that there is more or less democracy in a straight majority vote as opposed to proportional voting; both forms of voting are democratic, and yet both also protect their democratic character through exclusion, through some renvoi; for the force of the demos, the force of democrary, commits it, in the name of universal equality, to representing not only the greatest force of the greatest number, the majority of citizens considered of age, but also the weakness of the weak, minors, minorities, the poor, and all those throughout the world who callout in suffering for a legitimately infinite extension of what are called human rights. One electoral law is thus always at the same time more and less democratic than another; it is the force of force, a weakness of force and the force of a weakness; which means that democracy protects itself and maintains itself precisely by limiting and threatening itself.  
Jacques Derrida, Rogues, tr. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2005), pp. 30-36.

We can examine the challenging question of allowing immigrants and non-citizens the vote, but that's too abstract a concept.  What about people without driver's licenses, or birth certificates?  What about people who didn't vote for Donald Trump?  "They need to let it go. Let it go. Shut their mouths and let the man do what he’s got to do."  And he can do that a lot better if those people who didn't vote for him, don't have a voice:

We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It it's disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our [rallies] with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.

Because really, who needs voting when we can just confine Republicans in office to representing the people they think put them in office, and ignore all those other 'citizens'?  Representative democracy is so much easier when you only have to represent people whom you think are thinking like you.

Interestingly, we need not just a Derrida to deconstruct our democratic ideals (which are neither so ideal nor so democratic), but also a Niebuhr to make us look at fundamental issues of human nature:

The same phenomenon is in the middle of transforming the media landscape. Until a few years ago, a small elite of writers, editors, producers, and news anchors effectively decided what views were mainstream enough to be given a hearing. This may sound sinister, but it served an important purpose. It allowed the journalistic class to contain false claims and to refuse to publish racist articles. It also meant that critics who rejected polite political discourse had trouble breaking in. Building a distribution network was expensive, so they couldn’t do much beyond writing angry letters to the editor (which those newspapers could decline to print). 
It is quite clear the internet (i.e., social media) hasn't contained racism in America; it has empowered it.  And that's not really a surprise:

Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a delusion. After all, whites coming to these shores were reared in the Calvinist doctrine of sinful humanity, and they killed red men, enslaved black men and later on imported yellow men for peon labor - not much of a background for national innocence. "Nations, as individuals, who are completely innocent in their own esteem," Niebuhr wrote, "are insufferable in their human contacts." The self-righteous delusion of innocence encouraged a kind of Manichaeism dividing the world between good (us) and evil (our critics).
That quote from Niebuhr could explain Donald Trump in a nutshell.  That last sentence could be applied to the critics of Trump on the internet as easily as it is applied to the supporters of Trump who cheer him on as he attacks those they would see attacked.   And something Niebuhr wrote in The Irony of American History applies directly to our concern here:

Obviously the idea of the abolition of the institution of monarchy as the most important strategy for the redemption of mankind was characteristic of the peculiar prejudices of middle-class life as the idea of the abolition of the institution of property was of the unique viewpoint of the propertyless proletariat. In each case they identified all evil with the type of power from which they suffered and which they did not control; and they regarded particular sources of particular social evils as the final source of all evil in history. Neither Condorcet, nor Comte in his subsequent elaborations of similar hopes, placed all their trust in this single strategy. The liberal world has always oscillated between the hope of creating perfect men by eliminating the sources of social evil and the hope of so purifying human "reason" by educational techniques that all social institutions would gradually become the bearers of a universal human will, informed by a universal human mind. These ambiguities, which have saved the Messianic dreams of the liberal culture from breeding the cruelties of communism, must be considered more fully presently. At the moment it is worth recording that the Frenchman, Condorcet, envisaged the French and the "Anglo-Americans" as the Messianic nations. Here we have in embryo what has become the ironic situation of our own day. The French Enlightenment consistently saw the American Revolution and the founding of the new American nation as a harbinger of the perfect world which was in the making. Though Comte, almost a century later, rigorously clung to the idea of French hegemony in the coming utopia and fondly hoped that French would be its universal language, France has fallen by the wayside as a nation with a Messianic consciousness, its present mood being characterized by extreme skepticism rather than apocalyptic hopes. (emphasis added)

--Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1952), pp. 66-68.

We still hope for the apocalypse, when all foes are vanquished, and all truth is undeniably revealed.  In the meantime, we identify evil with what we think we suffer from and don't control, and particular sources of particular social evils as the final source of all evil in history.  Once that is eliminated, we will finally be free.  We will be free because we suffer form the power we don't control; once we control that, all our trials will be over; and once we eliminate particular social evils, like liberals or "identity politics," to name two examples, we will eliminate the final sources of all evil in history; or as good as, anyway.

But evil, and my evil?

Is social media good, or bad?  Depends on your point of view.  If you are a rural American who can finally get their opinion heard (read) beyond winning the lottery of getting on talk radio, then it's probably good.  But if your opinions are racist and retrograde and as ignorant as the President's on any subject (say, economics, for example), then social media is bad.  We didn't have unanimity of purpose when Walter Cronkite told us the way it is, but we didn't elect Presidents on a rising tide of white supremacy, either.  Was social media ever going to save us?  Reinhold Niebuhr could have disabused us of that notion in a heartbeat.  He still can; but Niebuhr is not our savior, either.  There is no savior:  not in the sense of an uber-Daddy who will make everything all right (and I stop again to point out the concept of "savior" was not a Jewish one, but a Roman one; it was an office claimed by the Caesars once they became divine, because they alone could save Rome from barbarity and keep civilization from collapse.  An idea that haunts Western civilization to this day.).

But if we are to respond to the effects of social media on our political system, we must start by understanding its nature: Neither wholly good nor wholly bad, social media favors the outsider over the insider, and the forces of instability over the defenders of the status quo.

Which is funny, because there's nothing more status quo than Facebook and Twitter, and the people who get the most attention on either platform are the most inside of insiders:  celebrities and politicians famous enough to be recognizable (quick, name a Senator from Idaho.  Or Arkansas.  Wyoming; Delaware.  I'll wait....) and the moment somebody like Stephen Barron is inside the White House, there's some group like Black Lives Matter that feels even more outside than ever.  And nobody's gonna confuse this situation with the kingdom of God, because the moment those who perceive themselves as last become first. they are busy sticking it to everyone else.  And that kind of political upheaval just seems to be the pendulum swing of American politics (from Kennedy/Johnson to Nixon, from Carter to Reagan, from Clinton to W., Obama to Trump).  So I'm not sure social media favors stability or instability, or inside over outside.  I'm not sure it really does anything but serve as a megaphone and the only question is:  who has the bullhorn now? (and, almost separately, there's always blowback.  Just ask Milo Yiannopolous).  Maybe it is the new printing press; but where's the power of the written word, now?  Donald Trump gets all his information from basic cable channels, and newspapers are dinosaurs.  And besides, Trump has an approval rating hovering between -14 and -18%.  So being on the inside is no guarantee of success; and social media is no conduit to upsetting the status quo.  Donald Trump still raves on Twitter, but in one month he's spent 6 days playing golf, and despite having a fully GOP Congress, not one bill has passed through that august body in 6 weeks to wind up on his desk for signature.  His only executive order to have immediate effect in the world created chaos and was slapped down by almost every court that reviewed it.

It seems to me the status quo is winning.  Or, at least, it isn't all that disrupted by a President who thinks tweets are Presidential decisions.

Monday, February 20, 2017


We're going to get, eventually, to the power and impact of social media (i.e., the internet), but on the way there....

“Why should Americans trust you?”

This is more likely the "real Donald J. Trump" than the prior tweet about Sweden was.  And it is proof there is really no gap between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.  Bannon is not Trump's Svengali; they are twin sons of different mothers.

Mr. Selin completed a study recently focusing on negative news reports about Sweden’s acceptance of refugees. It found numerous exaggerations and distortions, including false reports that Shariah law was predominant in parts of the country and that some immigrant-heavy neighborhoods were considered “no-go zones” by the police.

Breitbart News, the right-wing website once led by Stephen K. Bannon, now Mr. Trump’s senior strategist, has published numerous stories alleging that migrants have been responsible for a surge in crime and for a wave of sexual assaults. Swedish officials have said that their statistics do not justify such sweeping assertions, and that the country has a high number of sexual assault reports relative to other European countries because more victims come forward, not because there is more violence.

Mr. Selin said the news reports “were highly exaggerated and not based in facts,” adding, “Some of the stories were very popular to spread in social media by people who have the same kind of agenda — that countries should not receive so many refugees.”

As for the cover-up alleged by Mr. Horowitz, Mr. Selin said: “That kind of claim has been in the political debate for 15 years now. But nobody has been able to prove there is a cover-up. On the contrary, the fact is that crime rates are going down.”
In an essay in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the journalist Martin Gelin speculated that “Trump might have gotten his news from the countless right-wing media in the United States that have long been reporting that Sweden is heading for total collapse.”

He added, “Among Trump supporters, there are common myths that Sweden is in a state of chaos after taking in refugees from the Middle East.”
Again I remind you, the man has access to more and better information than almost anyone on the planet (much of it, yes, available on the internet, like The World Factbook issued by the CIA.)  But watching basic cable is so much easier than reading....

Same song, second verse....

It's hard to find any reports on the "new" travel ban (a/k/a Muslim ban) that Trump is supposed to issue to replace the one that blew up in the 9th Circuit (and in almost every trial court where it was challenged).  The broad outlines seem to be that it will be the same as the first travel ban, only without a restriction on green card holders (something Bannon was reportedly adamant be a part of the interpretation of the original ban).  Update:  those outlines can now be found here, where the new order seems to be the old order, only without an immediate application to those in transit.  As if that was the problem with the old order....

Which means:

“I think there will be a huge legal push-back on the presumably looming executive order,” said Alén Takhsh, an Iranian American attorney based in Chicago. “The constitutional arguments against the executive order are likely to once again pass judicial muster, and on top of that, you tack on the argument that the law does not pass the ‘rational basis’ test. Yes, the President does have wide discretion in protecting us, but what he does has to be rationally based. You can’t just say I’m going to ban people from Tajikistan, [for example], you have to point to how nationals of Tajikistan traveling to the U.S. have harmed Americans. And, obviously, facts are important in that calculus.”

To revisit two key portions of what the 9th Circuit panel said:

The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree, as explained above.

As the lawyer said, "you have to point to how nationals of Tajikistan traveling to the U.S. have harmed Americans."  Go back to the list the White House released earlier; all the U.S. based terror attacks they could list were perpetrated by "U.S. Person."  What new evidence do they have to support this new order?  The Bowling Green Massacre?  The terrorist attack in Orlando?  What happened in Sweden?

And of course, there's the other problem, the matter of due process under law:

The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause. 

Which doesn't even get close to the First Amendment issues and Trump's many statements about Muslims as the source of evil in the world (as Charlie Pierce says, Stephen Bannon drinks a glass of water while Trump speaks).  But we never have to get to the First Amendment issues, if the order can't get past the due process problems and the rational basis questions.

And nothing in the news reports indicates it's going to do that.  Because the President can't simply ban whole countries from traveling here without having a rational basis for the ban, and taking into account due process "prior to restricting an individual's ability to travel."  Which is why we do these things by legislative process, not by Presidential edicts.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

President Chicken Little

Why is the President of the United States, who has access to information from nearly 20 intelligence agencies as well as the entire United States government, getting his information from FoxNews?

And getting it wrong, to boot?

“You look at what’s happening,” [Trump] told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Which makes this response, well, fake news:

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Sunday that Trump was “talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident.”

Sanders added that the president had been “referring to a report he had seen the previous night.”
So, what "happened last night in Sweden" is that President Trump, the man with the largest information gathering apparatus ever assembled by human beings at his fingertips (and no, I don't mean Google, though even that would be better), saw a false report on basic cable news.*  And declared the sky to be falling.

*In that FoxNews story it was asserted that:  “Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago, so they’re now getting a taste of what we’ve been seeing across Europe already.”  The last terrorist attack in Sweden was in 2010.  The terrorist was a Swedish citizen.

I read the FAKE NEWS today, o boy!

I'm sure it's just a coincidence:

The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term (Russian language: враг народа, "vrag naroda"), as it fit well with the idea that the people were in control. The term was used by Vladimir Lenin after coming to power, as early as in the decree of 28 November 1917:

"all leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court."
Right, Reince?

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Saturday that President Donald Trump should be taken "seriously" in his claim that the press is "the enemy of the American people."
"I think you should take it seriously," Priebus said of Trump's claim in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Both stories grossly inaccurate, overstated, overblown and it's total garbage," he said. "So we spend, you know, 48 hours on bogus stories, and the American people suffer. So I do think it's a problem." 
Speaking of the "last 48 hours":  "Our President Spent His Saturday Lying To Our Faces."  Including a terrorist attack in Sweden that no one has heard of!  And, of course, just beyond the 48 hour limit, there was this:

“Why should Americans trust you?” asked [NBC reporter Peter] Alexander.

“I was given that information,” Trump said, cutting Alexander off. “I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.”

“Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake, when you provide information that’s not accurate?” Alexander asked.

“I was given that information,” said Trump. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”

“You’re the president,” Alexander replied.  
At least the press can legitimately say they were just "given that information."  And then there was that National Guard memo that was "100% false" until it turned out to be true.

So, about those "enemies of the people....."

Friday, February 17, 2017

We're getting sick of the winning!

And no, we're still not through with that press conference.

Trump's approval rating hits -18%.

Trump supporters will no doubt be elated.  The problem will be finding any.

A look inside the "fine tuned machine"

They've spread like cancer. ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited. And we have imposed new sanctions on the nation of Iran, who has totally taken advantage of our previous administration, and they're the world's top sponsor of terrorism, and we're not going to stop until that problem is properly solved. And it's not properly solved now, it's one of the worst agreements I've ever seen drawn by anybody. I've ordered plans to begin for the massive rebuilding of the United States military. Had great support from the Senate, I've had great support from Congress, generally.

We've pursued this rebuilding in the hopes that we will never have to use this military, and I will tell you that is my — I would be so happy if we never had to use it. But our country will never have had a military like the military we're about to build and rebuild. We have the greatest people on Earth in our military, but they don't have the right equipment and their equipment is old. I used it; I talked about it at every stop. Depleted, it's depleted — it won't be depleted for long. And I think one of the reason I'm standing here instead of other people is that frankly, I talked about we have to have a strong military.

We have to have a strong law enforcement also. So we do not go abroad in search of war, we really are searching for peace, but it's peace through strength. At home, we have begun the monumental task of returning the government back to the people on a scale not seen in many, many years. In each of these actions, I'm keeping my promises to the American people. These are campaign promises.

Some people are so surprised that we're having strong borders. Well, that's what I've been talking about for a year and a half, strong borders. They're so surprised, oh, he having strong borders, well that's what I've been talking about to the press and to everybody else. One promise after another, after years of politicians lying to you to get elected. They lied to the American people in order to get elected. Some of the things I'm doing probably aren't popular but they're necessary for security and for other reasons.

And then coming to Washington and pursuing their own interests which is more important to many politicians. I'm here following through on what I pledged to do. That's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222, 230 is impossible.

270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never [done] before, so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media's trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made, and they're not happy about it for whatever reason.

And — but a lot of people are happy about it. In fact, I'll be in Melbourne, Florida, five o'clock on Saturday and I heard — just heard that the crowds are massive that want to be there. I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet, it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved.

And they're outstanding people like Sen. Dan Coats who's there, one of the most respected men of the Senate. He can't get approved [for director of National Intelligence]. How do you not approve him? He's been a colleague — highly respected. Brilliant guy, great guy, everybody knows it. We're waiting for approval. So we have a wonderful group of people that's working very hard, that's being very much misrepresented about, and we can't let that happen.

So, if the Democrats who have — all you have to do is look at where they are right now. The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally, believe me. Let me list to you some of the things that we've done in just a short period of time. I just got here. And I got here with no Cabinet. Again, each of these actions is a promise I made to the American people.

I'll go over just some of them, and we have a lot happening next week and in the weeks — in the weeks coming. We've withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans Pacific Partnership. We're going to make trade deals but we're going to have one-on-one deals, bilateral. We're going to have one-on-one deals.

We've directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and call for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure and that means plant, equipment, roads, bridges, factories. People take 10, 15, 20 years to get disapproved for a factory. They go in for a permit, it's many, many years. And then at the end of the process — they spend tens of millions of dollars on nonsense and at the end of the process, they get rejected.

Now, they may be rejected with me, but it's going to be a quick rejection. Not going to take years. But mostly it's going to be an acceptance. We want plants built, and we want factories built, and we want the jobs. We don't want the jobs going to other countries. We've imposed a hiring freeze on nonessential federal workers. We've imposed a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations.

We've issued a game-changing new rule that says for each one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. Makes sense. Nobody's ever seen regulations like we have. You go to other countries and you look at indexes they have, and you say “let me see your regulations,” and they're fraction, just a tiny fraction of what we have. And I want regulations because I want safety, I want environmental — all environmental situations to be taken properly care of. It's very important to me. But you don't need four or five or six regulations to take care of the same thing.

We've stood up for the men and women of law enforcement, directing federal agencies to ensure they are protected from crimes of violence. We've directed the creation of a task force for reducing violent crime in America, including the horrendous situation — take a look at Chicago and others, taking place right now in our inner cities. Horrible.

We've ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We're becoming a drug infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We are not going to let it happen any longer.

We've undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe. And are now in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border, met with general — now [Homeland Security] Secretary [John] Kelly yesterday, and we're starting that process. And the wall is going to be a great wall, and it's going to be a wall negotiated by me. The price is going to come down just like it has on everything else I've negotiated for the government. And we are going to have a wall that works, not gonna have a wall like they have now which is either nonexistent or a joke.

We've ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal law and that harbor criminal aliens, and we have ordered an end to the policy of catch and release on the border. No more release. No matter who you are, release. We have begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety. We are saving American lives every single day.

The court system has not made it easy for us. And are even creating a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, of which there are many. We have taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country. No parts [that] are necessary and constitutional actions were blocked by judges, in my opinion, incorrect, and unsafe ruling. Our administration is working night and day to keep you safe, including reporters safe. And is vigorously defending this lawful order.

I will not back down from defending our country. I got elected on defense of our country. I keep my campaign promises, and our citizens will be very happy when they see the result. They already are, I can tell you that. Extreme vetting will be put in place, and it already is in place in many places.


Of course, the real question is:  why does the President of the United States have 77 minutes clear on his calendar to go on like this, and then take the weekend off?  Who's minding the store?  Who's in charge?  What the hell is really going on?

Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States

What is he even talking about?

The man has absolutely no clue how a government of laws, not of men, works:

Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision. We had a court that's been overturned. Again, may be wrong. But I think it's 80 percent of the time, a lot.

We had a bad decision. We're going to keep going with that decision. We're going to put in a new executive order next week some time. But we had a bad decision.

That's the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports. You had some people that were put out there, brought by very nice busses, and they were put out at various locations.

Despite that the only problem that we had is we had a bad court. We had a court that gave us what I consider to be, with great respect, a very bad decision. Very bad for the safety and security of our country. The rollout was perfect.

Now, what I wanted to do was do the exact same executive order, but said one thing. I said this to my people. Give them a one-month period of time. But Gen. Kelly, now Sec. Kelly, said if you do that, all these people will come in and (inaudible) the bad ones.

You do agree there are bad people out there, right? That not everybody that's like you. You have some bad people out there.

Kelly said you can't do that. And he was right. As soon as he said it I said wow, never thought of it. I said how about one week? He said no good. You got to do it immediately because if you do it immediately they don't have time to come in.

Now nobody ever reports that. But that's why we did it quickly.

Now, if I would've done it a month, everything would've been perfect. The problem is we would've wasted a lot of time, and maybe a lot of lives because a lot of bad people would've come into our country.

Now in the meantime, we're vetting very, very strongly. Very, very strongly. But we need help. And we need help by getting that executive order passed.
Does he even understand the difference between signing an executive order and signing a bill into law?

So much winning!

The sad part is, Trump seems to think removing a rule that protects water from coal mining waste is a good thing.

January 9 was the third anniversary of the Elk River spill.  Is our children learning?

"Say a prayer for the pretender...."

This is how WaPo's transcript has it:

QUESTION: So first of all, my name is (Inaudible) from (Inaudible) Magazine. I (inaudible). I haven't seen anybody in my community, including yourself or any of the -- anyone on your staff of being (OFF-MIKE).

Because (OFF-MIKE). However, what we've already heard about and what we (OFF-MIKE) is (OFF-MIKE) so you're general forecast (ph) like 48 (OFF-MIKE). There are people who are everything (ph) happens through their packs (ph) is one of the (OFF-MIKE)...


TRUMP:...he said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not, its not, not -- not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.

So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican -- quiet, quiet, quiet.

See, he lied about -- he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu (ph) yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it.

So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

So I'm including the tweet and video above, because the reporter was Jake Turx of the Jewish publication Ami Magazine, which provided it's own transcript of the exchange:

And there's this:

When Turx tried to interject—maybe to remind the president he had specifically said he wasn't accusing him, personally, of anti-Semitism—Trump shouted him down again: "Quiet, quiet, quiet." The president went on to say he found the line of questioning "repulsive" and "insulting."

That answer is as weird and inappropriate as anything Trump said in the entire 77 minutes.

Yeah, about that....

It's like a logo for this press conference....
I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done.

Oh, I can think of at least one....

So much material for blog posts, you'll get sick of all the blog posts!

If we change the channel will he go away?

The President thinks this is a TeeVee show:

“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is—I do get good ratings, you have to admit that—the tone is such hatred. I watched this morning a couple of the networks—I have to say, Fox and Friends in the morning, they’re very honorable people.”
Latest approval poll results:
Click poll name for details:

Fox RV


- 17


- 9


- 8


- 9

1/31 - 2/2/17

- 6

1/27 - 2/2/17

- 8


Latest Gallup tracking has an approval rating of -14%.

So much winning!  I'm getting sick of the winning!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

So much uniting, I'm getting sick of the uniting!

No, it's not the right album.  But it's how I feel....

Somebody's gonna have to explain it to me, I'm not sure what it means:

We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It it's disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.

But it has something to do with Obamacare, people who "fill up our alleys" and "you wonder how they get there" (on foot?), and, I guess, town hall meetings with U.S. Representatives (in alleys?):  "but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing."

So, apparently, in the Trump Era, Republican office holders only represent Republican voters, and the rest can go screw.  Or they only represent Republicans in alleys.  And it all has something to do with Obamacare being a disaster.


Say a prayer for the pretender....


You don't have to be stupid to be a racist, but it helps:

"We're going to do a lot of work on the inner cities. I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities," [Trump] said during a press conference.

"When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus), Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda—" American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan asked.

"Am I going to include who?" Trump interrupted.

"Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—" Ryan said.

"Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?" Trump said, speaking over her. "Do you want to set up the meeting?"

"No, no, no, I'm just a reporter," Ryan said.

"Are they friends of yours? No, go ahead," Trump continued. "Set up the meeting."

"I know some of them, but I'm sure—" Ryan began.

"Let's go," Trump said. "Set up a meeting."

I don't think Trump even knows what the Congressional Black Caucus is.

I missed this press conference.  It sounds like it was an out of town effort at Theater of the Absurd.  So quoting from it is my way of coping:

"The leaks are absolutely real," Trump said during a press conference. "The news is fake, because so much of the news is fake."

"If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?" a reporter pressed.

"The reporting is fake," Trump insisted. "Here's the thing, the public isn't — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved."

Trump said that he has been "involved with this stuff" for his entire life.

"So I know when you are telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things," Trump said. And I'll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way."

Even Jake Tapper can't take it any more:

“Everybody at home needs to ask themselves, how would you react if that were your boss coming in and giving a speech to the employees where you work?” Tapper said. “How would you react if that was somebody in your family that you were trying to have a conversation with? You would think, 'This is very difficult to assess in a positive way. The person is not dealing with with world in which we live.'”

“He said things that weren’t true, he was called out by one reporter,” Tapper continued. “‘You said you had the biggest electoral victory since Reagan, that’s not true.’ And he said well, ‘Somebody gave me that information. Somebody gave me that information.’ The buck stops there? Is that where we are with this presidency? You said it. Own the words. You were wrong.”

Tapper turned to the camera, presumably to address the President.

“But it’s not just about electoral votes. It’s about the fact that he's still fixated on whether or not he legitimately won the presidency,” he said, “President Trump if you're watching, you’re the president. You legitimately won the presidency, now get to work and stop whining about it." 
The irony about screams of "fake news" and claims of his electoral college victory, is not even sharp. It's more like a sign of megalomania:

"Our administration inherited many problems across government, and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess," Trump said. "It's a mess. At home, and abroad. A mess."

A "mess" he once again promised he would "fix."  Given how thoroughly clueless he was yesterday about the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, confidence in his ability to "fix" the "mess" in the world is low.  Since I'm quoting from TPM so freely, I'll let Josh Marshall speak for me, too.  I would only add to his comments that Josh is too young to remember Nixon's Final Days, but I'm not. Nixon was crushed by what he had done, and how hard the Congress had come down on him.  Not to be forgotten is that Agnew was forced to resign and then convicted on criminal charges, and Ford was the only Vice President never to be elected to that office, who subsequently became President when Nixon finally realized he had to get out of town ahead of justice in the guise of the U.S. Congress.  I've noted before that Trump already sounds like Nixon in those days, just the Nixon we knew from news reports and television appearances, not the Nixon Woodward later limned.  This is not good at all:

There are credible reports of Richard Nixon being in this sort of state in the final weeks of his presidency. But Nixon, to give him his due, was at the center of the greatest political scandal in American history, bearing down on him for months and pushing him toward the greatest political disgrace and humiliation in his nation's political history. He was overseeing the Vietnam War, witnessing various domestic civil disturbances, grappling with foreign policy blowups which neared superpower confrontations. There was a lot going on. Trump has been President for less than four weeks. Aside from domestic, media driven and other crises of his own making, virtually nothing has happened.

But the man who just appeared before the press for a free-ranging airing of grievances looked tired, sullen and half broken. His bracing insistence that everything is going perfectly in his White House sounded desperate and bizarre.

He's coming up on one month down and 47 to go.


This is the question and answer Tapper was talking about:

“Why should Americans trust you?” asked [NBC reporter Peter] Alexander.

“I was given that information,” Trump said, cutting Alexander off. “I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.”

“Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake, when you provide information that’s not accurate?” Alexander asked.

“I was given that information,” said Trump. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”

“You’re the president,” Alexander replied. 
Trump's margin in the electoral college put him 46th out of 56 Presidential elections.

And:  there is an annotated version of the transcript at WaPo.  Good reading if you don't want to sleep at night.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

VERY Un-American!

As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The sources said the interceptions include at least one contact between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian official based in the United States. It could not be confirmed whether this involved the telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that has led to Flynn’s resignation, or additional communications. The sources said the intercepted communications are not just limited to telephone calls: The foreign agency is also gathering electronic and human source information on Trump’s overseas business partners, at least some of whom the intelligence services now consider to be agents of their respective governments. These operations are being conducted out of concerns that Russia is seeking to manipulate its relationships with Trump administration officials as part of a long-term plan to destabilize the NATO alliance.

Moreover, a Baltic nation is gathering intelligence on officials in the Trump White House and executives with the president’s company, the Trump Organization, out of concern that an American policy shift toward Russia could endanger its sovereignty, according to a third person with direct ties to that nation’s government.

And oh-by-the-way, remember the "dossier"?

For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump's inauguration.

None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs.
But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials. CNN has not confirmed whether any content relates to then-candidate Trump.

The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement "greater confidence" in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.

It ain't over 'til it's over.

I blame the leakers, myself.

"Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?"

And when did he know it?

Yates communicated her concerns to White House Counsel Don McGahn, a longtime Trump adviser whose main qualification was his loyalty to Trump and knowledge of business and campaign finance. He knows little or nothing about national security.

But what chance is there that McGahn would not have told the president about the warning from Yates?
Was never the right question, even when applied to Richard Nixon.  It isn't necessary to prove Trump masterminded contacts with Russia, approved of conversations with Russian intelligence operatives, knew his people were talking with Putin's people.  It's only necessary to prove such contacts happened, by people appointed or even just allowed to work for, Donald Trump.

The buck stops there.

The genial dunce defense of Ronald Reagan, who actually was genially dense because of an organic brain condition which should have disqualified him from remaining in office under the 25th Amendment, doesn't apply here.   Reagan was still responsible for what Oliver North & Co. did, because he was the President and North was on his staff.  Was the President criminally responsible?  That's the high bar of "what did he know, and when?".  That standard doesn't apply here.  The standard here is:  why is the President establishing an administration this incompetent, or possibly even corrupt, and certainly since January 20, not preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States of America?  Because that's the standard the President must be held to, or the oath of office is an empty sham.  And if the President cannot oversee his own staff and be sure they do not, at a minimum, harm the national interests of the country, then what business does he have being President?

And that whole question of who is "leaking" this "classified information"?  Bullshit.  These reports are coming out of the FBI, as part of their investigations into the Trump Administration and the Trump campaign.  The source of the information is not Edward Snowden.  It is information that may soon be the basis of a criminal charge.  Trump is screaming about "leaks" because he's been pantsed on the national stage.

Richard Nixon tried the same defense, before he was forced to release the information that finally drove him from office.