Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More analysis of Trump's State of the Union speech

Here are a couple of dissections of what the president said (NY Times’ Frank Bruni) and what he didn’t say (Huffington Post), and one report on the aftermath (New Yorker Satirist Andy Borowitz).

Frank Bruni writing in the New York Times provides a pretty good summary of Trump’s State of the Uniom Union address last night: The Fictitious State of Trump’s Fantastical Union

The word that came to mind most often as I watched Donald Trump deliver his first State of the Union address was “pretend.”

He pretends to be a statesman, and we’re supposed to pretend that hundreds of vulgar and recklessly divisive moments before this — thousands, if we’re adding tweets — don’t negate that claim.

We’re supposed to pretend that he gives a fig about decorum, though it disappears almost as soon as the teleprompter does. Above all, we’re supposed to pretend that what he says today has any bearing on what he’ll say tomorrow, when what he said yesterday contradicted it.

Our president lives in a world of sand and wind and make-believe, where the merest gust can alter the shape of everything, and Tuesday night’s remarks — especially his appeal for “common ground” and his vision of “all of us together” as “one American family” — should be seen in that shifting, swirling, fantastical context.

Bruni summarizes several instances of the disconnect between what Trump said and what he has done, discrepancies between what he says and what he next does.

The distance between Trump when he’s controlled and Trump when he’s unbound makes a speech like Tuesday night’s an especially hollow charade. And the orchestrated news in it can’t erase the messier developments beforehand, including the escalation of his assault on the F.B.I. and reports of his lawyers’ panic about his offer to be interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller. Jonathan Swan wrote in Axios that one of Trump’s intimates “believes the president would be incapable of avoiding perjuring himself. ‘Trump doesn’t deal in reality,’ the source said. ‘He creates his own reality.’ ”

His speech was such a creation, and to treat it any other way is to launder his entire political history and see a leader who has never been there.

I’m not that good at pretend.

All that was about what Trump did say. Here, from the Huffington Post, is more about what Trump did not say. The Hidden Extremism Of Trump’s State Of The Union. The most important part of Trump’s State of the Union address is what he didn’t say.

President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was competently delivered and — for him — relatively inoffensive. The mainstream media and the television pundits will surely deem it to be a presidential moment, representative of yet another pivot to the center.

But one speech does not erase Trump’s record. The speech’s banality — its embrace of optimism and platitude — is a mask. Do not be fooled: Political extremism, divisive rhetoric and bizarre behavior have characterized the first year of Trump’s presidency and underlie many of the harmless-sounding proposals he talked about Tuesday night.

This is the president, recall, who rose to political power on the racist lie that his predecessor was born in Kenya, and he ran for president while calling to ban all Muslims from the country and deriding Mexican immigrants as rapists. He was slow to denounce white nationalists, who have looked to him as a leader and marched openly in the streets of this country. And since last summer, this president has launched an all-out war on the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a war that continued to rage this week.

Trump mentioned none of those facts in his State of the Union address. Indeed, the speech was most notable for all of the policies and initiatives of his administration that he downplayed or left out entirely.

Here are two examples. “On the economy, Trump bragged about job growth and the Republican tax cut bill, but he didn’t mention that those tax cuts were overwhelmingly tilted toward the wealthy and corporations.” “On immigration, his signature issue, the president called for compromise on the status of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. But he failed to mention that the crisis that has beset these immigrants, known as Dreamers, is one of his own making.”

The mood in the chamber ― at least on the GOP side ― resembled a monster truck rally. Republicans said they loved the speech. They enthusiastically cheered the many applause lines. They hooted. They hollered. They chanted “U-S-A,” with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pumping his fist to the rhythm of the cheer and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) holding up a red “Make America great again” hat.

But on the Democratic side, many sat when Trump entered the chamber. Many others spent a considerable amount of time on their phones as the speech became the third-longest State of the Union ever delivered, at one hour, 20 minutes and 34 seconds.

Democrats hissed during some of Trump’s claims. One line that will likely stick in memory will be his assertion that “a single immigrant” could bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” through family reunification. And the only reason it will be remembered is because it is so brazenly dishonest in a speech that contained a number of misleading claims, such as the GOP tax cut being the largest of all time. (It’s not.)

Hanging over the whole speech, but never acknowledged, was special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and what role Trump and his associates played in any sort of collusion.

The Russia investigation is a constant in the White House. Mueller has already indicted four people connected to Trump, and the probe gets closer and closer to the president and whether he tried to obstruct justice by firing the FBI director. And it continues to shape, and undermine, the other actions Trump takes as president.

Trump said a lot — his speech was one of the longest State of the Union addresses ever. But what he didn’t say tells you everything.

Last night, in Scriber’s opinion, was bluster, bullshit, and (soon to come more) bad behavior.

Finally, New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz weighs in, observing that Trump Collapses From Exhaustion After Ninety Minutes of Faking Empathy.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump collapsed from exhaustion after approximately ninety minutes of pretending to be a human being with empathy, the White House doctor has confirmed.

“In all my years of practicing medicine, I have never met a patient as healthy and vigorous as President Trump,” Dr. Ronny Jackson said. “But the sustained effort of simulating compassion proved too much for someone who has never exercised that part of his brain before.”

Shortly after Trump spent a gruelling ninety minutes pretending to care about immigrants, the unemployed, and other people whom he normally dismisses as losers, aides noticed that he was turning from a bright orange to a slightly paler orange before crumpling to the ground in a giant heap.

“If you have never spent a moment thinking about a human being besides yourself, imagine trying to pretend you are doing that for a solid ninety minutes,” Jackson said. “It’s physically punishing.”

Immediately following his collapse, Trump was rushed to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where a brain scan showed that his brush with human feelings did no permanent damage.

“I just visited with him, and he was sitting up in his bed, trashing Jay-Z on Twitter,” Dr. Jackson said. “It was such a relief to see that.”

Vice-President Mike Pence, who reportedly reacted to Trump’s collapse by leaping to his feet and exclaiming, “Am I President now?,” was not available for comment.

In a 'remarkably weak position' Trump, aided by the GOP, is poised to commit more crimes

Yesterday, Ahead of the State of the Union, Trump is in ‘a remarkably weak position’ wrote Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). In brief:

Trump heads to Capitol Hill as a president burdened by scandal, division, accusations of corruption, broken promises, and months of breathtaking dishonesty. He’s unpopular and distrusted the world over. His agenda – to the extent that he has one – faces poor legislative prospects, and his party is deeply concerned about this year’s midterm elections.

Then, last night, I watched some of the televised State of the Union addressed (or State of the Uniom printed on the tickets). My bad. My iconic takeaway visual was Trump clapping for himself - repeatedly - and turning around, I guess, to see that Ryan and Pence were doing the same. That’s what other authoritarians do in communist countries. Sick.

State of the union
State of the union:
Why is this guy clapping?

ABC News reflects on the address: ANALYSIS: In State of the Union, Trump’s contradictions were on display. It was part victory lap, part rallying cry, part bragging session, and part call for unity.

And it was all Trump. President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address encapsulated the contradictions and contradictory impulses of a presidency that has alternately soared and stalled, and has found itself distracted by the president’s own actions more often than not.

Despite anything Trump said or didn’t say, the Mueller investigation rolls along but not without political interference. Trump upstages his State of the Union address with a meltdown over the Justice Department reports Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post).

We’re not much further along than we were Monday in piecing together the explanation for former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s abrupt departure. Reports are disturbing insofar as they paint a picture of a vengeful president who is out of control and of a chief of staff, John F. Kelly, helping President Trump to muscle McCabe out of his post…

Once again, we see evidence that Trump believes the Justice Department should be working for him and allowing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s spurious memo to be released (because Trump thinks it helps him). Trump sees nothing wrong with strong-arming those involved in an investigation of him out the door. He blows up when the DOJ acts on national security grounds and when it complicates a campaign to smear the FBI.

… one does get the sense the wheels are coming off the bus at the White House. Trump’s level of panic is rising and his subordinates’ ability to contain him and prevent him from acting on his impulses seems to be diminishing. If not committing new crimes, he’s giving Mueller plenty of evidence of his “corrupt” intent.

That latter point is important legally.

Before the latest news, one legal analyst pointed out that if it is true, as a Foreign Policy report alleged, that Trump launched an organized smear campaign against McCabe; chief of staff and senior counselor to the director of the FBI Jim Rybicki; and former FBI general counsel James A. Baker, then the federal witness tampering statute (18 USC Section 1512) might come into play. That statute makes it illegal to use intimidation, threaten, or corruptly persuade another person, or attempts to do so with intent, among other things, to induce someone to change or withhold testimony or to “hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense.”

… Section 1512 (c) separately gives Mueller some more running room. That subsection makes it illegal to “corruptly” take action that “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” That generic catch-all could well, if the press accounts prove true, pose one more legal problem for Trump.

All that is why Trump will likely release the GOP’s “Nunes” memo this week - another move to discredit Justice and the FBI by the Trumpian disinformation machine. The AZ Blue Meanie (Blog for Arizona) has a comphensive account of the conspiracy to aid Trump and damage the Mueller investigation, national security be damned. In unprecedented move, GOP House Intelligence Committee jeopardizes national security to aid Donald Trump in obstruction of justice. Here is some of that story.

Donald Trump is engaged in a slow-motion “Saturday Night Massacre” purge to get to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He does not necessarily have to fire Mueller, but he can put him on an island by replacing everyone in the chain of command around him with yes-men who will deny Mueller resources, or deny his requests for subpoenas of documents or witnesses, etc., to effectively impede his investigation.

As I pointed out in a link to Foreign Policy yesterday, it reported on an organized campaign to discredit top DOJ and FBI leadership, expressly so that they would lose power in acting as witnesses to support Comey.

President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people directly familiar with the matter.

The FBI officials Trump has targeted are Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director and who was briefly acting FBI director after Comey’s firing; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; and James Baker, formerly the FBI’s general counsel. Those same three officials were first identified as possible corroborating witnesses for Comey in a June 7 article in Vox. Comey confirmed in congressional testimony the following day that he confided in the three men.

FBI Director Wray replaced Jim Rybicki last week. Baker was reassigned in December. And now McCabe is gone.

Trump has previously attempted to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, and to force Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign, who is now the target of the #ReleaseTheMemo smear campaign from Rep. Devin Nunes, FAUX News (aka Trump TV) and Russian intelligence bots.

The intentionally misleading GOPropaganda talking points memo from Rep. Devin Nunes and his staff will be released by the White House, without regard for national security sources and methods which may be compromised by the release. The Nunes Memo will go directly to FAUX News (aka Trump TV) where it will be hyped incessantly, and our Twitter-troll-in-chief will tweet about what he is watching on Trump TV in a seamless loop. Epistemic closure and the ‘conservative misinformation feedback loop’ media bubble.

Whether the Democratic minority memo that exposes how the Nunes Memo is cherry-picked intelligence taken out of context for partisan purposes is ever released remains to be seen.

Both memos rely on underlying classified intelligence, and FISA Court warrants, by law, are secret; it is a crime to reveal even the existence of a FISA Court warrant, let alone its contents. Yet here we are.

And that makes the Republicans in the House complicit with Trump in breaking the law. It should be now clear to all that the GOP will do anything to keep Trump in office, even committing crimes that endanger our national security.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Fact-checking the State of the Union and other illustrated news

State of the union
State of the union tomorrow:
Why would anyone believe this guy?

Trump is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union tomorrow night. Given his incredible track record of lie after lie after lie … now 5.9 per day, why would you believe anything this bozo says? You would be well advised to consult the AZBlueMeanie’s Mournday Mourning illustrated news instead of staying awake for the Republicans kissing his shoes (and working their way up from there).

The Washington Post fact checkers, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly, report that President Trump has made more than 2,000 false or misleading claims over 355 days. “After a year in office, President Trump has made 2,140 false or misleading claims and flip-flops. He now averages 5.9 per day.” See The Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false or misleading claims made by President Trump since assuming office.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

100 years of the flu - what you should know about 1918 and 2018

The Washington Post has two reports on 100 years of influenza. Here’s what you should know about the flu season this year. And here is what you should know about what happened in 1918: The flu can kill tens of millions of people. In 1918, that’s exactly what it did.

No snippets here. Both articles are germane (pardon the pun) to your health and that of people around you. Read them both.

Amateurization of Aspirants - just because you can run for public office does not mean you should

The advent of the digital camera (and its offshoot, the cell phone camera) created millions of self-appointed photographers. Social media, notably Twitter, Facebook, and blogging software, made millions of self-appointed political pundits (and Scriber admits to falling in these categories). But there is a presumed professionalism that accompanies photographers and pundits - or used to. (Think about Trump’s tweets.) And what is now happening is a flood of amateur aspirants to public office, often possessing no professional experience or qualifications for public office.

Because I believe in competent governance born of experience, this amateurization of the pool of candidates for public office worries me. And so I found resonance in the New York Times op-ed Politics Shouldn’t Be Like Open Mic Night by Jonathan Rauch (senior fellow at the Brookings Institution) and Raymond J. La Raja (professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst) (h/t Penny Pestle) Here are key snippets and comments.

The number of Democrats aiming to unseat Republican incumbents in the midterm elections in November is rewriting the record books. According to the Campaign Finance Institute, by last fall the Democrats were fielding about twice the number of challengers as Republicans managed in 2009, the height of the Tea Party insurgency. In Wisconsin, 17 Democrats have filed papers to challenge Gov. Scott Walker; eight are running in Iowa’s open governor’s race.

More candidates, more activism, more enthusiasm: What’s not to like? The civic-spiritedness of many citizens who are engaging in electoral politics for the first time is impressive.

Another aspect of this flood of candidates, however, is reason for concern. In a recent study for the Brookings Institution, we took a close look at the post-Trump mobilization and found it to be a potentially transformative step toward the amateurization of American politics — a trend that should trouble people who worry about political polarization and government dysfunction.

Analysts and reformers obsess over who sends money into politics. Far more important, however, is who sends candidates. If reasonable candidates are lacking, then voters cannot make reasonable choices. For most of the country’s history, recruiting and vetting candidates was the job of political professionals: elected officials, party grandees and core constituencies such as unions and business organizations.

With the rise of populist candidates, the vetting process has become unsettled. To be sure, the “invisible primary”, as the authors call that traditional vetting process had its deficiencies.

The invisible primary had definite drawbacks — it overlooked too many qualified women, for example — but it also performed the single most essential function in politics: weeding out office seekers who are incompetent, extreme or sociopathic. Nothing worried the founders more than how to protect democracy from those with “talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity,” as Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers.

A plethora of groups both new (e.g., Indivisible) and old (e.g., Emily’s List) are recruiting progressive candidates.

The groups scout for military veterans, Sandersistas and others. But we found that what they generally do not scout for is competence at governing. In fact, many shy away from experience in government, on the theory that careerists are impure and inauthentic. As a representative of Justice Democrats, a group organized by former Sanders supporters, told us, “We don’t want career politicians, period.”

So the proliferation of candidates has “become like a clown car. Everyone thinks they’re qualified and everyone jumps in.” The result is that “candidates in primary races are becoming more ideological and more inexperienced.” The inevitable result is more political polarization and governmental paralysis.

To be effective at their jobs, politicians need know-how, connections and I.O.U.s, which take years to accumulate. President Trump lacked all of those assets, so it is no surprise he has had trouble governing. In Congress and state legislatures, frustrated leaders find themselves saddled with anyone and everyone who prevails in low-turnout primaries, no matter how nutty or disruptive.

Maintaining a competent, responsive political class requires vetting candidates through both popular and professional filters. Neither works well without the other. Both parties stand to benefit from recruiting more broadly, and, up to a point, amateurism can refresh politics.

But when the country finds itself taking seriously the possibility of a presidential contest between Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, the cult of amateurism needs rethinking.

The now everyday chaos at the White House and the rotting of our government by incompetence and ignorance should be very loud warning signals. If you elect a clown you get a circus. Those of us in political groups, new or old, owe it to ourselves and the nation to take seriously our responsibility for vetting candidates. We need to set high bars for professionalism so as to strike a balance between progressive ideology and governmental experience.

Trump s-hole remark spurs Zambia tourism - check out this ad

Visit Zambia
Visit Zambia

In case the fine print is too small, here is a snippet from the Newsweek report.

The ad, posted on the Zambiatourism.com’s Facebook page, features a stunning sunset vista and the slogan: “Visit ****hole Zambia … Where the only stars and stripes you’ll have to see are in the sky and on a zebra.”

I’ll put in my own ad for Zambia. We’ve been there. It is safe and the wildlife viewing is over-the-top wonderful.

As usual, Trump does not know shit about that which he speaks. I suppose that’s good for tourism in Zambia, but think about it. “Where the only stars and stripes you’ll have to see …”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Trump is willing to testify under oath. But can we believe anything he says?

Lying under oath
Given his history we need to ask
is this man telling the truth?

In the latest news, President Trump said he is willing to testify under oath to Bob Mueller’s investigatory team. AZBlueMeanie has a comprehensive report on the challenges faced by Trump and his legal team: Donald Trump tried to fire the Special Counsel last June – testify about that under oath. But as you might anticipate, given Trump’s of history of dishonesty, one must wonder about Trump’s oath.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz has more as Video Emerges of Trump Lying Under Oath.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—One day after Donald J. Trump offered to testify under oath for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, a newly discovered video of Trump lying under oath has sent shock waves through Washington.

In the video, which experts believe was recorded approximately one year ago, Trump places his left hand on a Bible and raises his right hand before uttering a stream of falsehoods.

“The video shows him lying in front of what appears to be a substantial number of witnesses, including his wife and a Supreme Court Justice,” Davis Logsdon, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said. “It does raise questions about what, exactly, testifying under oath means to him.”

At the office of the special counsel, Mueller’s team was reportedly considering having Trump swear on something that was more meaningful to him than the Bible, such as a rolled-up copy of Forbes.

But, while Washington mulled the implications of the explosive video, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, questioned the authenticity of the video itself. “The person in this video is not the President of the United States,” she said.

That’s it for today. Scriber is taking a small vacation. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Women's March to Elected Office

In Shutdown, Schmutdown - ‘GRAB ’EM BY THE MIDTERMS’ is the bigger story, I wrote on Tuesday that “The biggest news of the weekend and yesterday was the shutdown, the details of the Senate-initiated bill that the House passed and that Trump signed.”

Then I featured New Yorker John Cassidy’s alternative take on the biggest story.

But New Yorker’s John Cassidy has another take on the news - on something he sees as a lot bigger and under-reported story - the Women’s Marches.The Women’s Marches Could Have More Lasting Consequences Than the Government Shutdown.

John Nichols (The Nation) concurs and tells us that the big Story This Month Was Not the Government Shutdown. It’s the grassroots activism that could end Republican control of Congress.

… for all the tumult over the shutdown, a more significant story was taking place far from the Beltway—in communities where the resistance has been gaining strength and focus before a midterm election that could hold the president and his allies to account. Case in point: Wisconsin. While Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million nationwide, narrow wins in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan gave him the Electoral College. Trump’s Wisconsin win was powered by votes from the western and northern regions of the state—places like the 10th State Senate District, which has historically elected Republicans and where Trump ran 17 points ahead of Hillary Clinton. But in a special election on January 16, medical examiner and small-town school-board member Patty Schachtner swept to victory in a result that saw a 37 percent swing to the Democrats. In 2016, the outgoing Republican had won the gerrymandered district by 26 points; Schachtner prevailed by 11. “President Donald Trump—along with Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker who support and prop him up—are toxically unpopular and divisive,” the state Democratic Party declared in a press release.

This reaction to Trumpism isn’t limited to Wisconsin. Noting that Schachtner was the 34th Democrat to flip a Republican state legislative seat since Trump took office, statehouse-watcher Carolyn Fiddler observed: “Democrats are still winning Republican seats! Even when Republicans run in ‘safe’ and extremely gerrymandered districts and spend boatloads more money than the Democrat!”

More often than not, these Democratic winners have been women (22 of 34). This made the Wisconsin win a perfect setup for the massive Women’s Marches across the country, which filled the streets with millions of Americans— 600,000 in Los Angeles, 300,000 in Chicago, 200,000 in New York, 50,000 in Denver—who channeled the anger and frustration of 2017 into a mighty cry for change. The marches highlighted #MeToo activism and the “Time’s Up” initiative to combat sexual harassment, along with a new “Power to the Polls” message. Echoing the “Don’t Just March, Run” calls by groups like Emily’s List—which counts more than 26,000 women planning to seek federal, state, or local office—many of this year’s marchers were candidates themselves. Trump isn’t on the ballot in 2018, but the women who have been his most ardent and effective critics will be. As former Maine state legislator Diane Russell, who is mounting a progressive bid for her state’s governorship, announced: “We march—to elected office.”

This appears to me to be a vanguard of an national about-face, a repudiation of Trumpism, and a Democratic wave in 2018. The numbers Nichols reports indicate my view is not just wishful thinking.

Baily Holt was murdered for no reason in the 11th school shooting this year

Baily Holt
Baily Holt - a victim of latest school shooting

Endless foreign wars. President Trump’s chaos. Russian interference in our elections. Protection for DACA. The opioid epidemic. But let’s not forget our other national epidemic, one that reveals America’s moral shortcoming - our willingness to sacrifice our children for gun “rights.” It continues.

Leslie Salzillo (Daily Kos) reports on a Man outraged by 11th school shooting this year posts: ‘This is Bailey Holt—GOD DAMMIT LOOK AT HER!’

The title explains much—but Steven Cohn’s facebook post about the obscene American atrocity of gun violence and the latest Kentucky school shooting—says it all.

Steven Cohn

This is Bailey Holt. Yesterday, she went to high school for a normal day and was gunned down. Look at her….GOD DAMMIT LOOK AT HER! Her name was Bailey Holt.

Stare at this fucking picture of a perfectly innocent, perfectly great 15 year old who was doing everything right and was murdered for no reason…when you are done, when you can’t take any more, reply to this post and tell me that there is nothing that we can do to stop the gun violence in our country. Please tell me. Because this enrages me. This could be your daughter. Your sister.

A 15-year old, white male (and yes most mass shootings are done by white males) killed 2 and wounded 19 yesterday.

There have been 11 school shootings in 2018. Fucking 11 shootings at a school in 23 days. That is way beyond unacceptable. That is a national crisis. The assholes in Washington are playing political games over a stupid fucking budget and our babies are being murdered. This is an outrage. Look at that picture!! Her name was Bailey Holt.

Bailey died at the scene. The other child that was murdered, Preston Ryan Cope, died at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville. Currently two dead, 18 wounded with five in critical condition.

Donald Trump’s ridiculous response:

“Earlier today, I spoke with @GovMattBevin of Kentucky regarding yesterday’s shooting at Marshall County High School. My thoughts and prayers are with Bailey Holt, Preston Cope, their families, and all of the wounded victims who are in recovery. We are with you!”

We are with you? Who’s “we” you moronic bastard? Do you mean all your Republican NRA ass-kissing lawmaking buddies who continue to block legislation that would attentuate gun violence and save innocent lives?

Thank you, Steven Cohn for riling me up right now, while also reminding many of us that the blood of these precious children in our schools—or anywhere, remains upon the hands of those who enable.

My love, sorrow, thoughts and prayers go out to the children who’ve died, the children injured and all those affected and suffering from another senseless tragedy.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Who wants to travel to a s-hole country ...

… like the United States of America?

Ever wonder what effect Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric on those in other countries? One indicator is how well the United States travel industry is doing - that is, the part of the industry that gets its income from travel to the U. S.

Here’s the answer from the 538 significant digits email.

40,000 jobs
Tourism to the U.S. is down across the board, a dip that began after President Trump’s inauguration and may be tied to his anti-immigration language and policies. All told, the latest data from the National Travel and Tourism Office shows a 3.3 percent drop in travel spending and a 4 percent decline in inbound travel since the president took office. That translates to an economic dent of $4.6 billion in lost spending and 40,000 jobs. Perhaps a slightly more welcoming tone may have been the one to take for a country that — until this report — ranked as the second most popular travel destination on earth. [NBC News]

NBC Business Travel news reports Tourism to U.S. under Trump is down, costing $4.6B and 40,000 jobs.

The downturn has also caused America to lose its spot as the world’s second-most popular destination for foreign travel, ceding to Spain. (France is in first place).

International tourism to the U.S. began to wane after Trump took office, leading to a so-called Trump slump. Experts say that Trump’s proposed travel bans and anti-immigration language have had a negative impact on the U.S.’s attraction for foreign visitors, in addition to a weaker dollar and heightened security measures.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.

The U.S. Travel Association plans to launch a “Visit U.S.” lobbying campaign to encourage Washington to embrace the vital economic impact of foreign tourists, reports The Los Angeles Times.

“While the U.S. government has been the source of a lot negative media attention this year, the travel industry must continue to stand for open borders, inclusivity and the celebration of diversity,” said Leigh Barnes, the regional director for Intrepid Travel, in an email.

However, he said, “We are optimistic that this trend can and will turn around.”

So is your Scriber - once Trump is no longer President.

Embracing money changers in the capitol

Christ expelling money lenders from temple
Christ driving the money changers from the temple - El Greco

u·su·ry
ˈyo͞oZH(ə)rē
noun
the illegal action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under the Trump administration, takes issue with “unreasonably high” and “illegal.” Under Trump Appointee, Consumer Protection Agency Seen Helping Payday Lenders. Here’s the gem from the 538 significant digits email.

900 percent interest rates
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, now led by the anti-CFPB ex-congressman Mick Mulvaney, has put a hold on regulations restricting high-interest rate loans from payday lenders. The agency also dropped a lawsuit against internet lenders charging 900 percent interest rates. [NPR]

How biblical! Here’s some of the Wiki entry.

The cleansing of the Temple narrative tells of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, and occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament.

In this account, Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where Jesus expels the merchants and money changers from the Temple, accusing them of turning the Temple into “a den of thieves” through their commercial activities.

Substitute “capitol” for “temple” and you are current on one nastiness coming from Trump and his minions. You gotta wonder about all those evangelicals who support Trump. I guess they’re OK with yet one more violation of the principles embodied in their faith.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Evangelical Trump supporters gain political advantage yet forfeit their soul

One of the things about the Trump phenomena that stumps me is how some of his supporters so readily abandon the teachings of their faith when confronted with Trump’s offenses against that faith. Here’s an article that may help us understand that. Michael Gerson (Washington Post) explains how The Trump evangelicals have lost their gag reflex - and why.

He observes “something that could never be said of [former President Richard] Nixon: the credible accusation that Trump paid hush money to a porn star to cover up an affair.”

And what is Franklin Graham’s reaction? “We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this nation and he is not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians whether it’s here at home or around the world, and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom.”

“A concern for Christian values.” I imagine there is considerable presidential stroking behind such a pronouncement — the current equivalent of remembering birthdays and pineapple tea. But Graham’s argument is as crudely political as it gets. Because Trump has delivered the goods on protecting Christians, evangelicals should give him the benefit of every doubt on moral matters, even when such doubts are absurdly transparent ploys.

The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.

From a purely political perspective, the Trump evangelicals are out of their depth. When presented with the binary choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I can understand a certain amount of anguish. But that is not a reason to become sycophants, cheerleaders and enablers. Politics sometimes presents difficult choices. But that is no excuse to be the most easily manipulated group in American politics.

The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.

Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham [Franklin’s father] addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”

The danger endures.

Why Congress does not want to deal with Trump - and should not

The shutdown is over - for now - but Senate Dems and particularly Chuck Schumer are taking heat from progressives for making a deal to end the shutdown. John Cassidy (New Yorker) informs us about how The Progressive Attacks on Senate Democrats Over the Shutdown Are Premature.

Liberal Democrats and progressive activists reacted angrily on Monday after a majority of Senate Democrats voted to enable the federal government to reopen after a three-day shutdown. “It’s morally reprehensible and it’s political malpractice,” Ezra Levin, a former Capitol Hill staffer who co-founded the anti-Trump Indivisible Group, declared. “Schumer led the [Senate] caucus off the cliff.” Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the Daily Kos, accused the Senate Democrats of aiding Republican efforts to block an immigration deal that would protect the Dreamers.

Cassidy counters:

… In their pursuit of a legislative deal for the Dreamers, Schumer and other Democratic senators took the highly contentious step of shutting down the government. If McConnell doesn’t follow through on his promises, they may well do the same thing again in three weeks’ time. Reopening the government was a tactical move, not a betrayal of the Dreamers. Whether it was the right tactical move won’t be clear for a while, but it was certainly a defensible one, especially in view of the broader political environment.

Progressives worry that Schumer and his colleagues will capitulate again in February, which could happen. But a number of things will be different then. For one thing, they will already have assured six years of funding for chip, the public health-insurance program that serves six million children. As my colleague Amy Davidson Sorkin pointed out yesterday, the inclusion of long-term funding in the new short-term spending resolution amounts to a “solid victory” for Democrats.

Understandably, many Democrats who are facing election battles in districts that voted for Trump didn’t like the way this was heading. By agreeing to a temporary funding bill and embracing a bipartisan approach, they called a halt. Come February, if the bipartisan effort fails, or Trump and Ryan continue to stonewall, they will be in position to claim the higher ground and point to the immediate harm that is about to be done to countless hardworking individuals who were brought to the United States as children, through no choice of their own, and who, in many cases, have never known another home. Polls indicate that the American public overwhelmingly favors doing something about this.

Of course, being reasonable isn’t necessarily the route to political success. The Republicans weren’t reasonable during their 2013 government shutdown, but they still picked up seats in 2014. In midterm elections, when turnout is lower than in Presidential elections, it is particularly important to enthuse the Party’s core voters. If large numbers of liberal Democrats got turned off by Schumer’s calculating approach, it would be a big blow to the Party’s hopes of regaining control of Congress.

But is that likely to happen? Only if Senate Democrats capitulate in February, when, absent more congressional action, the government will again run out of money, and the debt ceiling will also need to be raised. Schumer and his colleagues still have leverage. As the women’s marches demonstrated, animosity toward Trump and the Republicans among rank-and-file Democrats remains intense. This thing isn’t over.

As I said, Sen. Chuck Schumer is taking lots of heat, and his retraction of an offer to fund Trump’s wall is not helping, even though dealing with the White House is like negotiating with a bowl of jello. The NY Times report describes how the climate in Washington deteriorated the minute the shutdown was finished: Wall Is ‘Off the Table,’ Schumer Says, as Progress on Immigration Unravels. Here are snippets.

Further muddying the conversation, the White House refuses to acknowledge the offer that Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle have confirmed.

“Senator Schumer is trying to rescind an offer that he never made in the first place, and misled the public about,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

But Mr. Schumer said he rescinded the offer because Mr. Trump had rejected the rest of the immigration package.

“The wall offer was made as part of a broader deal. The president rejected that broader deal, so the offer is off the table,” Mr. Schumer said.

[Senator Lindsey] Graham said he had a message for the administration. “To my friends at the White House: You’ve been all over the board,” he said. “You haven’t been a reliable partner, and the Senate is going to move. Please be constructive as we go forward. If you’ve got any ideas, let us know, but the Senate is going to lead on this issue.”

One outstanding question is what role Mr. Trump will play in any DACA negotiations; the president has been unclear about what he wants, and senators have said that until he makes his wishes known, it will be difficult to reach an agreement.

The thing is, Graham and other lawmakers keep looking to Trump for leadership. They’ve got to get a grip. Trump is the master of nothing other than The Art of No Deal. Trump brags about his dealmaking experience but the truth of it is that, as Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) explains, Trump was never a great dealmaker, anyway. Here are snippets.

Among the many ironies, some would say falsities, inherent in President Trump’s image of a successful real estate tycoon is that management and dealmaking have never been his strong suits.

Trump University, casinos, vodka, steaks, a new football league … the list of failures is long. And it was his financial debacles of the 1990s that some would say brought him into the circle of suspicious money men, foreign banks and Russian oligarchs to bail him out. His “deal” was declaring bankruptcy, leaving creditors and employees hanging, and having to be put on a monthly allowance by banks.

Rather than his dealmaking prowess, Trump’s career was saved, one could argue, by foreign money. (His “The Art of the Deal” book should include a chapter on “How to get Russians to give you money when U.S. banks won’t.”) What success he had in bargaining — chiseling contractors, stiffing lawyers — tended to be where he had all the leverage while the other side had none. That makes him a first-class bully, not a brilliant dealmaker. (If the dossier and other sources are to be believed, his current operations such as golf courses aren’t making money. They were bad deals, I suppose.)

In other words, the false promise of business acumen — as Trump critics pointed out in the campaign — did not suggest he’d do any better than professional politicians in striking deals. And in fact, his willful ignorance about policy (at least he presumably knew something about real estate when he was in that industry) has shown him to be a whole lot worse than recent presidents. He’s best at selling himself and whatever he’s hawking (vodka, casinos, steaks) with empty rhetoric (the same he uses to describe legislative bills he does not understand — “fabulous” or “some say the greatest”). But that does not translate into policy compromises or political trade-offs.

Weak on substance, his aides boss him around; Republicans have learned that his word is meaningless. Whatever complex issues absorb Congress this year — defense spending, immigration, healthcare, infrastructure — better be managed without much White House input. The more involved he is, the less likely there will be a deal. The great disrupter can create chaos and controversy, but the harder task of negotiating policy compromises eludes him.

So if Congress has any hope of getting its act together on immigration (or anything else), they should keep the 239-pound gorilla out of the room. (With apologies to old-world primates.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Shutdown, Schmutdown - 'GRAB ’EM BY THE MIDTERMS' is the bigger story

The biggest news of the weekend and yesterday was the shutdown, the details of the Senate-initiated bill that the House passed and that Trump signed. The Huffington Post reported that Democrats Agree To Reopen Government Without Protections For Dreamers. The shutdown was effectively over after Trump signed the funding deal late Monday.

Senators voted 81–18 for a three-week funding measure to reopen the government, with many Democrats saying they felt encouraged by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) assurance over the weekend that the Senate would proceed to an immigration bill soon.

Democrats insisted they weren’t caving, even though they didn’t get what they wanted: an immediate vote on protections for undocumented young people often called Dreamers. But the deal gave them a way out of what could have been a politically damaging shutdown. The promise of a vote on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, although it could be reneged on, is something Democrats didn’t have before. It’s the first time Democrats received a firm deadline for a vote on an immigration bill. And if McConnell doesn’t follow through, Democrats will be able to use this promise to vote against the next spending bill and pin the blame on Republicans.

If McConnell keeps his word, he’ll put Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a tough spot. There is a DACA bill currently working its way through the House that would deliver on a number of conservative immigration priorities, but it has no chance in the Senate.

If senators are able to pass their own bill, while simultaneously demonstrating that the House bill doesn’t have the votes to pass in their chamber, Ryan will be left with the choice of either putting the Senate bill up for a vote and angering conservatives or holding strong. If he holds strong and doesn’t put the Senate-passed measure up for a vote, he could risk another shutdown and strengthen the Democrats’ argument that another government closure is the fault of Republican obstructionism.

That’s the calm stuff. The rest of the reaction, the aftermath of the vote, was blistering for Sen. Chuck Schumer and those Dems who voted for that bill. In Mitch We Trust’ for a DACA vote to end the ‘shit-show’ shutdown? That was your whole plan, Chuck? (Updated), blasted the AZ Blue Meanie. The New Yorker writer asked Did Schumer Cave on the Shutdown? A New York Times columnist charged Schumer Sells Out the Resistance.

But New Yorker’s John Cassidy has another take on the news - on something he sees as a lot bigger and under-reported story - the Women’s Marches.The Women’s Marches Could Have More Lasting Consequences Than the Government Shutdown.

The machinations on Capitol Hill are obviously newsworthy. But, in historical terms, the hundreds of women’s marches that took place across the country on Saturday and Sunday were arguably of greater importance — and they deserved much more coverage than they received. Since neither party stands to gain much from an extended government shutdown, the impasse will probably be resolved within a short time frame [and it was]. The marches represented the latest manifestation of a phenomenon that is more lasting, and, ultimately, more consequential: a rare popular mobilization against a sitting President.

Although there are no wholly reliable figures, it seems certain that well over a million people around the country marched on Saturday. Unlike last year, when the focus was an event in Washington, D.C., the most high-profile protests this year took place in other cities, with Los Angeles taking the prize for the biggest march of all. According to Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor, about six hundred thousand people took part. Here in New York, the Mayor’s office estimated that at least two hundred thousand people marched down Central Park West and Sixth Avenue. There were five-figure crowds in Chicago and Philadelphia, too. Equally impressive was the turnout in smaller cities, such as Austin, Texas; Asheville, North Carolina; Boise, Idaho; and Knoxville, Tennessee. On Sunday, the protests continued, with marches in other cities and a big rally at a football stadium in Las Vegas.

as the marchers’ signs and chants demonstrated, Trump was still the primary motivating factor. With his incendiary behavior in the White House, he isn’t just a lightning rod. He’s a highly effective recruiting sergeant for the self-styled anti-Trump resistance. If some of the marchers were largely apolitical before Trump became President, they aren’t apolitical anymore. To most of them, I’d guess, getting out and joining the protests felt less like a choice than an imperative.

For two years in a row, the women’s marches have turned out far more people than the Tea Party protests held between 2007 to 2010 did. …

… [Regarding the shutdown] it is hard to believe that Democratic leaders would have taken such a bold step without feeling the pressure from a broad constituency demanding that they resist Trump in any way possible, including some that might previously have been unthinkable.

Of course, Schumer and his colleagues have other reasons not to trust vague statements of intent from McConnell and the White House, especially when it comes to immigration. From the very beginning, Trump has been a cynical demagogue on the issue. And, in recent weeks, he has reversed himself at least once on it. (Twice, if you believe Schumer’s account of the meeting that he had in the Oval Office on Friday.)

However the shutdown gets resolved [and it was, albeit briefly], this emerging constituency, which believes the Trump Presidency represents a national emergency, isn’t going anywhere, except to the next protest or political meeting. Just as the Tea Party provided the Republican Party of 2010 with the organizers and doorbell-ringers that are so important in off-year elections, many of the attendees at this weekend’s women’s marches will be working from now until November to turn Trump into a lame duck. Their attitude, defiant and determined, was summed up by a pair of signs held by two marchers in Washington, D.C., The signs said: “GRAB ’EM BY THE MIDTERMS.”

Gerrymandering takes a hit in Pennsylvania court ruling

Here’s a significant digit from the 538 morning email.

13 seats
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday struck down the state’s congressional map, which is gerrymandered such that Republicans control 13 of 18 seats despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans in the Keystone State. The state leadership has weeks to make a new map. [NBC Philadelphia]

Gerrymandering
Example gerrymandered map in PA

Pennsylvania Must Redraw Congressional Map says the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. The court said the boundaries “clearly, plainly and palpably” violate the state’s constitution.

You probably know this given our own state’s tussles over redistricting, but here is a good graphic illustration of how ridiculous are the GOP’s attempts to draw maps that are completely counter to the population. The example map is from The Atlantic article asking Has the Tide Turned Against Partisan Gerrymandering? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday struck down the state’s maps as too heavily biased toward Republicans, the latest ruling in a new and contentious battle over legislative districts. “A phone shows a map of Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district.”

Monday, January 22, 2018

Mournday Mourning illustrated news about fake news

Here are some samples of the illustrated news from AZlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Norwegians
Why Norwegians don't want to come here
fake news
Enablers fake news award
Trapture
Trump's Trapture of the Rapture

'How broke that brain?' Understanding President Trump's mental health - what his exam did not tell us

Ever since Trump got on the list of presidential candidates (and I think long before) there have been questions about his mental fitness for the job he now holds. For example, SNL revisits Trump’s cognitive test results and asks, ‘How broke that brain?’

“There’s been questions about the president’s mental fitness, and the White House has, of course, pushed back on that,” says a reporter, played by Kate McKinnon. “Since you’ve examined him personally, my question is: How broke that brain?”

The rest of this post is less barbed. To start, in it’s email summary over the weekend, wired.com succinctly reported on the cognitive assessment part of Trump’s recent physical exam.

It was only under mounting public pressure that the White House allowed Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson to publicize the details of his examination of Trump, and those results haven’t clarified much for those hungry for a better sense of the president’s physical and cognitive fitness. … although Trump passed his physician’s cognitive assessment with flying colors, his ability to differentiate a lion from an elephant probably doesn’t say much about his appetite for consuming the vast amounts of information necessary to make complex policy decisions.

And there is another angle, The test that Trump passed does not measure personality characteristics, such as narcissism. Let me explain.

What is NOT wrong with Trump

First let’s look at the cognitive test he was given. Here’s the information from a Canadian site, globalnews.ca: Donald Trump aced the Montreal Cognitive Assessment: here’s what the test looks like.

Developed in Montreal in 1996, it was designed to measure “mild cognitive dysfunction” according to the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery.

The MoCA test Trump took includes exercises to the likes of remembering a list of spoken words; listening to a list of random numbers and repeating them backward; naming as many words that begin with, say, the letter F as possible within a minute; accurately drawing a cube; and describing concrete ways that two objects – like a train and a bicycle – are alike.

According to administration and scoring instructions, the MoCA exam is a rapid screening test and assesses different cognitive functions like attention, concentration, language and conceptual thinking.

The test itself take about 10 minutes and the total possible score is 30 points. A score of 26 or above is considered normal. Trump scored a perfect 30, according to Jackson.

In general, patients with good or average memory forget one of the five words and can still be within the normal range, said Dr. James Mastrianni, an expert in memory disorders and other neurodegenerative conditions at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“It’s a screening assessment that we use routinely in the clinics to determine whether someone has some degree of cognitive impairment or not,” he said.

“If they score poorly on that assessment, then usually there is more detailed evaluation that follows. But if they score well that usually indicates there is pretty good cognitive function. They are essentially intact,” Mastrianni added.

The standard version of the test is “pretty good” but “not definitive” said Dr. Ronald Petersen, an Alzheimer’s disease expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Petersen said he could not comment specifically on the president’s cognitive health.

You can take the test here. However:

The test does not assess the president’s psychiatric fitness and the president did not undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to his doctor.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on Trump’s misplaced boast about passing a cognitive test.

… as long as Trump is talking about this, it’s probably taking a moment to understand what his high score is all about.

“If you look at the test, it’s pretty hard to see how you could not score a 30,” a Washington Post piece explained yesterday, adding, “Yes, Trump passed with flying colors, as any adult with normal cognitive function probably would.”

We’re talking about an exam, known as MoCA, that’s used to identify evidence of dementia, mental deterioration, and neurodegenerative diseases. Those who take it may be asked, for example, to draw a clock or describe the similarities between oranges and bananas.

I’m glad Trump was able to do well on the test, but let’s be clear: we’re talking about being able to clear a very low bar for an adult in a position of enormous responsibility. The idea of a president bragging, even jokingly, about getting 30 out of 30 on the exam is comparable to a president boasting about knowing the alphabet.

So here’s the dangling question.

Trump’s score is not evidence of a towering intellect. On the contrary, as New York’s Jon Chait put it, “[W]hile Trump’s behavior may not be medical symptoms of a debilitating mental disease, it is clear evidence of a mind that’s totally unfit for the presidency. What excuse does he have for his behavior?”

The MoCA is diagnostic of mental deterioration as explained in this Washington Post article: Why you may be misunderstanding the mental test that Trump passed with flying colors.

Studies have shown that this test can be used to spot problems with the brain’s executive functioning even before other signs of mental decline are apparent. There are questions about the proper scoring method and about the extent to which educational differences may be apparent, but, generally, there’s a reason that the test is included.

The point is not that the test is easy. The point is that an inability to complete aspects of the test reveals different types of mental decline. The clock test is about executive brain function: memory, planning ahead. The different parts of the MoCA are labeled according to what they test, with the clock test falling under “visuospatial/executive.” Questions about the current year and date are under “orientation.” The request to identify a drawing of a camel is under “naming.” In the test’s scoring instructions, it explains what is covered: “attention and concentration, executive functions, memory, language, visuoconstructional skills, conceptual thinking, calculations and orientation.”

Hang onto that list of cognitive functions. I’ll return to it in a moment. Phillip Bump, the Post author, continues:

Yes, Trump passed with flying colors, as any adult with normal cognitive function probably would. And that’s the point. There’s every indication from Tuesday’s report that Trump maintains normal cognitive function. That he passed the test is just like you successfully singing the alphabet song. Sure, it’s easy — unless you have that can’t-say-H disease. Here, the MoCA test is easy — unless you have the sort of impairment that Trump was said to have suffered by any number of public critics.

You’re supposed to get 30 out of 30 — and when you don’t, that’s when the doctors learn something.

Bump updates his post.

The original post above was meant to explain to readers why the seemingly easy nature of the test was not a reason that Trump’s passing it should be pooh-poohed. After all, the lingering question was one of Trump’s cognitive abilities and whether or not he was affected by the early stages of mental decline, perhaps in the form of dementia. Mocking as easy a test meant to detect that particular thing is as dumb as mocking someone for passing a blood test.

But the flip side of this is that this is not a test you should brag about — any more than you should brag about passing a blood test. [No one] should see Trump’s perfect score on the test as indicating anything other than “this person’s brain is not showing obvious signs of deterioration.”

What IS wrong with Trump

OK, so Trump is not gorked. His brain is not the neurological equivalent of Swiss cheese. What then is wrong with this guy?

At the psychological level, here is my nomination: Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Rethinking What We Know.

… Persons with NPD are aggressive and boastful, overrate their performance, and blame others for their setbacks; current editions of DSM portray them as arrogant, entitled, exploitative, embedded in fantasies of grandeur, self-centered, and charming but emotionally unavailable …

Prototypical persons with NPD present with many interpersonal problems … Romantic relationships are typically shallow, and narcissistic persons build and maintain them with difficulty. Conflicts at work are the rule rather than the exception, as are problems with commitment when faced with negative feedback.

Feelings of grandiosity and fantasies of power and success are certainly important but are not the core theme in a narcissistic stream of consciousness …

NPD manifests as anger triggered by feelings of social rejection and tendencies to derogate those who give negative feedback. Persons with NPD often feel hampered in pursuing goals and blame others for being inept, incompetent, or hostile. States in which the self-image is extremely negative are important but are so hard to bear that fighting with others and blaming them for any personal flaws is a more suitable defensive maneuver. …

In persons with NPD, self-experience patterns coalesce into self-other relational schemas: the dominant motives are concerns with social rank/antagonism, and the need to be admired and recognized by others as being special; the dominant image is of an “other” person unwilling to provide attention. The main schema is the “self” who desires to be recognized or admired and the “other” who is dominant and critical. In one schema, the self reacts with overt antagonism or by resorting to a metaphorical ivory tower. Another prominent schema is the self that needs attention while the other rejects and again criticizes the self, which, in turn, steers the self to compulsive self-soothing and denial of attachment needs. In general, such persons spend much time ruminating about issues of antagonism/social rank and avoid forming or thinking about attachments, thus concealing their vulnerable self. Empirical support has been found for the possibility that patients with NPD or narcissistic traits tend to seek self-enhancement, to overreact when they perceive others are setting limits, and to self-soothe.

Remember that list of cognitive functions? “attention and concentration, executive functions, memory, language, visuoconstructional skills, conceptual thinking, calculations and orientation.” I challenge you to find any mention of any of these functions in the passages quoted above on narcism. Similarly, I challenge you to find any mention of the characteristics of someone with NPD in this list of cognitive functions.

So: what the MoCA tells us about Trump’s mental function totally misses what is really wrong with him. In my opinion, the descriptors for NPD apply to Trump. To confirm that hypothesis, we would have to have Trump undergo a comprehensive psychiatric workup - and that is as likely to happen as the release of his tax records.

What this Narcissistic president costs America

Leonard Pitts Jr. reviews Trump’s accomplishments: One year later Trump continues race to the bottom

And here we are, one year later.

If you are groping for markers by which to measure how profoundly we have been changed since Inauguration Day, here’s one you might want to consider:

In January of 1998, reports surfaced of a sexual affair between President Bill Clinton and a 24-year-old White House intern. It would mushroom into the biggest story of the year.

In January of 2018, reports surfaced of an alleged payoff by lawyers for the present president to silence a porn star from talking about their alleged sexual affair. It wasn’t even the biggest story of the day.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more visceral illustration of how our sensibilities have been bludgeoned into submission in the last year. Surprises no longer surprise. Shocks no longer shock. We have bumped up against the limits of human bandwidth and find ourselves unable to take it all in.

One simply cannot keep up with, much less respond with proper outrage to, all of this guy’s scandals, bungles, blame-shifting, name-calling and missteps, his sundry acts of mendacity, misanthropy, perversity and idiocy. It’s like trying to fill a teacup from Niagara Falls. It’s like trying to read the internet.

One year later, we’ve seen a procession of feuds that would impress a Hatfield, a McCoy or a ’90s rapper, running beefs with Mitch Connell, Elizabeth Warren, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Jeff Sessions, Dick Durbin, Colin Kaepernick, James Comey, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, CNN, The New York Times and reality, to name just a few.

One year later, the man who promised to “work so hard” for the American people is setting new standards for presidential laziness, a short workday, hours of television and endless golf.

One year later, the man who bragged of having “the best words” has pundits parsing the difference between “s-house” and “s-hole” as descriptors of Africa, El Salvador and Haiti.

One year later, the man who asked African-Americans “what the hell” they had to lose by voting for him, is praised by tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists — “very fine people,” he says — and his name is chanted as a racist taunt by white mobs.

One year later, we live in a state of perpetual nuclear standoff, a Cuban Missile Crisis that never ends.

But hey, at least the stock market is doing well. It did well under President Obama, too, but nobody seems to remember that.

Not that a bull market mitigates — or even addresses — the sense of ongoing upheaval, of constant chaos, that have become our new American norm. This guy is flat-out exhausting.

Give him this much, though. He has banished apathy, made fools of those people who once declared with pontifical certitude that we should “blow up” the system and said voting didn’t matter because there was no difference between the parties. More, he’s galvanized a powerful resistance that has claimed upset victories from Alabama to Wisconsin and left Gumby-spined Republicans looking over their shoulders. That resistance might even save this country, assuming the guy leaves us anything to save.

All this better fits the president as suffering from a personality disorder, not one experiencing cognitive deficits. Pitts concludes:

If that sounds bleak, well, that’s where we stand. Indeed, one year later, both our despair and our hope are encompassed in the same five syllables.

One down. Three to go.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

ACTION ALERT - Help spread the word on the 10 AM video release about privatization of public education

Here is a video on public schools (vs. for-profit educational enterprises) from Linda Lyon. Watch this then read about how to spread the word.

Linda Lyon from S4E Media on Vimeo.

Hello Arizona Supporters of Public Education,
Are you fired up and ready to spread the word?

The third of the Network for Public Education’s eight videos on Defending Public Education, will go live today and we need your help to make it go viral across the country. Diane Ravitch’s video was first and it received about 800K views. The second in the series (by Superintendent John Kuhn in Texas) garnered over one million views. In today’s release, Linda Lyon explains why the privatization of our schools is such a bad thing. Linda Lyon’s film will go live @ 10 AM MST TODAY, SUNDAY JAN 21

The video will be released on Facebook and Twitter by Shoot 4 Education and Network for Education. The social media guide attached below gives details instructions on how to share the video for the best chance to make it go viral.

Start sharing as soon AFTER 10 AM TODAY as you can! The closer to the 10 AM release time, the better the chances of reaching a wider audience. If you can’t get to it in the morning, try your best to share at some point that day. Use your Twitter or Facebook accounts to amplify Linda’s message in this third of 8 short films from the Network for Public Education. The rest of this guide is divided into instructions for how best to use Facebook or Twitter for this purpose. It is lengthy, but I think you’ll find the insight, as to how to effectively use social media, interesting.

If you don’t use social media, you can still help by emailing the video link below to your friends and asking them to view it and share it.

Social media is efficient, but a personal email to friends also delivers! So if you don’t use either of the platforms above, email your friends and include this link to the video http://bit.ly/Fighting4OurKids.

Thanks VERY much for helping spread the word that Arizonans care about our one million students in our public schools and we won’t rest until they have what they need to succeed!

Take Care, Linda

Here is the link to the social media guide.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Porn stars and asteroids - WSJ reports Trump attorney used shell company to pay porn star

I’ll get to the asteroid in a little while. In the meantime, just in case you want to read the lurid details of Trump’s tryst with a porn star, here is the recent resurrection of her 2011 interview: Stormy Daniels’ Explosive Full Interview on Donald Trump Affair: “I Can Describe His Junk Perfectly”. But, like a lot of what goes down in Washington, the real story is not the deed but the cover-up.

538’s significant digits email (Jan. 19) reports on new details of the $130K hush money that the Wall Street Journal reports was paid to Stormy Daniels to stay mum about her self-reported tryst with (then married) Trump.

$130,000
The Wall Street Journal has uncovered a paper trail linking President Donald Trump’s lawyer to a $130,000 payment to an adult film performer weeks ahead of the 2016 election. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, founded Essential Consultants LLC of Delaware on Oct. 17, according to corporate records cited by the Journal, then used its bank account to send $130,000 to the client-trust account of a lawyer representing Stephanie Clifford. The payment was in exchange for not publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with the president, the Journal reported. [The Wall Street Journal]

The WSJ article is behind a pay wall, but here are other reports, some from WSJ reporters.

Trump lawyer used shell company to pay porn star: WSJ
Michael Rothfeld, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used a private company to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels. Duration: 5:54

WSJ: Trump lawyer used fake company to pay off porn star
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that, before the 2016 campaign, Trump attorney Michael Cohen set up a private company to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels not to discuss an alleged affair with Trump. Duration: 1:36. [This one is from the Brian Williams MSNBC show.]

Trump Attorney Paid Porn Star Through Private LLC Created Weeks Before Election, Wall Street Journal Reports (from CNN).

Just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump’s lawyer formed a private LLC to pay a former porn star in exchange for not speaking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged encounter with Trump took place in July 2006 after a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

The company, Essential Consultants LLC, was reportedly created in Delaware — which offers a higher standard of privacy to business owners — by attorney Michael Cohen, according to the Journal’s report, which cited corporate records and people familiar with the matter.

Here’s another 130,000 significant digit: 130,000 Ton Asteroid to Pass by Earth
2/8/2013 11:35AM

The 2013 asteroid missed earth. Trump might not be so fortunate. The $130,000 cover-up might score a direct hit on his presidency.

Trump creates religious freedom watchdog as evangelicals forgive adultery

The target article is from the NY Times, headlined Trump Gives Health Workers New Religious Liberty Protections. In our world of alternative everythings, I propose alternative headlines: “Trump shreds Firewall Between Church and State” or “Trump Channels Elmer Gantry.” Here are snippets.

The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it was expanding religious freedom protections for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who object to performing procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery, satisfying religious conservatives who have pushed for legal sanctuary from the federal government.

The new steps, which include the creation of an oversight entity within the Department of Health and Human Services called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, are the latest efforts by President Trump to meet the demands of one of his most loyal constituencies. They coincide with Mr. Trump’s planned address on Friday to abortion opponents at the annual March for Life in Washington.

For religious conservatives, the new protections address long-held concerns that religious people could be forced to comply with laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs. Roger Severino, the director of the office for civil rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, promised that he and his staff would investigate every complaint of a violation of “conscience rights” protected by federal law.

But civil rights, gay rights and abortion rights groups, as well as some medical organizations, expressed alarm at a move they described as part of a systematic effort by the Trump administration to legitimize discrimination. Their concern is not limited to the executive branch. Mr. Trump has appointed judges to powerful appellate courts at a rate faster than any new president since Richard M. Nixon, and the Republican-controlled Senate is working to speed the approval of Mr. Trump’s lower-level district court nominees.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, said the administration was using the civil rights office as “a tool to restrict access to health care for people who are transgender and women.”

The White House’s efforts to appeal to the religious right appear to have given Mr. Trump a thick insulation from the scandals that might otherwise undermine his support among churchgoing conservatives, like the recent allegations that he cheated on his wife with a pornographic film actress who was reportedly paid $130,000 in hush money shortly before the 2016 election.

See the accompanying post this morning on the $130,000 scandal.

If the report involving the actress bothered religious conservatives, most were keeping quiet.

“We continue to support him because he is doing what he promised he would do,” said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary. “That does not mean we endorse everything he does.”

Outside the religious conservative movement, the recent moves have won little applause.

Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center, a research and advocacy group, said that, far from protecting religious liberty, the new unit would protect health workers who “use their religious or moral beliefs to deny patients care.”

10 commandments
10 commandments

So the religious right has sold their soul to a liar and philanderer. What ever happened to “Thou shalt not commit adultery”? Never mind, these hypocrites say. Why let a little principle get in way of politics?

The Daily Star this morning carried this AP report, Trump tells March for Life: ‘We are with you all the way’.

President Trump on Friday delivered new support to the anti-abortion movement he once opposed, telling thousands of activists demonstrating in the annual March for Life, “We are with you all the way.”

The Department of Health and Human Services spelled out plans to protect medical providers who refuse to perform procedures such as abortions because of moral or religious scruples. HHS also pulled back an Obama-era policy that posed a legal roadblock to conservative states trying to cut Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood.

The announcements coincided with the annual March for Life on Washington by abortion opponents, with Trump addressing marchers via video link Friday. [Vice President] Pence gave a preview Thursday night when he told the marchers, “In one short year, President Donald Trump has made a difference for life.”

In an address broadcast from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he’s committed to building “a society where life is celebrated, protected and cherished.”

But, apparently, not if that “life” is labeled DACA or CHIP or Haitian or women or poor or sick.

To add to Trump’s many sins, we are now on the way to a state-sponsored religion.

Fitz: Donald Trump is no Archie Bunker

This is a must read. Click on over to the Daily Star for David Fitzsimmons’ excellent column, President Trump needs the conscience of an Edith Bunker. Here is a sample.

It’s unfair to compare our bigot-in-chief to Archie. Bunker may have been a bigot, but he never sold out his country to the Reds, cheated on Edith with porn stars, or talked about dating his daughter, Gloria. And he never sent Meathead to the Middle East as a special envoy.

Some souls at the “S—hole” meeting were “unable to recall” Trump’s racist words. Those who fear confronting the racists among us are akin to the coward squirming in the shadows at the edge of a great congealing lynch mob, hoping nobody gets hurt. It’s too late for that. Years from now, standing in the rubble of what was the Aging White Man’s Republican Party, these same cowards will deny ever having known the orange nameless one, or supporting him, or voting for him.

We won’t forget. As Archie Bunker would sing, “those were the days.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Shutdown likely as Trump fuels chaos in Congress

House approves bill to keep government open as Senate Democrats take heat for threatening to block it (Washington Post).

The House passed a short-term extension of government funding late Thursday after Republican leaders, with help from President Trump, cobbled together enough GOP votes to overcome an internal revolt.

Still, the possibility of a federal shutdown moved closer to a certainty after Senate Democrats rallied against the GOP proposal, announcing they would not lend their votes to a bill that did not reflect their priorities on immigration, government spending and other issues.

By Thursday evening, nine Senate Democrats who had voted for a prior spending measure in December said they would not support the latest proposed four-week extension, joining 30 other Democrats and at least two Senate Republicans — and leaving the bill short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

Remember that Trump blew up an earlier spending deal that included DACA. That deal, pushed by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham, appeared to have the items that Trump wanted but then the immigration hardliners got Trump’s ear and Trump ended up creating a shit-storm by referring to “shithole countries.”

We don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said. “This has turned into an s-show for no good reason.”

Schumer called Trump and his administration “agents of chaos” who have foiled attempts to reach a bipartisan agreement on immigration, which remained the most salient sticking point Thursday.

“The one thing standing in our way is the unrelenting flow of chaos from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Schumer said. “It has reduced the Republicans to shambles. We barely know who to negotiate with.”

Jonathon Blitzer reports that Lindsey Graham Spent a Year Courting Trump, But on Immigration He’s Being Shut Out (New Yorker).

Trump’s [“shithole countries”] outburst destabilized the negotiations. “We had a President that I was proud to golf with, call my friend,” Graham said on Tuesday, during a Senate hearing. “I don’t know where that guy went, but I want him back.” He came up short of blaming the President for the setback, however, and instead faulted the White House. “We cannot do this with people in charge at the White House who have an irrational view of how to fix immigration,” Graham told reporters later. In this, he was likely referring not just to Miller but also to John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff. “Miller and Kelly are to the right of the President on immigration,” someone close to the White House told me. “The two of them were with the President just before the Oval Office meeting with Graham and Durbin, and the President got really worked up.”

Graham (and Schumer) should have known better. Trump is the guy who cannot be trusted to keep his word about anything, who lies about everything, and who stiffed his contractors. Here’s more from the Post.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders were having trouble smoothing out a wrinkle in their plans to blame a shutdown on Democrats: Hard-line House conservatives demanded concessions in return for their votes, casting doubt on whether the funding patch would even reach the Senate.

All but a few House Democrats said they would not support the bill without an immigration or long-term budget deal.

“If we can’t agree, your party has the majority in the House and the Senate to pass your own funding resolution. But that will be a bill we cannot support,” 171 of 193 House Democrats wrote in a letter to Ryan on Thursday.

While Ryan worked the House floor during an afternoon vote series, trying to lock down votes for the patch, leaders of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus tried to persuade Republicans to withhold their votes.

“I promise you he doesn’t have the votes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), heading to a closed-door Freedom Caucus meeting, where Trump called in to try to win over restive conservatives.

Remember these guys?

Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) then went into Ryan’s office, where they hashed out a deal with Republican leaders to secure future votes on measures that would increase defense spending and tighten immigration laws. With that accord in place, the House voted 230 to 197 to pass the legislation. Only six Democrats broke ranks to support it.

Top leaders of both parties continued meeting Thursday to seek an immigration compromise, but no agreement appeared to be in sight. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), leaving a meeting with other deputy leaders, rejected the idea that a deal to protect dreamers could be concluded by Friday evening at midnight. “No, no,” he told reporters.

The government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House.

Until now, that is.

The ‘shit-show’ shutdown appears likely reports the Arizona Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona. The Meanie covers the politicking including CHIP funding (a ploy to get Dems to vote for Ryan’s bill) and the blame game unfolding minute by minute.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Can Be Done

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

For those who may not have seen them, I had two letters to the editor (LOEs) published recently, one on Tucson.com and the other in the Arizona Republic. As you might have guessed, they were about education.


I don’t know that these LOEs moved the needle any, but if enough of us write them, they surely can begin to. Certainly, we are seeing much more in the news about education than ever before.
One such bit of “news” is the op-ed published by the AZ Republic’s Editorial Board this morning titled “The heavy lift is still ahead on education.” I applaud the headline for making it clear there is much more to be done, and for driving home “how far Arizona still has to go to restore our public-education system and make it secure and strong enough to face the challenges of a growing state.” I also appreciate their astute observation that “The recession taught Arizonans the hard lesson that their children and grandchildren will need solid skills to succeed in a fast-changing world. Our schools are trying to deliver on a starvation diet.