Category Archives: Michael F

Ecce Ryancare

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There, fixed it.

Or Trumpcare, or whatever you want to call it. We got a sneak preview last month, but it was finally scored by the CBO, and the verdict is…no amount of lipstick, perfume, paint, wire, chewing gum, or whatever else can hide the fact that it’s one giant shit sandwich:

A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year than under President Barack Obama’s health law — and 23 million more in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. Some of the nation’s sickest would pay much more for health care.

[The CBO] warned that a last-minute amendment made to win conservative votes would result in deeply dysfunctional markets for about a sixth of the population. In those places, insurance would fail to cover important medical services, and people with pre-existing illnesses could be shut out of coverage, the budget office said.

It’s enough to make a wingnut candidate for Congress body-slam a reporter.

 

It Ain’t Over Till The Fat Clown Sings

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Or tweets, or opens his mouth, either to blab official state secrets to Russia or claim victimhood on a scale so absurd you’d swear this isn’t an actual president…or for that matter even a reality show president. He’s taking it down to Gong Show levels.

Not that it seems to matter to the base or what counts as the GOP brain trust, who continue to cling like a sucker fish…that’s what addiction to Laffer Curve voodoo economics will do to you. Hard to quit it, especially when it’s pretty much all you’ve got…well that and demonizing libruls.

So…how long does it go on? I keep repeating this, so apologies, but as long as there’s not an actual, major, honest-to-oh-my-god crisis, the US can probably lurch along with Goofus nominally in the top slot. The rest of the world is already learning to deal with the dingbat-in-chief, i.e., ignore his bluster, then flatter with false praise/walk on him like a rug…or if you’re Russia, just pull his strings. But…each day is another roll of the dice…sooner or later there’s going to be something. And then what happens?

Nixonian…Yes, But…

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…not to get all Slate magazine style contrarian; however…I see Trump as more…banana republic, or banana republican…the nepotism, the comic degree of his buffoonish ignorance. Berlusconian, if that’s a word.

Nixon, for all his faults, and god did he have faults, was still someone I can at least picture as President of the United States, deeply flawed but nonetheless intelligent, driven to, if not greatness, achievement…his massive flaws made for high drama…

Trump in contrast is low farce, POTUS as pro-wrestling, a funeral dirge played by kazoos, a cartoon figure so obviously tied to Russia it wouldn’t surprise me if he signs an executive orders demanding the capture of moose and squirrel, and for changing the Capitol dome to an onion dome (of course he’d stiff the contractors).

And…no tears for Comey. Yeah, it reeks to high heaven that he got the boot just as he began to take a serious look at Moscow-on-the-Potomac, but goddamn, he’s otherwise been such a pussy he should be worried Trump would grab him.

Meanwhile…again, the country can lurch along like this, and it’ll sell newspapers/drive traffic to websites…but given how painfully obvious it is that this gang could fuck up a two-car motorcade, lord help us if/when an actual crisis hits…

“Nauseous?” How The Hell Do You Think We Feel?

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“Mildly Nauseous” is how James Comey summed up his interpretation/implementation of “the Clinton Rules” last October in sworn testimony yesterday, ultimately tipping the scales in favor of, you know, the narcissistic, greasy Cheeto now holding the title of POTUS.

Nauseous? Hell, a lot of us are at the very least more than a little anxious. I wouldn’t count on Cheeto and his family of dipshits to successfully hit the ocean if they fired off a missile from the beach…and if the first hundred days are any indication, we’ll have to more or less daily hope that someone, anyone, can keep Trump distracted, perhaps by ridiculous anecdotes about his latest hero Andrew Jackson (note: just me, but a comparison to Jackson isn’t exactly a compliment) or at the very least in awe of “how complicated” everything is.

And god help us should he build a sense of comfort or confidence in office. That combined with the temperament of a spoiled juvenile is a recipe for something I don’t even want to smell, let alone experience.

So, thanks Comey. I really mean it…well, nah, I don’t, of course. Fuck you, asshole.

Laffer Curve…Emphasis On Laff

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Continuing on the path that makes him the repetition of history as farce (cementing Bush Junior’s place as tragedy) Team Trump unveiled their paper-thin tax, um, plan. Literally: it’s one page long. Even Herman Cain thought federal laws affecting tens of millions of people could run to as many as three pages.

It also brings back the oldest canard in conservative catechism, the zombie insistence that tax cuts will pay for themselves  … proven wrong over the last three plus decades, but it seems there will always be wingers who think of one more tax cut — and one more war — in the same way extras in the Walking Dead think of brains.

That said, a single page paean to voodoo economics doesn’t stand much chance of passage, even with the wingnut Congress we’ve got. Taxation is an explicit federal power, so you could expect any bill to get the full treatment before making it to (it pains me to say this) Trump’s, um, desk…but more likely this will die not unlike the AHCA (to be fair, a zombie version of that is stumbling through Congress, but I wouldn’t bet on it).

I dunno: this could be, under the circumstances, maybe not a good thing, but the best we can hope for: Trump as a largely ceremonial yet strikingly ineffective executive…capable of boorishness that’s…embarrassing as all hell to anyone with half a brain, and the embodied voice of those with any less (i.e., the true believers).

The country could probably stagger along like this on auto-pilot for one, or, heaven forbid, two terms. But, and sorry to repeat, that’s in the absence of a genuine crisis. If something happens…well, I just don’t even want to think about it and instead hope the next three years and, what, nine months, elapse as quickly as possible.

Don’t Let The Door Hit You…

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To the extent that my .000002 cents worth could be piling on…sure, why the hell not? O’Reilly really is a cynical sack of shit, both in public and apparently in private as well, so a kick or two on his way out the door is the least he deserves…

Of course, this is also a convenient way for Faux Noise to drop an aging and over-the-hill voice anyway (not to mention that Bill’s slightly less sycophantic than other Faux, um, talent? — see Hannity, Sean — when it comes to Maximum Leader Trump)…so this is as good a time as any for his graying head to roll. And it’s not like there won’t be, I don’t know, the usual: books, interviews (will be interesting to see how he handles hostile questions…assuming he gets any)…between that and whatever money doesn’t get doled out in various settlements…the only punishment, which I guess is better than nothing at all, is the knowledge that Faux cut bait/axed him.

And handed his slot to Tucker Carlson. Laff: axed a dick, replaced him with a weenie. Hope that burns at a little.

Trump: A Feature, Not A Bug

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Rick Perlstein notes notwithstanding the tendency of historians to paint the conservative movement in pastel colors, Trump-style bigotry and hate has always been a pretty generous side if not main course:

The professional guardians of America’s past, in short, had made a mistake. We advanced a narrative of the American right that was far too constricted to anticipate the rise of a man like Trump.

A few historians have provocatively followed a different intellectual path, avoiding both the bloodlessness of the new social historians and the psychologizing condescension of the old Hofstadter school. Foremost among them is Leo Ribuffo, a professor at George Washington University… Ribuffo argued that America’s anti-liberal traditions were far more deeply rooted in the past, and far angrier, than most historians would acknowledge, citing a long list of examples from “regional suspicions of various metropolitan centers and the snobs who lived there” to “white racism institutionalized in slavery and segregation.”

Saint Ronaldus himself, despite his alleged geniality, wasn’t above rhetorical if not actual calls for bloodbaths; if I remember right, he also had a callous, tone-deaf reaction to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Trump is the merely the distilled essence…the preferred flavor for, goddamn, people who I guess thought George W. Bush was OK, but a little too sophisticated and nuanced. They fervently believe Trump will crack skulls, or at the very least, speak for and to those who’ve decided that what is fundamental — in more ways than one — is “hating liberals, hating Obama, hating abortion and hating same-sex marriage.” And a hating lot of other things.

Fortunately for us, Trump will likely disappoint them. Aside from turning the executive branch into grifter’s paradise for the .01 percent, the administration can’t organize an Easter Egg roll. But…they can still do significant damage…so they still need to be opposed, not ignored and not appeased.

Duck and Cover?

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No surprise, I agree with Adrastos: Senate Democrats should filibuster seat-stealing plagiarist Neil Gorsuch and call Mitch-the-Turtle’s bluff. As far as decorum or traditions are concerned, that bridge was burned some time ago, with plenty of evidence that it was McConnell himself playing a major role as arsonist.

And aside from his not-entirely-original writing, I think we should note Gorsuch’s own actions and behavior. I read somewhere he placed a courtesy call to Merrick Garland immediately following his own nomination…well, goody for him…and while I’m well aware that the brass ring of a Supreme Court seat is quite a prize for a career judge, the fact that Gorsuch, aside from a phone call, hasn’t shown…to my knowledge, any…mixed feelings about accepting a stolen seat speaks volumes.

McConnell invoking the nuclear option on Supreme Court seats WILL suck as long as Trump or Pence is in position to nominate wingnut justices…but…maybe this will finally light a fire under Democratic voters…and if it doesn’t, well…shit.

The Art Of The Steal

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So, it’s becoming — or maybe I should say finally becoming — a topic of discussion (source), the only question being whether Trump is a wholly owned subsidiary with little more than naming rights, or whether he also owes his soul to creeps that make Bebe Rebozo seem like JP Morgan. Hell, when I watched Phil Ruffin speak at an alleged Trump fundraiser for veterans I literally laughed out loud…turns out Ruffin might be the most upstanding and legitimate partner Trump’s had in some time.

To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.

Duh. Glad they’re at long last taking a look, but this not being front and center throughout last year’s campaign was journalistic malpractice. Instead, we were treated to an endless nothingburger of Hillary’s emails, topped with an equally nothing secret sauce of alleged pay-to-play from the Clinton foundation. I mean, WTF? If Clinton had an iota of the sorts of business ties that look, pun intentional, par for Trump’s course, the wingnut howling might have disrupted the space-time continuum. As it stands, with the assistance of useful idiots like Devin Nunes, we’re treated to an almost farcical repeat of the latter stages of Watergate, when everyone fucking knew — knew — Nixon was guilty, but went to absurd lengths (quite literally for Rose Mary Woods) to give him the benefit of the doubt…and might have let him ride it out but for the tapes.

And yet, with all this, I think the most depressing aspect is that there are STILL a few folks — some of whom are my neighbors here in Red State/Red Stick — who will shrug their shoulders or maybe respond with, yeah, but her emails, or yeah, but Benghazi, etc. Goddamn.

Lethal Dose

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Today the House votes on the hastily concocted toxic brew they’ve come up with to replace Obamacare…right now the big question appears to be whether they can make it awful enough to appeal to the “Freedom” Caucus while not losing any of what the Times calls “moderate Republicans” (note: this is how the Overton window marches ever rightward).

Conservatives are upset by the failure of the House bill to repeal a set of regulations in Mr. Obama’s signature health law, which require insurers to cover a base set of benefits, like maternity care, preventive services, wellness checkups and rehabilitative services. These “essential health benefits” raise the cost of insurance and prevent companies from offering stripped-down options, the conservatives say.

“How can you talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, without repealing the essential health benefits?” asked Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican who attended the meeting with Mr. Pence.

Regardless of today’s outcome, any normal liberal/progressive political party would have a field day with this. “They’re voting to ‘repeal essential benefits'” should be a message/talking point that becomes reflexively associated with Trump/Ryan care. But…Democrats…so, instead…

Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho, likened the swirling cloud of uncertainty to the situation in November 2003, when the House approved a bill adding prescription drug benefits to Medicare after a roll-call vote that lasted nearly three hours in the middle of the night. The bill passed, 220 to 215, after House Republican leaders put down a conservative rebellion.

Yeah, that won’t surprise me. Then we’ll have a few news cycles devoted to the politics and spin, and finally…a relatively quiet death in the Senate. Rinse, repeat…and get used to the idea of government as little more than reality television through at least 2020…which is, well, not exactly all fine and good, but survivable…unless and until, heaven forbid, you get a real crisis…

A Feature, Not A Bug

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Steve King’s lately been telling the world what he really thinks (and though a different Steve — Scalise — hasn’t, his prior record was no impediment to being selected Majority Whip). I’ve wondered whether this could be a broader trend in right wing, um, for lack of a better term, thinking — a degree of economic stability allowed otherwise anxious wingers the luxury of letting their inner racist freak flag fly. Zack Beauchamp (via Paul Krugman) explains:

…a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration — or, more precisely, it doesn’t do it powerfully enough. For some, it frees them to worry less about what it’s in their wallet and more about who may be moving into their neighborhoods or competing with them for jobs.

The United States is marked by far more racial division than its European peers. Poverty, in the minds of many white Americans, is associated with blackness. Redistribution is seen through a racial lens as a result. The debate over welfare and taxes isn’t just about money, for these voters, but rather whether white money should be spent on nonwhites. “Hostility between races limits support for welfare,” Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote conclude flatly in the paper.

This isn’t to argue that progressive ideas should be abandoned. But it does suggest trying to appeal to certain blocs of voters might be less of an option than…getting our voters out. And let’s continue to remember we outvoted them. Which offers some hope.

 

No Real Surprises

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So, just shy of two months into the the regime of the digitally-challenged-Tweeter-in-Chief (maybe his tiny fingers make it easier to type on telephone keypads)…and…it’s all pretty much what you’d expect. Epic ineptitude combined with gratuitous ugliness and bullying. No wonder he still scores well with the GOP base.

I guess we could lurch along like this for a while. Hell, Reagan spent a good bit of his second term (and possibly some of his first) more than a little, um, disengaged. However, with the present occupant, you’ve got to wonder/worry: What happens if there’s a real crisis? And, in the absence of a crisis, how much damage/looting can they do?

In other words…goddamn, it’s bad…but…goddamn, it could be even worse.

 

There’s The Proverbial Russian Bear

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But this is the first I’ve ever heard of a Russian possum:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

They’re already responding with non-denial denials, “but you didn’t ask [x,y,z]” and so on…regardless of whether Sessions was within a narrow legal window, it certainly plays to what I remember a lot of wingers used to call questions of character. And by that standard, well, can’t say I’m surprised. Sessions comes across as a shifty figure, all too willing to bend reality to suit his purposes … purposes which have quite the ugly wingnut tilt.

Good to see Democrats showing a bit of spine over this. They might not be able to push Sessions out, but maybe it will help minimize the damage he’ll do to the Justice Department.

Hail To The Twerp

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Further confirmation that the fate of the world rests in the tiny hands of the most immature person to officially swear the oath. Christ.

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.

The in-person touch is also important to keeping Trump from running too hot. One Trump associate said it’s important to show Trump deference and offer him praise and respect, as that will lead him to more often listen. And if Trump becomes obsessed with a grudge, aides need to try and change the subject, friends say. Leaving him alone for several hours can prove damaging, because he consumes too much television and gripes to people outside the White House.

So, for the next three years, ten months … and twenty eight days or so … looks like we’ll have to rely on what amounts to a baby sitter in chief to keep the toddler tyrant from turning every perceived slight into a global crisis. Imagine if his predecessor had reacted similarly.

Maybe they can require that hands/fingers “must be this large” to assume some of the more seriously responsibilities of the office…like handling the nuclear briefcase, or ordering airstrikes.

Gun Nuts

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Maybe the GOP-controlled Congress wanted to prove they too could mix elements of incompetent stumblebum and amoral jackassery … or maybe they just did it for, I dunno, fuck’s sake … but they voted to remove restrictions on buying guns for individuals who qualify for mental illness Social Security disability.

Or maybe they consider it a basic constituent service, i.e., you’d have to be nuts to vote for these nitwits.

The doubling down on stupid has gotten so extreme that in Michigan they’re even floating the idea of Kid Rock for US Senate, which makes me shudder to think what they might have in mind for Ted Nugent.

Sure, so far Trump et al have been merely superlative boors, which I expect delights their base, but so far they haven’t actually had any kind of honest-to-goodness crisis that unfortunately tends to happen in the reality-based world…and with all indications suggesting that comparisons to Warren Harding might be unfair to Harding and that the benchmark for Trump isn’t even George W. Bush, but James Buchanan…

Damn.

 

Don’t Negotiate With Terrori– Tortoises

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That is to say, this guy.

McConnell’s a cynical shitheel — not really news there — and according to some, his condescending, arrogant, and just plain assholish behavior towards Elizabeth Warren serves a larger purpose: to force the Democratic Party into an “extreme” position come the next election cycle.

Wow. Elizabeth Warren is now their definition of extreme. That’s the flip side of the coin that seeks to normalize Donald Trump (oh, and look at Lindsay Graham, setting a speed record for slithering as tries to get back into the good graces of the Trump-branded GOP).

So…no, it’s not war, but it’s a pivotal time. Compromise is not an option. Trump’s the most visible symptom of the lunacy, but the entire party’s gone off the rails/eaten the monkey brains/drunk gallons of the Kool-Aid and is now swimming in Olympic-sized vats of the stuff. They’re playing to THEIR base, which is, well…the bloc that votes in Trump, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton…Mitch McConnell…a base that gleefully chants “lock her up” (or worse) about Hillary Clinton. A base that thinks Elizabeth Warren is extreme…or worse. Wanna bet McConnell will do all he can to tie Warren to HRC?

So Democrats — if you prefer, progressives, or even the dreaded L-word libruls — need to motivate our base…especially given, for starters, we outnumber them. We also have ethics, justice, logic, science and reason — even morality (wingnut Christians who voted Trump should be scorned and derided). Oppose Trump, and his asshole toadies like Mitch…proudly and loudly embrace the values of Elizabeth Warren.

Let’s find out where the country wants to go — our way or theirs. Obviously I hope it’s our way. But at least we’ll know…and if necessary, realize we’ll need to make some serious decisions should it break in the other direction.

Democrats Need A Wartime Consigliere

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Not that Sonny Corleone is someone you want to regularly take advice from, but…the hostage has long since been shot, the traditions, for whatever they were worth, have been trashed. Whatever Trump is, he’s not not the flip side of the coin. It’s an outrageous insult to suggest he’s their Obama or Clinton…

This is the end product of what Charles Pierce calls the prion disease infecting the Republican Party since they “ate the monkey brains” and went all in on Ronald Reagan. Every move since then has been a doubling down. Every move made by Karl Rove channeling his inner Lee Atwater…every defeat responded to with…more crazy, finally culminating in a preference and VERY lucky win for the self-admitted pussy grabber over a candidate they explicitly labeled “that bitch.” (or worse). A giant fuck all to everything, even at the expense — should it come to that — of our own prosperity. No, you don’t do business with the devil, or with his orange hued errand boy.

Don’t give in. Oppose…and in two years/four years/six years/every election cycle following: outvote.

“The Twilight Zone”

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That was Dan Rather’s observation on the Rachel Maddow show last night (video link… last week Charles Pierce –I think — also referenced the show); and yeah, in some ways it seems like were at the beginning of an episode, where the premise is set — in this case, alternative facts, the steady stream of reactionary executive orders, the bizarro speech at Langley last week, the tweets (hmm…no one who screamed loud and long about HRC’s emails seems to care about Trump using an unsecured phone…), etc.

To be fair, we’re only a week in — and, to also be fair, thank heavens we’ve survived it…what now, only 207 or so more? And there is strong opposition to Trump, for all the right reasons (though, sadly, the Democratic Party…isn’t exactly opposing…goddamn, Democrats — also a video link).

But…what happens when presidenting…gets difficult? And it will. Obama once mentioned (and I think JFK did as well) that by the time something reaches the Oval Office desk it is by definition difficult — otherwise it would be taken care of at a lower level. Trump still shows no sign at all of grasping that, and no indication he ever will.

Four years (or 207 weeks) can’t come fast enough…

Oops

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So, the dumpster fire that is the incoming administration shows no signs of letting up with Rick Perry’s discovery of additional —  some of us might think basic — duties of the Energy Department (who knows, before it’s all over Rick might also finally realize what it means when they say neither Holy, nor Roman, etc.).

But, par for the course: Education Secretary designate DeVos was, well, schooled, Tom Price demonstrated what sort of man he is (and now we’re just haggling)…and further evidence of global warming was revealed even as…damn, in just over 24 hours…someone who claims it’s all a Chinese plot to damage American industry is sworn into office.

I only hope, particularly given the record low approval ratings, that we aren’t forced to endure yet another pious lecture about the need to humbly listen to and heed the alleged wisdom of the Trump bloc…the sort of wisdom expressed in vehement hatred of all that is Obamacare while insisting that, no, the ACA is something different…(first cousin to “get the government’s hands off my Medicare”)…a voting bloc that pretty soon might find itself on the chopping block.

Buckle up…

Surrealistic Bully

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I keep repeating it — apologies — but it’s gonna be a long four years. And that’s not to defend CNN or Buzzfeed… well, CNN, at least…which like plenty of other “news” organizations, sure as hell had tons of fun breathlessly reporting on all the HRC email and foundation non-scandals…while ignoring both serious and frivolous material about Trump. Go figure. Oh, and fuck James Comey, too.

Sadder still is that some — not a majority or even a plurality (I keep reminding myself) but some welcome this descent into Bananaland USA…at least until they get tossed into the frying pan. And when (not if) that happens, will they continue to blame libruls? Is the Pope Catholic?

Sigh–I thought Bush Junior was history repeated as farce…and maybe he still is. But that just means the old quote (from yeah, this guy) might need a modest revision or addition…first as tragedy, then as farce, and finally as … reality television. And that’s pretty goddamn depressing.