November 30, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v71)

So, Trump is Transitioning, and the Dems are so very much not. That's pretty much where the wondering begins, this Wednesday.

Andrew Harnik/AP
For reasons known only to them, 134 of the Dems in the House chose 76-year-old Nancy Pelosi to continue in the role of House Minority leader, while only 63 of them thought someone else would be better.  The other two top party leaders, 77-year-old Steny Hoyer (Minority Whip) and 76-year old assistant to the leader James Clyburn, were unopposed.

Dear lord, did the Dems learn NOTHING this past year?

If the leaders of your party are all on the verge of 70, or much older, do you think you've got your finger on the pulse? Is the best person to understand what 18 - 34 year olds want really their grandmother? I mean, it used to be Father Knows Best - but the Dems apparently think Grandfather Knows Best?

Yeah, I'm wondering about that.

Pelosi announced, when the leadership vote was delayed a week or two, that she had "at least two thirds" of the members in her corner. This preemptive strike, meant to make possible contenders stand down, didn't keep Ohio's Tim Ryan from running against her and picking up those 63 votes I mentioned earlier.  I would have voted for him, don't need to wonder much about that.
...my level of frustration came from the idea that we're going to have, for two more years, the same conversation as we've been having since 2010 (when the Dems lost 63 seats and the House Majority in the mid-term election).
And I think the level of frustration in our caucus is as great as I've ever seen it And it's time to do something about it, not just talk about it. Because now we're not even the national party. We're a coastal party. And we've got to move forward. If we're not going to get voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, go back down south. When I first got in Congress, we had members from Tennessee. We've got to go back there and campaign and get those folks back in the fold.
He added after addressing issues of how the Dems slice all of the demographics and don't unify them, but talk about them and treat them as individual groups,
But the reality of it is our message has been wrong. But we can't keep saying, "Oh, we got the message wrong, and so please forgive us."  We've been getting the message wrong since 2010. We've got to get the message right. We've got to have the right messenger. And we've got to have someone who can not just go on MSNBC, but go on Fox and Fox Business and CNBC, and go into union halls and fish frys and churches all over the country and start a brush first about what a new Democratic Party looks like,
I wonder, why didn't that message resonate with House members? Are they too afraid of losing Pelosi's support and money? Is she that helpful to them in their campaigns?

That's not the case here. I'm in New York's 24th district, which is very competitive - or was, anyway.

We actually had someone hold the seat, for the first time in several years. But during the race the last few cycles, there was one name that was mentioned in campaign ads more often even than the candidate: Nancy Pelosi.

As in, So-and-so will vote with Pelosi, with Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, Pelosi, Pelosi, PelosiPelosiPelosi until I practically forget who's actually running.

It's that bad out here, and she's a perfect target for the Republicans, as indicated by this 'congratulatory' tweet from the RNCC Communications Director.

Continuing to have her in a leadership position means the opposition doesn't even have to talk about issues or anything -- just mention Pelosi and let the the rest just happen organically. I wonder if they know that? Or how they couldn't know that? Or does it only happen here?

As much as I'm disappointed in the outcome of the election, I think I'm even more disappointed in the Dems, the party apparatus, their refusal to get with the program, and with today's vote their refusal to do anything more than talk about moving forward.

Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Nancy Pelosi got re-elected House Minority Leader.

The Dems are in trouble - no wondering about that.

November 29, 2016

Trump in Transition (v4)

Reuters photo
My plan was to do a weekly update on progress with the orderly transition of power to POTUS 45, but with a mere 51 days (as I write this) to go before the inauguration, the pace is picking up, and there is Joe Biden literally no time to waste.

Let's get up to speed:  We are still waiting for an official announcement that Dr Ben Carson will be taking an actual role with the incoming administration, or even if he's officially been offered one. Rumor has it that he's been offered the HUD job, and he may have even accepted it, it's really very hard to tell.

What's not hard to tell, though, is that Carson himself thinks he is unqualified, according to one of his aides. Armstrong Williams, a Carson advisor, told  us
Dr. Carson doesn't feel like that's the best way for him to serve the president-elect. Dr Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that would cripple the presidency.
And if I were the POTUS elect (and there's like, less than a Trumpzillion chance of that ever happening), I would accept at face value when a person I want to reward for their loyalty tells me he's not worthy. But then, that's not how things work on the Cabinet Apprentice, not at all.

Because a week or so after Carson's stunning admission, Trump decided that he needs someone of Carson's caliber at HUD -- and he's well qualified to boot!

And Carson opted to defend himself; here's one example:
Well, I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area, and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities, and we have to get beyond the promises and start really doing something. And also, the amount of corruption and graft and things that have - shell games that are played, we need to get rid of all that stuff and start operating things in an efficient and effective way.
That's right - this sounds just like some of his answers in the debates!

I can't wait for this one to play out. So far, no news is good news on this front, I think.  But we do have news on another front.

Trump has named Elaine Chao as his choice for Secretary of Transportation. Chao served in the Reagan, HW, and Dubya administrations, with the Peace Corps, at the United Way of America, and in the banking industry. And she's been at the Heritage Foundation and a contributor to Fox News, which is a key Cabinet Apprentice skill set.

She's also the wife of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who happens to be the Senate Majority Leader, and one upon whom attention must be showered if he's to be of use to the President. And there's probably no better way to curry favor with  McConnell than to appoint his wife to a Cabinet position. On which he will be required to provide his personal advice and consent. Unless he recuses himself, because voting on his wife's appointment while serving as Majority Leader could pose a possible conflict of interest.

Speaking at a Senate news conference, he noted
I've heard rumors that it should be an outstanding appointment (ed note: for Transportation Secretary). Someone actually asked Don Stewart if I was going to recuse myself. Let me be quite clear: I will not be recusing myself.
Yeah, right. Silly me. Can a person who has no ethics have a conflict of interest? I may have to check the rules on that.

McConnell, you recall, is the guy who said his highest priority was making sure President Obama was a one-term president.  Not, mind you, representing Kentucky and her citizens, not taking care of the things that ail America - just making sure Obama didn't get re-elected. A priority at which he failed, in case anyone needs reminding.  So is there any surprise that he's not going to recuse himself?

And finally, on the whole matter of the Transition vs. Mitt Romney, the jury's still out. There's still the public flogging being directed by Kellyanne Conway, who is taking advantage of every opportunity to tweet or talk about Romney and how he was the worst of the worst of the non-supporters, more Never Trump than the #NeverTrump movement itself.

But for some unfathomable reason, Romney sat down to dinner with Trump and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus;supposedly there were frog's legs and garlic soup served up, along with some equally healthy, three-Michelin-Stars conversation. Not sure if the Circling Blonde Shark was in attendance, or lurking in a puddle just outside the door.

And, to hedge his bets, Trump also met with Retired (disgraced?) General David Petraeus, another star in the Cabinet Apprentice.  Petraeus, also known as General Betrayus, shared secrets with his mistress for her to use in a book. Which is nothing like what Hillary Clinton did, of course.

Ah yes, a mere 51 days to go.

November 28, 2016

OrangeVerse III: Talking to the Times

The next POTUS sat down with the the NY Times and left a wide-ranging puddle of verse.

The Meeting
OK. Well
 I just appreciate the meeting
and I have great respect
for The New York Times.
Tremendous respect. 
It's very special. 
Always has been
very special.
I think 
I've been treated 
very rough.


Not Often, Dean
It's well out there
that I've been treated
extremely unfairly
in a sense, in a true sense.
I wouldn't only complain
about the Times. 
I would say The Times
was about 
the roughest 
of all. 
You could make the case 
The Washington Post
was bad, 
but every once in a while 
I'd actually get
a good article.
Not often, Dean 
but every once in a while.


Giving It Up
Look
I have great 
respect for the Times
and I'd like
to 
turn 
it 
around. 
I think
it would make the 
job I'm doing much
easier. 
We're working very hard.
We have 
great 
people 
coming 
in.
I think you'll be 
very impressed 
with the names.
We'll be announcing some
very shortly.

Everybody 
wanted to do this.
People are giving up
tremendous careers
 in order to be
subject to 
you folks and 
subject to a lot of 
other folks.
But they're 
giving 
up
lot.

November 27, 2016

Sidebar: Trump in Transition (v3)

In my earlier post on Donald Trump's playing of the woman card not once (Nikki Haley), not twice (Betsy DeVos) but three times (KT McFarland), I left out one of the more interesting pieces of news associated with the announcement of DeVos for Secretary of Education: she was not Trump's first choice, if we are to believe what we see.

That's right: the billionairess charter school supporter was no better than number two no the list, at least according to Jerry Falwell, Jr.  In fact, he tells us, he was number one on the list, but turned the job down.

I gotta tell you, I love someone who humble brags about turning down a Cabinet Apprentice position. How awesome it is to be able to tell everyone, after the public announcement of the winning finalist (Trump's word, not mine)  that you were offered the position but said no to your POTUS-elect and to your country!  How glorious it must be to say "no, I'm needed more someplace else!"

Here's Falwell's story, to which he appears to be sticking:
Falwell tells the Associated Press that Trump offered him the job last week during a meeting in New York. He says Trump wanted a four- to six-year commitment, but that he couldn't leave Liberty for more than two years. Falwell says he couldn't afford to work at a Cabinet level job for longer than that and didn't want to move his family, especially his 16-year old daughter.
Jerry Falwell Jr photo
Falwell earlier told the AP he had met with Trump, that they discussed the Department of Education, and that he would "definitely play a role" in the administration.  Now that he's turned Trump down - and told us he did, I'm not sure whether there will be a role for him or not.

If not, he got his money shot with Trump back in June, so he might be all set. I mean, who wouldn't want to hang this picture on their office wall?  You, your spouse, and the then presumptive Republican nominee - what a great picture!

Except for the Playboy magazine over your wife's shoulder, when you're the head of the world's largest Christian university.

Except that you're standing with a man who has been married three times, and who bragged about groping women against their will.

And, speaking of narcissism, what's up with hanging all of the magazine articles so close to the floor? I thought you were supposed to hang them at eye level?

Or, are they?


Trump in Transition (v3)

Reuters photo
 It's been a busy week since my last Trump in Transition (TiT) post was issued.

Trump has  moved his cavalcade of stars, his Cabinet Apprentice, from Trump Tower in NYC to Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, NJ, and then packed up his family and a few aides, I'm sure, and headed off to Trump Mar-a-Lago in Florida (where, yes, there is a Donald J Trump ballroom) for the Thanksgiving holiday, putting the traveling Trump press corps and the Trump security detail through their paces.

Coming up on the third-week anniversary of the Trump victory, things are moving along on with the orderly transition of power - in fact, it's going great, the POTUS-elect told us. Going great, just like The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, it is. Here it is, straight from the Donald himself:

Ah, the finalists...He announced four finalists last week, and he did it with a bang: he played the woman's card three times.

South Carolina Governor and early Trump basher Nikki Haley was selected to be our next UN Ambassador. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has been a rising star in the Republican party, and is only 44, the youngest of Trump's appointees.  She's traveled a bit, looking to other countries to find investors in the Palmetto State's economy - which puts her a bit at odds with Trump's anti-globalist positions. She's more aligned with Trump on climate (anti-emission limits) and is pro-life, both of which could have significance given the UN's focus on tackling climate change and on reproductive health and reproductive rights.

There's also the whole question of what a Trump administration would mean for the UN, given the Republicans' general distaste for the UN as an unnecessarily limiting factor and gross interference in all things American. I think it remains to be seen how this will play out, once the full team is in place and starts trying to navigate our country's role vis a vis the Trump worldview.

The other woman is more in the Trump model: billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos was selected to dismantle, er I mean head the federal Department of Education. DeVos, in case you don't know, is married to the heir of the Amway fortune, and her family donated close to a million bucks just in 2015, and a couple hundred million to conservative causes over the years. Her husband unsuccessfully ran for governor of Michigan a decade ago, and she now runs the family's political action committee.

She's not shy about the point of her donations, either - here's what she said about that back in 1997:
Soft money (is) just hard-earned American dollars that Big Brother has yet to find a way to control. That's all it is, nothing more. I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return...(ed. note: and went on to describe those expectations to include traditional American virtues, limited government - and Republicans winning elections).
So, what does DeVos get with this opportunity? A chance to reshape the future of public education in the United States. Trump's plan calls for a $20B federal investment, along with $110B from the states to fund $12K for "every student in poverty" to go to a charter school, private school, or parochial school. That would be taxpayer money, not private money, which would be used to support private businesses and religious institutions. And this is right up her alley - her family led a failed effort to allow taxpayer dollars to fund private education for kids in Michigan back in 2000.

I wonder what happens to her family's PAC, assuming she's confirmed? Would there be an assumption of some kind of reverse-Clintonian quid pro quo if a group was offered DeVos money? I mean, it's money from her family so it must mean she's fully supportive of  how it's being spent, and she's a Cabinet-level official so there must be full government support, right? Is that a conflict of interest, or just one of those things that Republican billionaires do, about which I don't need to worry my pretty little non-10 head?

Finally, he appointed KT McFarland as his deputy National Security Advisor. McFarland, a former Fox News contributor and long-time DC operative, will join Michael Flynn in the NSA office.

For the sake of Haley, DeVos, and McFarland, I hope if they ever find themselves in a position of even mildly disagreeing with Trump (which of course would be considered nasty and not nice and failing and over-rated of them), he doesn't play his anti-woman card.

The other appointment? Our White House counsel (yes, that's correct: the person serves in the best interest of the office, not the office-holder). It was some guy named Don, who has some experience with election law and stuff. But who cares?

Nothing diverse about him.

November 23, 2016

The Waiting, on Thanksgiving

I'm sitting in my comfy recliner with a sleeping kitty on my lap, looking at the first of I'm not sure how many Christmas trees will be up before the end of the month, a steaming mug of half and half (coffee and dark chocolate almond milk) on the table, thinking about Thanksgiving.

Last year, we spent Thanksgiving with my family at the old farmhouse in Vermont where my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew live.  Everything was delicious: dinner; the conversation; wandering around outside with the dogs; my nephew's apple-launching gun; the fresh eggs we used to make French toast on Friday morning; the wide plank floors in the oldest part of the house, where our room was, at the top of one of those steep old staircases. We all took a walk up to the top of the hill before dinner, and I was reminded of another Thanksgiving hike, some 45-odd years ago.

My Dad and I had decided to take a walk one Thanksgiving; the turkey was in the oven and it was the start of The Waiting, that period of time that only happens once a year, at our house. It starts when the pale, cold turkey goes into the oven, then builds as the house fills with the aroma of the bird cooking, and ends hours later when it comes out, richly browned, juicy (never dry), bursting with flavor, and joins all of the fixings on the table.

We started out with a plan of sorts: we'd head around the corner and aim for the woods off Liberty Street, a short walk from the house. There were trails leading from the dirt road into the woods, carved by years of kids walking and running through the vines that hung thickly from the trees, crisscrossing the hillside in every direction. We wandered, following the trails until we came out of the woods, on the crest of a hill, farther away from home than we had anticipated, but not so far as to turn back.

If we go this way, Dad said, pointing generally south, we should come out near Yawney's farm on Brutus Road, and we can walk home from there. Sounds good, I think I said - because why not? It was Thanksgiving, and it was during The Waiting. So we walked and talked, although I don't remember what we really talked about. Knowing him, and knowing me, it was probably current events or sports or whatever show we were watching on television that year, or something in the paper. Maybe about school. Just conversation, father and daughter, teacher and student, walking through fields.

We crossed over an old barbed wire fence and low stone wall or two, meandering more west than south it seemed, longer than we thought we would. We were damp - it was November, after all, and we were walking through fields and brush and tall grass. I can feel my nose running, and Dad's handkerchief, and burdocks, and laughter. And I remember a point at which we decided we needed to 'get somewhere', because it felt like soon, The Waiting would be over, and Mom would not be happy if we were not back; we had things to do, Dad and I, when the turkey came out of the oven, and even before.

Onward we pressed, looking for some sign of civilization, and finally came out from a small grove of trees saw a house that we recognized. We had not gone south towards Yawney's - not so much.We had gone almost due west, and had come out on Pump Road, several houses away from where Mom and Dad's friends Ron and Doje Marks lived. It was our Aha moment - we are saved! - as we jumped across the ditch, onto dry pavement, and headed off up the middle of the road, making much better time now, to get to Marks' house, call Mom, and get a ride home. Surprise all around, I remember.

We were a mess - wet, covered with all kinds of debris (derbis, Dad said) - but we were happy, and Mom wasn't too terribly mad (at least, not in front of me), and Thanksgiving was delicious - the dinner, the conversation, the wide plank floors in our old house, and my room at the top of the stairs at the end of a long, crazy, happy day.

We weren't able to make the trip to Vermont this year, so even though it's only going to be the two of us, I'm still cooking a full dinner. I'll get up and get my turkey ready in the morning, and then, I think I'll drag my husband out for a walk around the neighborhood, during The Waiting.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 20, 2016

Trump in Transition (v2)

Reuters photo
So, how are things going out there in Transition-land? Well, let's get caught up.

Trump has named three more officials so far, in addition to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon: for National Security Advisor, the foreign-client-lobbying-while-receiving-US-security-briefings-challenged, angry retired General Mike Flynn, and Kansas tea-partier Mike Pompeo for CIA director. One can only guess that there were no guys named Mike who could fill the role of the so-racially-compromised-that-even-Republicans-didn't-confirm-him-for-a-federal-judgeship, so Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions got tapped for Attorney General. Maybe they'll call him Mike.

Other than that?  Well, New Gingrich supposedly doesn't want a government job. Rudy Giuliani wanted one so badly that he made a fool of himself, and Trump doesn't like people who make fools of themselves. Ask Chris Christie. And, we're not sure whether Mitt Romney went to meet with Trump because he's that decent a guy, or because he wants a role in the administration, or if, as one Trump insider said, it was time for Mitt to kiss the Donald's ring. This is something Trump is quite fond of doing, summoning people to his altar, from whence there emanates a giant smooching sound.

We're waiting for more appointments and whatnot, but we did have news that the Trump Organization is exploring anything and everything to figure out how they're going to keep the business separate from the POTUS. The complicated Trump businesses, with real estate and golf and wine and roses (oh wait, sorry, made that roses part up) and the Trump Foundation and the made-out-of-the-USA fashion empires and all of the foreign loans and the Russian connections -- it's a big old hot mess of a conflicts.

And it gets hotter when you remember that the three most favored children are now officially part of the transition team, just as they are, with their dad, the top management of the company. So how are they doing with that separation thing?

Not bigly well, that's for sure.

Reuters/Cabinet PR Office photo
Ivanka was included in the meeting with the Japanese prime minister the other day; so was her husband, Jared Kushner. So, for a few minutes, was Broadway aficionado and Veep-elect Mike Pence - for a few minutes, anyway.

Now, I'm sure Ivanka's role there was only to observe - after all, she was sitting off to the side in the official picture, as you can see. But what is one really to make of her being there?

Did the Japanese officials walk away wondering why that tall blond woman was in the room with the guy wearing the dark suit and brown shoes? Or did they leave with the understanding that the POTUS would smile on them if they helped the First Daughter expand the company's real estate holdings in Japan?

Or, what about the Indian businessmen who visited with Trump and his kids?
Economic Times photo

Was this meeting to congratulate him on his victory, as Trump's camp said, or was it to expand their partnership? And what about Trump praising the Indian Prime Minister during the meeting - was that the businessman speaking or the POTUS speaking?

And remember the old Post Office a stone's throw down Pennsylvania Ave from the White House, the building he turned into a luxury hotel? Yeah, it seems that the Trump International Hotel is the place to be if you're a foreign visitor here to meet with the POTUS.  After all, as one Asian diplomat noted,
Why wouldn't I stay at this hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, 'I love your new hotel!' Isn't it rude to come to his city and say, 'I'm staying at your competitor?'
No conflict there, though -- right? But what happens if someone is not staying there, and the POTUS asks innocently, 'Hey, how do you like my new hotel?' What answer does the person give, and what do they get from their visit to the White House? Is it going to be an honest exchange, or will it be more like what happens when Trump gets mad at an apprentice?

And that's not to mention the fact that the lease on the building is between Trump's business and the General Services Administration (GSA), and GSA leases don't allow any elected official to benefit from the leases in any way. And it's also not to mention that the POTUS appoints the head of the GSA. And that the GSA would be negotiating with the POTUS offspring.

Priebus, trying to calm the fears, said today in an interview on CNN that
Obviously we will comply with all of those laws and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things We will have every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed, and I can assure the American people that there won't be any wrongdoing or any sort of undue influence over any decision-making.
I'm not resting easy, over Trump's personnel decisions to date, or over the lack of action on getting the businesses into a true conflict-free zone. Particularly given that Trump and his minions spent an inordinate amount of time barking about the alleged pay-to-play with the Clinton Foundation (which is an actual foundation, giving money to actual causes, as opposed to Trump's foundation, which merely pays his bills), I can only surmise they thought they weren't going to win and so didn't do any thinking in advance of how to separate Trump the President from Trump the business. And he clearly can't seem to separate himself from Ivanka and her husband.

Until we hear something concrete on how he plans on making the break, I won't be assured, no matter how much Reince Priebus wants me to be.

November 18, 2016

Immigrant Data, Bigly

Lots of news out there about the POTUS-elect maybe implementing a Muslim registry.

You may recall he talked about this almost a year ago, back in the day when he was stumping in Iowa, when even he probably thought there was about a Trumpzillion-to-one chance of being elected.
I would certainly implement that (a database Muslim tracking system), absolutely. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. 
He noted that even American Muslims would "have to be - they have to be" legally obligated to sign into the database; he also refused to explain how what he was suggesting differed from Germany's actions towards Jews under the Nazis, which is the most frequent comparison. And then, like so many of his pronouncements, he walked it back.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Fast forward to this week, and we have Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talking about the registry again. Kobach, a key advisor to the Trump transition team, worked in the Dubya administration and helped create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, after 9/11 which required fingerprinting and interrogation on arrival from a high-risk country, as well as a requirement for some men to check in periodically - sort of like being on parole.

The registry goes along with the 'extreme vetting' plan that Trump has been promoting ever since he softened his stance on a total and complete shutdown on Muslims. We don't yet know what form the extreme vetting will take, but we do know that it's going to be more extreme than today's process, which takes up to two years in some cases before entry.

My guess is that it will take between four and eight years to get in, but perhaps I'm being overly cynical.

In addition to Kobach, there's Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and current talking head, who babbled Wednesday about the constitutionality of a registry.
It is legal. They say it'll hold constitutional muster. I know the ACLU is going to challenge it, but I think it'll pass. We it during World War II with the Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will.
So, ignoring the dark period where we rounded up American citizens and shipped them off to camps to protect us from, you know, Americans, would this be legal and constitutional?

Yes, it would, if done correctly. The NSEERS program, for example, was used for a decade after 9/11, applied to only certain people from only a couple dozen countries that coincidentally happened to be predominantly Muslim -- and North Korea - and was deemed OK. From the Vox article:
So when the government designates people from particular countries for special treatment, according to Kevin Johnson of University of California Davis, "those are the kinds of things the courts are likely to say have foreign policy implications and should be in the hands of the federal government and the executive branch. 
In other words, it might not be constitutional for the government to single out Muslim immigrants for particular treatment But it's another thing for the government to single them out on a country-by-country basis  - "to say, 'I'm going to ban migrants or Muslims, even, from Yemen,'" Johnson says. 
A court challenge was rejected, and the program stayed in place.  Although no longer used, the framework is apparently still there, as are some redundant data-gathering tools, which is why the Obama administration removed the 25 countries from the NSEERS program.

A new program, some kind of registry, may never materialize - as with so many things we've heard the POTUS-elect say, or threaten, or promise, we have no idea -  and frankly I'm not even sure he has any idea what he's going to do.

Those of us who did not support him and are waiting for a sign that he's going to coalesce his many statements, policy changes, Tweets and teams into something cohesive and defined and supportable or at least not horror-inducing, were told after he won the election that we needed to wait and see.

We needed to see who he surrounded himself with, those "good people" we heard so much about, and to give him a chance to get his act together.

I'm still waiting to see how that's going to work out - but while I wait, I think it's important to pay attention to this last word from the Vox article:
A lot of people didn't know about NSEERS when it was in effect. That's not a reason not to care now. It's a reminder that when policies are actually implemented, they're rarely as crude and legally dubious as a politician like (the POTUS-elect) makes them sound - and that makes it harder for them to be challenged either in court or in the public eye. 
Care.

Care deeply about whatever direction this administration takes us.

November 16, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v70)

Here we are, another Wednesday and I'm still wondering, Mr President-elect.

I'm wondering how adding your three adult children to your Presidential transition team is going to help them get busy having fun running the family business - and whether you're even capable of making decisions without your daughter and your son-in-law, since it was at least suggested that you were going to seek top level security clearances for them?

And I'm wondering if you even remember reaching out and asking for guidance from people who didn't vote for you? If yes, I'm wondering whether you've given any thought to the protests that are happening around the country, and what people are trying to tell you?

I'm wondering how you can think that hiring a Chief Strategist so inflammatory that even your own camp defends him using inflammatory rhetoric is a good thing? That's right; here's what your folks say:
He has got a Harvard business degree. He's a Naval officer. He has success in entertainment. I don't know if you're aware of that. And he certainly was a Goldman Sachs managing partner. ~ Kellyanne Conway
This whole notion - it's like the Washington Post has this columnist the other day who pointed out that we're on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the night when the Nazis attacked Jewish businesses. And I'm thinking, 'This is crazy!' But the fact is - and you get all these smears of Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was a naval officer. He was a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. He was a Hollywood movie producer. You know the idea that somehow he represents -- I had never heard of the alt-right until the nutcakes started writing about it. ~ Newt Gingrich
See, Bannon can't be anti-Semitic, he's been in Hollywood! He worked for Goldman Sachs! In the financial industry! Come on, he's practically an honorary Jew! I wonder, do you see how ridiculous that is? Oh wait -- what am I wondering? You're the guy who cracked anti-Semitic jokes yourself!

I wonder why it is that Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy guy, posted a video where he told everyone that you personally called him to thank him for his support, and that of his conspiracy theorists? I mean, why would the President-elect personally call a guy like Alex Jones to thank him? Alex Jones who thinks the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, you know -- that the guy you called?
Trump said, "I just talked to the kings and queens of the world, world leaders, you name it. But he said, "It doesn't matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience, and I'll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.. we know what you did early on and throughout this campaign, stand up for what's right, it shows."
I wonder, is your whole candidacy some kind of conspiracy? Or is that too extreme even for you and your followers?

And I wonder, when you say that something "is the law of the land" and so cannot be touched, do you have any idea what you're talking about? Marriage Equality is the law of the land, you said, and so my friends and family members don't have anything to worry about. Have you listened to any of your speeches? Read the GOP platform, maybe, I wonder?

Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, too - so I wonder if there's any reason to worry about that?  And you know what else is the law of the land?  Yeah, the Affordable Care Act. That's been decided already too, but I wonder why that hasn't stopped the House of Representatives from their 60-some-odd votes to repeal it, and why you made repealing it and replacing it (with what sounds a lot like the same thing) a priority for your first 100 days?

I wonder, do you like food for thought? Because, by the way,- voting rights for minority communities also used to be the law of the land, until your GOP got in the way.

I wonder, do you have so much as one single little clue what the hell you've gotten yourself into?

Even the slightest clue, I wonder?

November 15, 2016

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v8)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times
Oh, how the plot has thickened!

It seems the Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation has come to a stalemate and it appears there will be no pay raise this year.

When we last touched base on this in v7, I had suggested that whatever raise was decided, it should be implemented exactly the same as the increase in the minimum wage - higher and faster for NYC and immediate areas, much slower (and likely not ever reaching the NYC rate) for Western NY, Central NY, Northern NY and the Southern Tier.  I thought that was a great plan, and I actually submitted it to the commissions.

As I noted in v5 of this series, Fran Reiter, one of our Sonofa Gov's appointees on the Commission, has long been asking for reasons why the raise was needed, either form legislature leaders or members since some had said they had no interest in one, especially in an election year.  She had also been concerned with the ethical challenges that had been identified in the Leg, including the convictions of Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos.

Today, Reiter indicated she would not go along with the increase absent action from the Leg on ethics.
We believe the opinion of the public is entirely relevant, if not determinative. Because the public is, in the truest definition of the word, the employer. Obviously the employer's view on the employee performance and merit is incredibly important.
A vote was called in the meeting, when Reiter and Cuomo appointee Robert Megna abstained, along with judicial appointee Bart Crozier, the deal was done. Without a fully representative majority, and with a statute that required a decision no later than November 15, there was nothing left to be done.

Showing great collaboration and a unified front, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan issued a joint statement.
It is unfortunate that the Governor's appointees to the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation once again felt the need to demand legislative action in exchange for an increase in compensation. This is completely unacceptable and far exceeds the mandate of the Commission, which was to evaluate the need for an increase in compensation based primarily on economic factors.
I'm actually somewhat torn with this outcome. While I too had a hard time thinking about giving everyone a giant raise in one fell swoop, given they already make substantially more than the median income in New York, and since many members are fairly new to the Leg, they shouldn't be eligible for what was, in effect, to be make up pay, I was looking forward to what the Commission would ultimately recommend, and more selfishly, if they would consider an implementation plan that exactly mirrored the ones the same Legislature put into effect for struggling New Yorkers.

Sadly, we'll never know.

November 13, 2016

Trump: In Transition (v1)

Reuters photo
Donald Trump reconfigured his transition team the other day, adding clarity to how his 'outsider' campaign is approaching the mind-numbing process of building a government.

As has been widely reported, including on the new GreatAgain.gov website (bookmarked that one, I sure did), Trump will have the opportunity to fill some 4,000 positions, over a quarter of which will need Senate approval. Dust off your resumes, if you're interested in working in the #MAGA administration, now's your chance!

Here's the team that's going to help him get ready to lead:
  • Dr. Ben Carson
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had been leading the effort, and for whom the bell tolled after the conviction of two close aides in the Bridgegate scandal; word has it that Trump started losing trust after Christie failed to go along with theGropegate denial plan, and that seeing former Christie aide Bridget Kelly crying on TV was the last straw. 
  • Georgia's Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who suggested in June, in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, that we need a new House Un-American Activities Committee to address the issue of ISIS infiltration. You know, root them out, make wildly crazy accusations, in the most Un-American way possible. He apparently forgot that the shooter was reported to the FBI and cleared (twice, if I recall), and that, based on the shooter's participation in the gay community, his allegiance to ISIS would seem to be in doubt.  As Dave Chappelle noted on SNL last night, if he yelled "Wu Tang" before engaging in sexual activities with a young lady, it doesn't mean that he's a member of the Wu Tang Clan. He (Gingrich, not Chappelle) also said we need to test all Muslims in the country but I doubt he'd agree with me that there are lots of other people who should be tested similarly to make sure they share my American values.
  • Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, USA (Ret.), who apparently made quite a dent at an intelligence briefing, and has been called America's angriest general. As noted in both of these links, he was one of the 'lock her up' cheerleaders at the Five Dark Days in Cleveland.
  • U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, who's been representing Alabama in Washington for 20 years, and who was known for being quite, shall we say, colorful. I particularly enjoyed his reported comments about the KKK.
  • Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta, reported to be an immigration hardliner, who gets a lot of financial support from the infrastructure space, and fellow Keystone stater Tom Marino, who was once chased across the House floor by Nancy Pelosi. 
  • Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who was allegedly involved in exposing private information of doctors and researchers in the aftermath of the dramatically faked Planned Parenthood videos. 
  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. You remember her, right? The one to whom Trump's Foundation gave a $25K contribution as she was in the middle of deciding whether or not to sign on to an investigation with other state Attorneys General into Trump's university? Yeah, her. It gets better:  in addition to other donations from Trump and his family, it seems that when the Trump campaign holds an event at Mar-a-Lago, it costs $140,000 but when Bondi held an event there, it cost less than $5,000. Funny how that works. 
  • Buffalo-area Congressman Chris Collins, who has a surprisingly sketchy conservative voting record.
  • Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and the reason why he can't get hold of Ivanka on Saturday, and a man who may or may not have been offended with his father-in-law's comments to Jewish Republicans. Kushner owns the former NY Observer, which as of last week is now a digital-only publication, no longer tied to New York.
  • Rebekah Mercer, who with her father is a mega-donating Clinton hater with connections to both Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway (or maybe I should say, both Bannon and Conway have connections to Mercer). 
  • Steven Mnuchin, Trump's campaign finance chair, possible Treasury Secretary and, according to this article, the Anti-Populist from Hell who was intricately involved in everything that was wrong with the banking industry that led to the Great Recession. 
  • California Congressman Devin Nunes. Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and strong defender of a tiny US base off the coast of Portugal, which no one really understands, perhaps other than to point to his Portuguese heritage.
  • Peter Thiel, tech gazillionaire, outed gay man, and taker-downer of media company Gawker. I'm not sure which of those biographical points was the one that attracted Trump.
  • Donald Trump Jr., number one son, a top executive of the Trump Organization, and of course, a Tweeter like his father; remember the infamous Skittles tweet?
  • Eric Trump, who to his credit runs a charity that has raised millions of dollars for St. Jude's Children Research Hospital, but that has some of the same 'challenges' as his father's foundation. He also famously said that his sister was too strong to put up with sexual harassment and that women should just go to HR and report it.
  • Ivanka Trump, apple of her father's eye, outside-the-US clothing manufacturer, and brains behind the Trump child care plan, which only applies to married women, and would give a tax credit to families with children that don't have any child care expenses -which would, of course, be considered welfare in a different administration.

It will be interesting to see how this group comes together to shape the Trump administration.

There is also the question of the Trump children being so closely involved, at the same time they are also involved in trying to get the Trump Organization structure figured out so that President Trump and Businessman Trump are not entwangled.

Giuliani has recommended a blind trust, but it seems a little hard when your global brand has your name all over it, for anyone to be blind to it, especially someone like Trump. This may be a more interesting thing to watch than which Swampy people get tapped for the new administration.

More to come.

OrangeVerse II: Victory

I. It's Complicated
 Sorry to keep you waiting; complicated business; 
(complicated.)

Thank you very much.
I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton.

She congratulated us — 
it’s about us — 
on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family
on a very, very hard-fought campaign. 

I mean, she — 
she fought 
very hard.

II. It's Time
Now it’s time for America 
to bind the wounds of division; 
(have to get together.)

To all Republicans
and Democrats 
and independents
across this nation, 

I say it is time for us 
to come together 
as one united people.

(It’s time.) 

III. It's a Beautiful Thing
I’ve spent my entire 
life and business looking
at the untapped potential in projects
and in people all 
over the world. 
That is now what I want 
to do for our country.

(Tremendous potential.) 
I’ve gotten to
know our country so 
well — tremendous potential. 

It’s going to be a beautiful thing.

IV. It's About Rudy
We have got — we have got 
tremendously talented people up here. 
And I want to tell you, it’s been — 
it’s been very, very special.

I want 
to give a very special
thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Unbelievable. 
Unbelievable. 

He traveled with us and 
he went through meetings. 
That Rudy 
never changes. 

Where’s Rudy? 
Where is he? 
(Rudy.)

November 10, 2016

I Am Not Ready to Move On, Thank You

To all the people who have told me, repeatedly, that I need to get over it or move on or accept it or unite or join together to help Make America Great Again, I ask you to bear with me as I paint over you with the same broad brush you have used to paint over me.  I’m not trying to offend you, I’m really not.

Let me throw you a bone: I acknowledge that Donald Trump is the president-elect and will become President at noon on Friday, January 20, 2017.

I have previously admitted that I was in the #NeverTrump camp, and provided my reasons for that, based on my opinions of his policies. You can read those if you’re interested, they’ve been publicly posted. I was also firmly in the #NeverTrump camp based on his actions, and his words, during the course of his campaign, because I found so many of both – actions and words – to be personally offensive.

As a woman with a big nose, a fat ass and small boobs, I know I am not a 10 in your candidate’s book – and I could not be prouder.  

I cringe each and every time I see the commercial of your candidate mocking a disabled person. If you think it was funny, tha’s your choice. I found it -- and find it – disgusting. I found your candidate’s questioning an American-born judge’s heritage, and therefore his integrity, honesty and fairness on the basis of his last name, insulting.

I did not consider your candidate’s comments about his actions towards women and our vaginas humorous. As someone with personal experience on this subject, I can assure you, without question, it is not.

It is frightening, horrible, gut-wrenching, and unforgettable.  So yes - laugh, if you like, while I fight the urge to vomit.

As you tell me, repeatedly, to accept and unify, I remind you that as it stands now, your candidate received 47.5% of the vote, and his opponent received 47.7%, or some 280,646 more votes. And while your candidate will be President, and his opponent will not, it’s more than slightly presumptuous on your part to assume that everyone who did not vote for your guy will shut up and toe the line on YOUR schedule.

I find myself compelled to remind you that it was not until September 16, 2016 that your candidate accepted the legitimacy of our current president.  Let me say that again: it was less than two months ago that your candidate finally acknowledged that our current President was in fact born in this country. 

Our current president has 70 days or so left in his second term; I hope the irony that you’re asking me to accept our President-elect less than 48 hours after he lost the popular vote is not lost on you. It’s certainly not lost on me.

One more thing about our current President: if you refer to him as Barack Hussein Obama, and pretend that when you do so “you’re only using his real name”, let me know when you’re ready to accept him as your president.  Similarly, I’ll look forward to you always referring to our President-elect by his full real name, too – or won’t that be necessary?

Come inauguration day next January, I will be mourning my father on the 10th anniversary of his passing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell him that your candidate did something – ANYTHING – to convince me he’s not the person that he presented himself to be, over and over and over, during his campaign.


The ball is his court, not mine. And not yours.

November 9, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v69)

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
As are most people, even the ones who supported now President-elect Donald Trump, I'm bigly wondering on this Wednesday, what the heck just happened here and what the heck is going to happen next.

On the former, for the first time ever, they say, we have elected a person who has both no political experience and no military experience to be President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States.

Not only that, but we've elected a person who does not support perhaps a majority of the positions held o happen next" part all that much more intriguing and fun to watch, if that's the right term?

There's a whole lot of other wondering going on, too.

It's fascinating to see how so many people who declared themselves "voters without a candidate" seem to be so happy about Donald Trump being elected. I wonder whether that's because they were afraid to admit they were Trump supporters, or if they were having more fun pretending they were not?

And speaking of Trump supporters, what will they do if he's unable to do the things he promised he do just in the first 100 days? There's a lot in there - ISIS, Syria, NAFTA and the TPP, the Iran nuclear deal, Obamacare, abortion, China, veterans, guns, and some of that was before the Contract with the American Voter (not, mind you, a contract with all Americans) which came out at his Gettysburg address: immigration, cancelling executive orders, $50 trillion in energy development -  my head spins.

In all seriousness, though, I think this is a legitimate question. He was nothing if not over promising, almost daily, in almost Seussian fashion (emphasis on 'almost').

I have brains in my head
and feet in my shoes
I can steer myself 
any direction I choose
I'm on my own, and I know what I know
and I am the guy who'll decide where to go. 

If he fails to live up to those promises, does he lose his support?

And then there's the special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation, Now that he has vanquished Clinton, will there still be calls for her head, I wonder? If, as a conciliatory measure he decides to let this one slide, what will happen?

Another thing I'm wondering is how we are supposed to unite to move the country forward?  Is there some picture of an olive tree somewhere in Trump Tower? You know, something along the lines of "we really don't mean those things we said throughout the campaign, and you have to trust us on that?"

Or, even better, an actual olive branch, something specific his camp could offer as a way to actually try and bring those who equally love America but didn't vote for him towards some kind of reconciliation? I wonder what he might put on the table; I could suggest a couple of things, but since I had two feet very publicly planted in the #NeverTrump camp, I don't really think it's up to me to make the conciliatory gesture, do you?

Frankly, I'd love to hear, from a single Trump voter, some offer of reconciliation. Getting a lot of "we need to unite" as if it's on us to capitulate, set aside our ideals and thoughts on government, and just chug some orange Kool Aid or something. Is that how this is supposed to go, especially with Trump actually losing the popular vote?

I wonder if the 18-24 month vetting process we currently have for some folks wanting to come to America, the most stringent process in the world already, will become a 48-month process once Trump is inaugurated?

And then there's the whole "how did we miss this/refuse to acknowledge this" hand-wringing going on in the media. It's hard not to wonder what their post-mortem will look like:
  • Can we trust exit polls? Would someone actually lie on a poll? Did they tell the truth and we chose to ignore them? 
  • Could we have done more to talk about the issues during this race instead of focusing on the personalities? 
  • Could we have spent less time fawning over the candidates and their surrogates,less time making sure we looked good asking our questions, and more time talking to actual people?
  • Should we have given done more to investigate whether the vitriol and hatred in the campaign was more than skin deep?
  • Should we have placed so much
  • Are we willing to admit that we didn't do our best work here, and vow to do better throughout the Trump administration, to hold everyone accountable to the people even though Trump has threatened us almost from the beginning of his campaign?
  • When should any projections be made before the polls are closed in all states? Does reporting what;s happening on the East Coast impact what happens across the time zones?

Will Fox News finally be considered to be part of the mainstream media? Fox was Trump's personal microphone, throughout the campaign. There was little to no critical coverage of him by that network, anymore than there was from any of the other networks. Can't we just come clean on that?What the heck are we waiting for, I wonder?

What will happen with Trump's business empire? There has been little to no discussion about how we make sure his focus is our focus not his focus if you follow my drift. I'm surprised how little discussion there has been, given the amount of attention given plans for the Clintons to divest themselves from their Foundation. Trump, the nationalist candidate, is a global business magnate. We can't afford to let that get lost in the shuffle.

What are our allies wondering, this Wednesday? People think it's hard to be people who voted against Trump, imagine how hard it is for our allies?

There's more, so much more wondering up there in my head.  I'll end, as I have throughout this entire fascinating, aggravating, confounding campaign, whether it was Wednesday or Sunday or Tuesday or Friday or some other day.

I wonder what my Dad would say.