Category Archives: Michael F

Lethal Dose


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


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


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


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


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


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…



Don’t Negotiate With Terrori– Tortoises


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


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”


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…



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


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.

Obamacare Repeal Kabuki


If it wasn’t so consequential, it would be kind of amusing to watch the knots wingnut leadership is twisting themselves into as they still insist they’ll, no really, eventually replace and begin to repeal what’s they’ve blasted for the last six years as the single most horrible and worst-est law ever, honest…the Obamanation (hahaha, thud, says the wingnut, laughing his head off). And they promised their raging constituents, furious at the black man’s insurance reform/signature legislation, they’d repeal it on day one of their triumphant return to power.

But what’s Paul Ryan’s (or Texas tag team Cornyn/Cruz’s)  tune these days? Yeah, no shit: there are actual, honest-to-god benefits people get from Obamacare/ACA/Insurance reform, benefits that if cut will cause real harm and damage (as often as not to the most bitter opponents of the black guy’s insurance reform … which happens to be an almost mirror image of not-at-all-black-guy Mitt Romney’s own reform in that despicable librul bastion Massachusetts).

No, it’s not perfect by any measure — no public option, no Medicare buy-in, far too willing to cozy up with Big Insurance — but given the real-world circumstances, it was the least that could be done, and it needed to be done, and Paul Ryan knows that, despite the universal GOPer cover-your-ears-I-can’t-hear-you-we’ll-sue…twice…-and-take-it-to-the-Supreme-Court opposition.

Oh, and to top it off, the media’s ALLOWING Ryan et al to get away with barely a question.  (Note: similarily they’re allowing Mitch-the-Turtle McConnell to now insist that opposition to a new SCOTUS nominee is unacceptable).

If he was still around, Orwell would be nodding his head because, you know…

Wingnut Beer Goggles


Athenae wrote about this Tuesday; The Atlantic also brought it up, others reflected on the tendency towards tribal loyalty and how it shapes perception

Fake news/propaganda/spin has always been around. I could go back further, but there were the five o’clock follies in Saigon, Ron Zieglar’s ever more dadaist dismissals and denials re: Watergate (and the subsequent effort to label it a “third rate burglary”)…WMD, last throes, and the outward scorn that (probably Rove) evinced towards “the reality based community” back in the days of Mission Accomplished…so it’s not real surprising that we now have The Cult of the Donald. particularly in an era when corporate media has sold what’s left of its soul for ratings and access.

But…cult or not, facts are stubborn (or, during The Cult of the Ronald, stupid) things. And the facts can form the basis of, if not eliminating The Cult of the Donald, at least keeping it in check/undercutting it. Because, despite the decades long smear campaign against Hillary Clinton (and, by extension, the Democratic Party), the Trump cult was outvoted…and when reality overcomes tribalist myth, it’s as likely as not that The Donald will crash and burn like plenty of other wingnut icons (offhand, I’m thinking of a former Loosiana [sic] governor who rode in like a conquering hero … but eventually slunk away universally hated).

Can’t say I’m very optimistic…but I still think history and facts are on our side…

Gary Busey Wasn’t Available?


Roy Moore is on the short list to replace Jeff Sessions. Yeah, that Roy Moore.

Christ, seems like every day it’s something else piling on. I won’t lie: since the election, I’ve been letting myself get distracted by all sorts of things (including some sort of small animal that invaded my attic this week…anyone know how to get rid of a squirrel, or maybe a bat? Am open to suggestions).

Anyway, beats the hell out of having to actually consider the next four — or, lord forbid, eight — years of wingnut kleptocracy and Banana Republicanism … voted in by a constituency that must have thought George W. Bush was too nuanced and restrained. Avert my eyes/somebody tell me when it’s finally over. But that’s what they’re counting on, along with a weak-to-non-existent official opposition and an elite media/press that made a Faustian bargain long ago…and shows no sign of reneging/regret.

Sorry to repeat, but it’s going to be a long four years…and hopefully NOT an even longer eight.

Putin On The Ritz


So, Vlad himself allegedly signed off on Operation Are-They-Really-That-Dumb? — gee, anyone wonder why? And that’s without knowing specifics, like, for instance, how much the Clown-Puppet-in-Chief might owe to Russian banks, etc.

Meanwhile, just my .000002 cents worth, but the Cabinet selections suggest an upcoming looting of the treasury that’d leave Harding Administration hacks in a combination of awe and envy…there’s corruption, then there’s open season on public funds getting shoveled into private pockets by the container ship-full.

But hey, I guess we don’t have to worry about the emails, right?

Get ready…come January, we’ll be getting it…good and hard.

In Other News, Opinions Differ On The Shape Of The Earth


And Team Trump thinks foxes make excellent hen house guards…

Am out of town, on a quick trip to a deep-blue state — felt like a brief change of scenery if not outlook would be good after last month — so keeping things short today…but still thinking, damn, this is going to be a long four years…

Dollars And Pence


First, good for those employees at Carrier who didn’t lose their jobs. At this point in my  middle-aged life, I’m well aware of just how frightening the prospect of getting laid off is.

Second, I’m also aware that tax incentives and other financial/political considerations are all in the business playbook nowadays. Hell, my local downtown is getting rebuilt via a combination of direct state government spending, TIFs and lord knows what else (a good bit of it done by GOPers Mike Foster and PBJ…go figure). So, on a practical level, I won’t holler — too loud — at the “solution” Trump/Pence offered, which, in so many words, is Throw Money At It.

However, this is an excellent example of the hypocrisy of alleged conservative free-market ideology. Turns out, they’re as eager to spend tax dollars as anyone else. They just want the money to go to their donors and contributors (but not necessarily their voter base or the greater public good).

Oh, and again, while I’m glad some Carrier employees will remain employed, some won’t. So, not exactly saving the day. More like glass half full. Plus, think of how other businesses might react. It’s a whole new source of revenue to exploit.

Finally, saving a few jobs still doesn’t change my mind about Trump/Pence. Nothing can take the taint off of either/both/the whole incoming administration. Sleaze is sleaze.

If Caligula Means Little Boots


What’s Latin for Little Hands?  Tiny Fingers?

Little Gloves? I guess Little Mittens would only be confusing.

Anyway, hope you have a pleasant holiday, particularly if you’re traveling and especially if you’re spending time in Trump territory. I’ve got a nice bottle of wine (ok, two)…that ought to smooth things over for the duration.


Believe Nothing Until It’s Been Officially Denied


The post title is something I recall attributed  to journalist Claud Cockburn; turns out the origin is a little more complicated…anyway…Trump is officially denying the effort to staff the incoming administration is a cross between The Night of the Long Knives and Operation Stumblebum. Be your own judge.

Last week I speculated they’d try to buy some time/breathing room by insisting they’ve inherited a colossal mess. That’s still possible, but I think we’ve also seen a bit of if not deer-in-the-headlights, then dog-that-finally-caught-the-car. Other than a few personal tweets, there’s been no pushback on the troubling-if-not-frightening report that Trump really IS presently unsuited for anything besides photo-ops…and that the Obama administration is embarking on what amounts to a cram-session/crash course to do what they can before January 20th.

Hmmm…I wonder if the Democrats will be pressured into accepting dubious Cabinet and other Executive appointees based on the fact that the top of the ticket is…scarily unqualified (and, in contrast, recall the extreme GOP opposition to any/all Obama Executive appointments). Less honeymoon and more toddler/training wheels.

Of course, given it’s Trump, I’d say be goddamned careful about just how much room you want to give the guy. At a certain point, and much, much earlier than is prudent, he’s likely to think/insist he’s got a lock on the position…and that’s when things gets scary. It’s going to be a bumpy ride regardless, but…

So, Thanksgiving Just Got A Lot More Interesting For A Lot More People


First, apologies for recycling a recent Photoshop effort, but I couldn’t think of much anything else … guess I’m still processing it all and at least trying to reach stage 5/acceptance on the grief scale. Paul Krugman and Roy Edroso have good advice for not just the upcoming holiday gatherings but the next (hopefully only) four years… and the single other thing that came to mind seemed to be in poor taste, even if considered with the best intentions.

If you’re wondering, it was some variant of a pelt or hunting trophy Wildebeest/Hilldebeest, since all the various forces finally managed, deservedly or not, to extract their pound of Clinton flesh/harpoon their white whale/bag their prize. An odd consortium ranging from Villagers who forever thought of the Clintons as — out of their proper place in DC high society? — to the “objective” media (see Rules, Clinton) to the assorted wingnut factions looking to, well, stick it to the bitch (paraphrasing Newt Gingrich’s mother — video link).

Sorry to digress…anyway, what’s done is done (and I’d just as soon NOT form the circular firing squad), the people have spoken, kind of…and funny how that goes: Obama gets an actual majority in 2008 and 2012, but must govern carefully and considerately, Trump comes in a la Bush Junior with a bare electoral majority and, ahem, not even a plurality of actual votes … but already I’ve heard at least one reference to mandate, and I’m pretty sure that was on librul NPR (if I recall, it was Eddie Munster doppelganger Paul Ryan who said it).

So, a new media cycle is beginning, and just to play seer for a moment, here’s my .0000002 cents worth on where I believe it leads — first, mandate or not, Trump enters office horribly unqualified to do much of anything besides photo-ops. Maybe he defers to Pence (gag) and/or Congress…and he has nothing approaching a defined policy…

So in lieu of the dog ate Don’s homework, they’ll insist on how REALLY horrible the mess was/is, which (of course) means that blame lies with Obama and librulism…I don’t even want to think about military and/or foreign policy, but as things go sour economically, we’ll continue to hear it’s the fault of the left, and, similar to the Kansas experiment that’s an ongoing exercise in how long the voting public will tolerate shit sandwiches (long enough in Kansas to RE-elect Brownback…sigh), it’ll continue to be anyone else’s fault except theirs, while they dish out plenty of red meat-good-old-fashioned-tribalism- and-hate-to-the-base…

Goddamn…it’s going to be a long four years.