October 22, 2017

Sunday School 10/22/17

I took a stroll over to the middle school complex today, to check in with Maria Bartiromo, who had an exclusive sit down with president Trump which was broadcast today on Sunday Morning Futures. Here are some highlights.

First, they chatted about the chances of getting tax reform; here's Trump's take on things:
We’re doing very well, we had a fantastic vote as you know and with the budget, is, indirectly passed, it’s going to go through a little bit of an iteration but I think it’s going to end up I think again doing very well and I think we’re going to get our taxes, I think it’s going to be well, hopefully, before the end of the year but maybe much sooner than that.
You know there’s a great spirit for it, people want to see it, and I call it tax cuts it is tax reform also but I call it tax cuts, it’ll be the biggest cuts ever in the history of this country and I think that this tremendous appetite, this tremendous spirit for it not only by the people we’re dealing with in Congress but for the people out there that want to see something $5000, it can be $5000 average per individual, per group, and so I’m really looking forward to it, let’s see what happens.
Bartiromo noted that today is the 31st anniversary of the Reagan tax reforms, which as we've been told was the last time we had anything of this magnitude coming forward. And, she wondered if Trump had the votes.
I think we have the votes, I think that Rand Paul actually is going to vote for the tax cuts. I think that other people – you know, we had tremendous enthusiasm this time, you know health care I was told was tougher, but it was close. I mean so far I would say it’s not even a contest and I will tell you, speaking of health care, I believe we’re going to get that also. It’ll be in the form of block grants to the different states and it’ll be a wonderful healthcare, it’ll be a tremendous health care managed properly in smaller doses where you can really do it much more individually so I think we’re going to get that also in a little bit later probably in three or four months from now but I do believe we’ll have that long before the election in ’18. As far as taxes are concerned you see what’s happening it’s really doing well, great enthusiasm. 
Recognizing that Trump had favored, then opposed, then favored and finally opposed again the Alexander/Murray bipartisan effort on healthcare, Bartiromo asked him about his 'souring' on that.
Well, I’ve looked at it very very strongly and pretty much we can do almost what they’re getting. I think he’s a tremendous person, I don’t know Senator Murray, I hear very very good things but I know that Lamar Alexander is a fine man and he is really indebted to do good for the people. We can do pretty much what we have to do without, you know, the secretary has tremendous leeway in the, under the Obama plans, that’s one of the things that they did because it was so messed up they had no choice but to give the secretary leeway because they knew it had to be he or she would have to be changing all the time and we can pretty much do whatever we have to do just the way it is so, uh, this was going to be temporary prior to repeal and replace, we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and I think we actually have the votes.People are criticizing me for saying that I think we actually have the votes for that, you know we were basically one short and I think we’re gonna have the votes for that also Maria.
As to his petty squabbles with everyone, noting that his supporters feel the "bickering and the feuding" get in the way. She asked if she thought that was the case.

Here's what the Arguer-in-Chief had to say about that.
No and sometimes it helps to be honest with you so we’ll see what happens in the end but I think that actually sometimes it helps, sometimes it gets people to do what they’re supposed to be doing and, you know, that’s the way it is. I just want what’s right and for the most part they want what’s right too so we’ll see what happens but I do believe we have the votes for healthcare at the appropriate time and I think that we’re going to have the votes for taxes and I will say the fact that healthcare is so difficult makes the taxes easier and the Republicans want to get it done and it’s a tremendous tax cut I mean especially for the middle class and especially for business. We have, you know we’re losing our companies we have companies leaving and I have to say since I’ve been elected that’s really stopped that’s really slowed down. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm for business in this country so a lot of things have changed.
Bartiromo came dangerously close to declaring a war on Christmas - she nearly did.

She asked Trump whether, if Congress doesn't get the tax thing done, "should they forgo Thanksgiving and Christmas, should they be here if they don't have a bill on your desk by Thanksgiving?"
Well I think they should have and I think they will, I think a lot of things are happening unless you know it’s going to be right after that but I don’t even like them leaving but I will say this, I want to get it by the end of the year but I would be very disappointed if it took that long. It could be substantially less than that depending on what happens when we send the bill back to the House, you know they’ll send it back and people are gonna go and make 200 suggestions as opposed to maybe no suggestions because it’s a great bill, it’s going to be a great bill and we’re adjusting, we’re adjusting so that there’s no way that the middle class doesn’t greatly benefit. Every once in a while there’s a method under which, you know it could be that there are some people in the middle class won’t benefit as much as we want them to benefit and we’re making certain adjustments but I think we’re going to have it sooner rather than later.
After talking about a Paul Ryan interview in which Ryan said Trump was looking for a "fourth bracket" Trump pointed out there are already four brackets, it's just that no one will talk about it.
Well he really said that on the basis that I wanted it or was thinking about it because I wanted to make sure that the middle class gets taken care of so in that way yes, but actually we do have four brackets because we have a zero bracket and people aren’t including that so actually it would make it a fifth bracket as opposed to an eighth bracket on the - on the other side, on the other way I call it our competition which is the competition of the past No I think that, I think that when Paul says that we may not have that but I would rather do that than do anything to hurt the middle class.
The last question in this part of the interview had to do with Trump's fear of cutting taxes for the rich. She asked, "If the top earners pay 80% of the taxes, why are you so afraid to cut taxes on the top earners?" Trump's answer was, well, classic Trump.
I think this, look, you know I’m very happy with the way I’ve done prior to this in my civilian life, other people... look, it’s about me and representing rich people, let’s say, you know, representing, being representative of rich people. It’s very interesting to me, you know Bob Kraft was down, he was very nice, you know, he owns the Patriots, he gave me a Super Bowl ring a month ago which was very nice…he left this beautiful ring and I immediately give it to the White House and they put it someplace and that’s the way this, but he said to me, he’s a good man, he said to me, 'you have to do us all a favor, give the tax decrease to the middle class, we don’t need it, we don’t need it, we don’t want it, give it to the middle class'. And I’ve had many people, very wealthy people tell me the same thing. I’ve had very few people say “I want more, I want more” they really want to, see, you know the middle class has really not done very well over the last long period of time and so when Paul mentions maybe one more category which I’d rather not have, it may not happen but the only reason I would have and he does say this he’s very plain nobody said, if for any reason I feel the middle class is not being properly taken care of. 
The interview continued, but I'll be honest, I haven't finished watching it. It was challenging enough to transcribe the part I did. But I promise, I will give it a shot, and will let you know what he said about corporate taxes, if nothing else.

See you around campus.

October 20, 2017

TGIF 10/20/17

Oh, what a week it was...

In no particular order:

The president was questioned on why the White House hadn't made any comment on the death of four American soldiers in Niger, and on whether he had reached out to the families of the fallen.

Paraphrasing here, he said he'd call the families when it was possible for him to do so and (apparently) falsely accused President Obama and his predecessors (most of them/many of them) of not making these most personal Commander in Chief calls.

But then he said he had no proof (I'm SHOCKED!) but that someone told him that was the case and then Trump politicized the death of the son of his chief of staff, General Kelly, in an attempt to slam Obama one more time.

Then, there was a huge she said he said about a call he did make, in which there was a strong perception by the soldier's family that they had been dissed by Trump, who said he had proof but presented none (I'm SHOCKED!) and even worse, General Kelly then joined the fray, name calling and (apparently) lying about a Florida congresswoman who was close to the soldier's family way before she was a Congresswoman and way before the soldier was a soldier.

And it's still going on. (I'm SHOCKED!)

The Republicans in the Senate passed a budget bill that will allow tax reform to go through reconciliation (we remember that term from the healthcare debacle, right) and pass with only 50 votes instead of 60, eliminating the need to have Democrats on board.

The budget also approved $1.5 trillion in deficit spending (I'm SHOCKED!) to make up for money that the government won't receive from the 1% once the tax reform package goes through.

No, seriously - we don't know for sure what's actually going to be in the tax plan, other than pain points for people who live in blue states and bonuses for people who live in red ones.  At least, that's what we've been told to expect, and I have no reason to doubt that instruction.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, our Lying Attorney General, went to Congress today and ran into more questions about Russia, and why he keeps changing his story. Senator Al Franken reminded Sessions that the Russian Ambassador is in fact a Russian; you can imagine how SHOCKED! Sessions must have been to learn that.

Sessions also said he would not be able to guarantee that reporters would be allowed to do their jobs without risk of being jailed for doing so.

Trump spoke out in favor and in opposition and in favor and in opposition of the bipartisan bill, cobbled together by Lamar Alexander from the right and Patty Murray from the left, to fund the cost sharing reductions that insurance companies are forced to pay under the Affordable Car Act to reduce the out of pocket cost burden on lower income Americans.

Oh wait - the CSRs line the coffers of insurance companies, sorry. Which would be a good thing, for any other industry, because of all the winning that's going on right now economically.

And finally, former President George W Bush gave a speech this week which was interpreted by many to be about the Trump administration, but which the Trump administration said was not about them, because if it was really about them, Bush would have called out Trump by name. Which, of course, the president would have tweeted. (I'M SHOCKED!)

TGIF, everyone.

October 18, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v108)

Below is a copy of the post from tonight on the veritable pastiche Facebook page. I'm not wondering at all, tonight. There is no question, no doubt, in my mind.

"Revelations about Donald Trump surfaced well before the Presidential election, and 62 million Americans armed with this information—summarily responded by elevating him to the highest position of leadership in this country. They chose the “grab them by the p*ssy—move on her like a b*itch” dude. Their vote then nullifies their outrage now."

While Pavlovitz does not name anyone who both supports Trump and condemns Weinstein, we really have to look no further than Fox News - the network of Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, of whom Trump said "he's a good man" and "I don't think he did anything wrong" - they've been pretty vocal about Weinstein, less so about their own predators.

The bottom line is this behavior has to stop. It has to stop. We kid ourselves if we think it's just Hollywood, or that it's just billionaires behaving badly.

It's small business owners and doctors and pastors and accountants and sports stars and tech people and insurance agents and restaurant owners and teachers and school administrators and musicians and agents and lawyers and judges and scientists and politicians and newspeople. And yes, it's Bill Clinton - of course it includes him. But the fact that it includes him does not relieve Trump of accountability for *his* actions or his words.

Bill O'Reilly didn't do anything wrong in Trump's eyes ($13,000,000 in settlements notwithstanding) and Trump dismissed his own actions as "locker room talk." Harvey Weinstein is allegedly receiving treatment for sex addiction - what a crock. He is addicted to power, not sex.

They are not the same thing, and we do everyone - adult men and women,and teenagers, and children, a disservice if we pretend they are, just as we do everyone a disservice if we pretend that this is 'just talk' or that it's OK, or that it's part of doing business, or somehow, that it's the victim's fault.

It has to stop.

… Continue Reading You Don’t Get to Support Donald Trump and Be Outraged at Harvey Weinstein

He Knew What He Signed Up For

In a call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson who was killed October 4th in Niger along with three others, president Trump reportedly said "he knew what he was signing up for... but when it happens, it hurts anyway."

The four Americans were killed when their unarmored vehicle was ambushed by Islamic militants. Sgt. Johnson's body was not recovered for almost two days after he was killed, according to this report.

In addition to his wife, who was pregnant with their third child, Johnson leaves behind his six year old daughter and his two year old son.

Trump's twitter feed was remarkably silent after the Americans were killed; the man who tweets about everything did not have any comment at all on the incident in Niger. The NFL was important; the stock market was important; taxes and how great his FEMA was doing were important, and of course fake news was important. But not the deaths of four Americans in the middle of the African desert. 

As the article linked above noted,
The US military held a return of remains ceremony when Johnson's body arrived at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Oct. 7, while president Donald Trump was playing golf with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
I hope that the reports of Trump's comment are wrong. Or, if they're not wrong, the full context of his remarks comes out, to add some insight to what on the surface seems an incredibly insensitive remark.

In the meantime, in this Twitter thread, Brandon Friedman explains things from a veteran's perspective about the expectations one has when signing up for service.

October 17, 2017

Poll Watch: It's Time

It's hard to believe I haven't officially delved into any polling since July. What was I thinking? 

Tonight, let's look at the most recent Quinnipiac poll, the results of which were released late last week; the polling was done between October 5 and October 10, and used both land lines and cell phones.  

So, what did they uncover about guns and Las Vegas, Trump and the media, and North Korea? Let's take dive in. 

Las Vegas and Gun Control
50% of respondents approve of president Trump's response to the Las Vegas massacre; 34% disapprove and 16% are unsure. By age, the 18 - 34 year olds were the most disapproving - 48%, while by race, blacks (54%) and Hispanics (45%) were more likely than whites (29%) to disapprove. 

Americans continue to support additional gun control (60% to 30%), by the highest margin the poll's ever reported. Specifically:
  • 79% support mandatory waiting periods on all purchases;
  • 73% support a ban on anything that will make a semi-automatic act like an automatic;
  • 64% support a ban on assault weapons;
  • 86% support a ban on sales to those convicted of a violent crime;
  • 58% want stricter rules on ammunition sales;
  • 64% support banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds;
  • 94% support background checks for all purchases
  • 63% think we can have more gun laws without infringing on the rights of gun owners - even gun owning households agree, (57%)
  • by a margin of 4% (47% to 43%), respondents think the NRA supports policies that are bad for America.
It remains to be seen whether Congress will act in accordance with the wishes of the people, or if the gun lobby will continue to hold elected officials in their grip.

Trump and the Media
Every demographic - political party, gender, education level, age, and race - disapprove of how the media covers the president, except one: Democrats. Shame on them. In general, across all demographics, 60% of people disapprove. 

On the flip side, looking at how Trump talks about the media, the results are similar, but Trump garners support from three demographics: Republicans (77%) non-college educated (52%) and men (51%) think the president is doing just fine with his incessant and often unwarranted bashing of the media. (I say often unwarranted because there are times when I agree with his criticism - when he's legitimately criticizing vs. just whining about things with which he disagrees).

All the 'who's nicer to whom' stuff aside, when it comes to trust, the media continues to maintain a slight edge there, but only slight. 52% think the media is more trustworthy, which is quite an indictment of the press, I'd say. Or, perhaps more reasonable, people fall for Trump's #fakenews claims hook, line and sinker. 

North Korea 
The percentage of people thinking we can reach a diplomatic solution with North Korea, which dropped from 64% on August 24th to 50% on September 28th has crept up to 54%, and by a margin of  52% to 41%, respondents think it's more important to avoid war with North Korea than it is to take their nukes. 

All demographics think it's worthwhile to negotiate with them, and by fairly wide margins, all but Republicans oppose a preemptive strike. The Rs favor that option, 46% to 41%. Even I don't believe that one.

One more thing
There is little hope that Congress and president Trump will accomplish anything major by the end of the year; only Republicans - 52% to 40% - think that any significant legislation will be passed. 

Tick tock.

October 15, 2017

OrangeVerse XVIII: Keep on Truckin'

The president took himself and his entourage off to Pennsylvania to talk to truckers about taxes last week. And he did talk about the Trump tax plan at length: lower corporate rates and lower personal rates, eliminating the death tax, repatriating foreign profits, and so on.

But as always, it's the rest of the story that's so interesting. Let's check in and see how well versed the president was at this event.

Why Here? Why Now?
We are here
today to
our vision
for America's 
economic revival
which has already started
It started
on November 8th.

Nothing Happens
Nothing gets done
in America 
without the hardworking
men and women
of the
trucking industry.
Do we agree
with that?
Do we agree?

Moving is Growing is Firsting
When your
trucks are moving
America is growing
Do you agree?
That is why
my administration has taken
historic steps
to remove the barriers
that have
America First
means putting
American truckers

If You Knew Susi
Joining us today
is Susi Schlomann
a retiree...
Where's Susi?
Where are you Susi?
Where's Susi?
Hi Susi. 
How are you doing?
You're going to be
with this right?
Because you know
I'm going to say.
Thank you

What I Want
I've had rich friends
of mine come up
to me and 
say, Donald,
you're doing
this tax plan - 

Give It Up
So many people
have come up
to me and say
give it to the
middle class.
Give it
to people
that need it.
Give it
to people
that want to
spend it.
You would be

Give It Up, Redux
But you 
have a government
and frankly you
have somebody
who has
given up
a lot.
My other life
very good. 
I have to be - 
I had
a very good life.
I had
a very good life.
But you know what, 
I'm having
a better life
and I'm helping

It's a Grand Old Flag
The American flag
do we love
our American flag?
I think people forgot
how patriotic we are...
how much we love our country.
But American flags
will soar
high above the roads.
Our cities and towns
will proudly
that flag.

We Built this Future
Our children
will be raised
in homes
filled with love,
filled with airplanes
that are going
back, and forth,
that's OK but 
filled with hope
and a nation
filled with pride.
We will build
this future
as one people
and one nation
under God.

October 14, 2017

Trump in Transition (v23)

The transition continues. Or not...

Donald Trump, who has been touting his economic successes since even before he was elected, has been particularly vocal about them lately.

His speeches, interviews, and weekly addresses have been dotted with glowing reports about how great companies are doing, how great the economy is doing, how many jobs have been created and so on for months.

Here are a couple of his retweets from earlier this month, one from Trump Business News and one from his daughter Ivanka:

And here's a string of his own tweets from earlier this week:

Now, don't get me wrong, it's great that the American president is championing the American economy - one of the many hats the president wears should be cheerleader for the country. But this president?

Well, we know he's not shy about slamming American companies - ask Macy's.  And he's not shy about slamming entire industries - ask the solar energy sector where, if Trump's suggested tariffs go into effect, we could lose more jobs - perhaps 88,000 -  than are employed in the entire coal mining industry - about 54,000. Not bad for the greatest jobs producer God ever created.

Now, it's the health insurance sector which is under presidential attack. Here's a tweet from this morning, proudly taking credit for the "plunging' of insurance stocks after he signed his Executive Orders  on the Affordable Care Act this week:

Yeah -- sometimes this president's the cheerleader, and sometimes he's the guy who pees in your pool.

October 13, 2017

TGIF 10/13/17

Boy, I'm glad it's Friday - and I bet I'm not the only one.

For example, how'd you like to be the folks in charge at NBC, the network that gave us the Donald Trump is a bleeping moron story and the Trump talked about a ten-fold increase in nukes story, but didn't give us the Harvey Weinstein story?

At least the Peacock network wasn't alone in that last part.

While Meryl Streep made it clear that not every single body knew about Weinstein and his decades of alleged predatory behavior, it seems to have been a incredibly poorly kept secret. A joke at the Oscars; a joke on 30 Rock; an undercover investigation in which the NYC District Attorney did nothing... Opportunity lost, over and over and over.  How, or why did that happen? That will have to come out in the post mortem.

Meanwhile, reports are that Weinstein is seeking treatment for a problem he doesn't have: sex addiction. That we have to remind people in this day and age that predatory behavior such as that alleged against Weinstein is about power, not about sex, is almost as sad as the apparent willingness of all those everybodies to cover up his behavior for all these years.

Meanwhile, did you hear that Trump has pulled us out of UNESCO?  This United Nations organization, which now seems to focus on designating heritage sites, was once more focused on battling extremists and promoting peace. The US is leaving, we've been told, because of the anti-Israel biases exhibited by UNESCO, particularly in naming part of the West Bank city of Hebron a Palestinian world heritage site.

What was less publicized in reports I heard today is that we have a checkered history with UNESCO, going back decades.  After leaving in 1984 during the Reagan Administration, we  rejoined in 2002; stopped paying our annual dues in 2011 over the admission of Palestine as a member; and lost voting rights in 2013.  I point this out so that people know this isn't just another case of Trump undoing what Obama did. Had that been the case, he would go all in, pay twice what we owe and welcome Palestine to one of the Trump White Houses for a spin on a golf cart.

He did, however, strike two blows against the Affordable Care Act. One will make it easier for 'association' plans to form, across multiple states in some cases; these plans may offer fewer benefits than required for other products under the ACA, along with some other changes. The other was to end the cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurers. Under the ACA, insurers are required to provide subsidies to many subscribers for out of pocket expenses; those costs have been  reimbursed to insurers by the federal government - until now. Barring action by Congress o formally appropriate the money at least in the short term, the CSRs are done.

Trump noted that these were merely subsidies to boost insurance company profits and hey, look at their stock prices! Darn -- he's been tweeting like mad about how the stock market is up and our retirement plans are doing great as a result -- which I thought was a good thing in his worldview, but I guess not when it comes to something that has 'Obama' in its name.

TGIF, indeed.

October 11, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v107)

Boy oh boy - I'm sitting in Wonder Land tonight, for sure -- I even wonder where to start, there's so much to wonder about.

Let's tackle "doing something about guns" in the aftermath of yet another act of domestic terrorism, the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Whenever we have one of the heinous acts, the initial and forceful reaction from both sides of the aisle is that we do something.

On the one hand - let's call it the left/middle hand - there is a desire to make it harder (but not impossible) for people to get their hands on guns and ammo. On the right/middle hand, there's a corresponding desire to maintain the status quo, because laws won't stop people from doing bad acts, so more laws won't make us safer.  (On the fringes, left and right, the positions are more extreme, of course.)

So, it was interesting to hear that even the NRA was OK with some kind of action on 'bump stocks,' the thing used by the killer in Vegas to make his semi-automatic weapons function more like automatic ones. Now, before you get all excited, the NRA would not support a ban on those things, mind you, but they would be amenable to 'regulating them differently.'  Meaning, as Paul Ryan clarified,
We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix.
Which really means, he has no intention of having House members have to go on the record supporting additional gun controls, and he has no problem pinning the action on the president.  And that makes me wonder, which two existing gun regulations will face the firing squad to allow for the new one on bump stocks to be put in place?

Let's segue to another major issue of people behaving badly: immigration. The president announced a list of DACA tradeoffs that many Dems (and even some Reps) have identified as deal breakers, including funding the beautiful, well-endowed see-through wall, and cracking down on sanctuary cities.

I do wonder whether Trump the deal maker thinks this is a good way to start negotiations, or if he simply forgot that he's got to finish his first term before he needs to run for his second (which I wonder regularly, truth be told). But more than that, I wonder why the answer on immigration is not "cracking down and enforcing the existing laws" instead of trying to get new laws - and that multi-billion dollar wall -- on the books?

I mean, if that answer is good enough for when dozens are killed and hundreds are wounded at a concert, or when school children and teachers are murdered, or when members of a bible study group are murdered - by Americans, by the way - why wouldn't it be the answer when a bunch of illegal immigrants come here to steal American jobs?

Moving on, how hard must it have been, I wonder, for Hillary Clinton to issue her statement about Harvey Weinstein? I mean, after going through what she did with Bill...?

And finally, what are the Boy Scouts up to, I wonder? On International Day of the Girl, they decide to announce that girls can become Boy Scouts, including Eagle Scouts?

Donald Trump Jr is wondering about that one, too.

What's got you wondering?

October 10, 2017

Trump in Transition (v22)

The photo for today's TiT post is larger than usual, on purpose.

It represents the size of the president's IQ, which, we're to believe, is way more bigly higher than that of Rex Tillerson.

Or, maybe, it represents the size of the president's sense of humor, which, we're to believe, is what the whole "my hands are way more bigly than Rex Tillerson's" tweet was all about.

Oh wait -- did I say hands? I meant IQ. I meant IQ!

Or, maybe, it represents the size of the frustrationburger the president is eating because he's not being bigly recognized enough for what he's doing for Puerto Rico. After all,

Or, maybe, it represents the size of the sigh of relief that the president has sighed, as he's not really been called upon to comment on the Harvey Weinstein thing. Oh sure, Trump said
I've known Harvey Weinstein a long time. I'm not at all surprised to see it.
But that was about as far as things went, other than declaring again that locker room talk is nothing to worry about.

No one called upon him, as a leader, to condemn Weinstein's actions, as they have called upon Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others to do. And while Weinstein was a Democratic donor, not a GOP donor, should that matter?

Shouldn't the president champion protecting women from all sexual harassment, and all harassers, whether it's  Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly or Donald Trump? And shouldn't he do that without prompting?

Or, maybe, it represents the size of the ego that a person has to have to think that this administration, this president, and Republicans generally, are not getting their fair share of TV time on the late night shows. Look:

Shouldn't he know that when they're talking about him, constantly, it would be almost impossible for him to have more time? Shouldn't he be aware that Fox News is the 24/7 pro-Trump network (a few words from Shep Smith notwithstanding)? And that no one else - no elite Hollywood star, no other politician, no other social media star, has such a thing working in their favor?

In fact, when you consider the amount of coverage Trump gets, it seems that the late night hosts and the Dems should be begging for more time.

What does all of this have to do with Trump transitioning from something into a president? Nothing, I guess -- and everything.

I can't count how many times he told us all he was all about America First, but every day, he does his goodgoddamnest to show us how important it is that he put himself first.

Transitioning away from that might take a while longer.

October 9, 2017

Religious Liberty vis a vis the National Anthem

Let's consider for a moment that silently taking a knee and remaining quiet for the two minutes it takes to get through the national anthem at a football game is not a protest, but is instead an expression of the deeply held belief that racism, discrimination, and the killing of blacks by white police officers are all morally reprehensible acts and as such, they must be brought to light so that others will recognize them for what they are, will not participate in them but will instead condemn them, thereby empowering us to eliminate these acts from society.

If we look to the press release issued last week by US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on federal protections for religious liberty, it seems it might make things significantly more interesting, and significantly more difficult for white billionaire NFL owners, the white billionaire president and white billionaire advertisers to pressure or take action against the athletes who act on their freedom of religion.

Here are some excerpts from the press release (emphasis added):
Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people. It has protected both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to believe. Every American has a right to believe, worship and exercise their faith....
As president Trump said, "... (this administration) will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore."
..Trump promised that this administration would 'lead by example on religious liberty,' and he is delivering on that promise.
According to the Sessions memo, which can be accessed from the press release, the following "principles of religious liberty" and their supporting statements are true:
Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs...it also encompasses religious observance and practice...
The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one's religious beliefs. 
Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square or interacting with government. 
Government may not restrict acts or abstentions because of the beliefs they display.
Except in rare circumstances, government may not treat the same conduct as lawful when undertaken for secular reasons but unlawful when undertaking for religious reasons.
Much as government may not restrict actions only because of religious belief, government may not target persons or individuals because of their religion.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief...
Only the interests of the highest order can outweigh legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion. 
Employers...may not fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of that individual's religion...  
Apply these principles and this guidance to the NFL players who kneel respectfully during the anthem as an expression of religious liberty, vs. an expression of free speech, and what do you have?
  • Protected demonstrations of religious belief, just as protected as the sign-of-the-crossing and pointing to the heavens that occur throughout athletic competitions of all kinds as both a preliminary and celebratory action;
  • people maintaining religious freedom while participating in the marketplace, just like those who bake - or don't bake - for customers, or who sign - or don't sign - marriage licenses as government employees; 
  • people who are protected from bullying and targeting by the government, including by the president, the vice president and other members of the administration, who see linked arms as a positive display but kneeling as a negative one; 
  • people who are protected from having their beliefs challenged as not being deeply enough held;
  • people who are treated as fairly with respect to their religious beliefs as are companies that sell tchotchkes; 
  • and employees whose ability to earn a living in their chosen profession is not hindered because of their religious beliefs.

That's what our American tradition of religious liberty means, right? 

Or, do these principles only apply when someone is trying to discriminate against gays, or when someone is trying to deny women access to contraception?

October 6, 2017

Primary Relevance for California

The California legislature recently approved SB 568 which, now that it's been signed by Governor Jerry Brown, will move all of the Golden State's primaries to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

It's easy to understand why they'd want to make a change on when they hold the presidential primary; after all, California has the country's largest population and, in 2016, more registered voters than the population of 46 states, so it does seem a little out-of-kilter that those voters have no say in picking the candidates to lead our country. In 2016, for example, Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination the day before California's primary.

And, from an issues perspective, it makes sense to many as well.  Here's state Senator Ricardo Lara, the author of SB 568:
Moving California's presidential primary to March from June means candidates in both parties can't treat immigration, climate change, criminal justice reform and investing in jobs and innovation like afterthoughts, as they did too often in 2016. 
For state and local offices, the move might not make as much sense. Opponents expressed concern that the earlier primary might cause potential candidates to think twice about challenging well-funded incumbents. Assemblyman Matt Harper notes about his colleagues
Some of you may love that, but I don't think it's right for the voters. I think it's incredibly short-sighted. 
They've tried this before, in 1996 when the move to March put them behind only 27 other state caucuses and primaries, and again in 2008, when moving to February moved them up a couple of slots voting behind only two dozen states during that race.

In an editorial in the Mercury News about the current proposed changes, the writers reminded everyone what happened in 2008:
California's early vote may have 'mattered' more than it did in previous years, but voters didn't see any more of the candidates in previous years. Nor did the candidates focus on issues of special significance to the state or region 
They also express a concern that moving the primary "could have a dramatic effect" - but not necessarily a good one.
The sheer size and population of the state means that candidates will need huge amounts of money to be competitive. An early California primary may weed out good candidates who, by proving themselves in smaller states could have been contenders. 
And, because SB 568 ties all primaries to the same date:
The early primary also poses problems in local and state races. If, for example, a city council incumbent loses in the primary, he or she would serve as a lame duck for nearly 10 months before the winner takes office.
All of the reports I'd seen indicated there was no guarantee that this bill would be signed, especially given that the Gov had expressed some concerns himself, and there was additional concern that the national parties, who at least try and run a tight ship on the presidential primaries (Dems in 2016 notwithstanding), might be less than delighted, but in the end he did sign, without fanfare.

There's definitely room for improvement in the way we choose presidential candidates, and having a state as potentially influential as California actually have relevance is a good start. So is starting any of those conversations now, to be ready for 2020, regardless of who ends up being in the race.

October 4, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v106)

Reuters photo
OK, I'm wondering if maybe that whole thing about president Trump being a real estate developer was #fakenews?

I mean, are we sure he wasn't one of those people who randomly launched tee shirts into concert crowds?

I was pretty sure that the remarks at the Celebrate Me rally he held for the press was bad enough (you can read some of those comments in Tuesday's OrangeVerse post -- but I had to cut out a ton of it to stay sane; his full comments are here). But then, he tossed a Bounty of Viva to Hurricane Maria survivors??

Somehow, I'm thinking the people of Puerto Rico are not impressed with his remarks, or with the hurling of paper products any more than San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, was:
This terrible and abominable view of him throwing paper towels and throwing provisions at people, it really - it does not embody the spirit of the American nation, you know?
But the Social Media president? He was not wondering at all, about his visit, tweeting
A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday. While some of the news coverage is Fake, most showed great warmth and friendship.
Does this mean that most of the media showed great warmth and friendship? Most of the Puerto Ricans? Most of the people who caught the paper towels? Most of the people who were paid to show up and say nice things about Trump?  I wonder, I really do.

Separately, we continue to get round the clock updates from various news outlets about the terrorist attack in Las Vegas.  And, of course, we know it's "too soon" to talk about having conversations about maybe doing something about why so many people die or are injured from some kind of shooting each year in the US.

We may talk soonly or laterly about making guns easier to silence to protect the ears of the people who use them, but maybe we won't even get to that until after we get a massive tax cut for the rich and corporations. And by rich and corporations, I mean the middle class.

Speaking of protecting people's ears, I wonder how it was that swimmers figured out they could use earplugs to keep the water out of their ears? And how was it that someone designed earplugs for shooting?

And speaking of  massive tax cuts for the middle class, I don't know about you, but as sure as I'm sitting here, I'm really looking forward to filing my taxes on a postcard.

I'm not even remotely wondering about the lack of security there -- I'm just happy that the government is looking to shore up the Post Office after all this time.

October 3, 2017

OrangeVerse XVII: Puerto Rico

The president held a rally in (oops, my bad) visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico today, and boy was he proud of himself. So proud, he made everyone else tell him how wonderful he and his administration are. And then he was bigly very proud. Here he is in his own words.

Trip Advisor? 4 Stars!
Well thank you very much.
It was a
great trip
and a beautiful place.
I've been to Puerto Rico many
times, as I think,
most of you have known.
And I've always loved it.
And your weather
 is second to none but every
once in a while
you get hit. And
you really got hit - 
there's no question
about it.

Suddenly A Category 5 Rang Out
And then all of a sudden
we said there's another one 
heading out 
to Puerto Rico...
but it wasn't one -- it was two!
And I was going to 
be here
a week ago
if you remember
and that was the day 
of the hurricane --
that was the day
of the second
So Brock
has been unbelievable and
this has been
the toughest one.
This has been
a Category 5,
which few people
have ever
even heard of --
a Category 5
hitting land.
But it did
hit land - and 
boy, did it 
hit land.

My People, Tis of Thee
And to all of my people - 
And I have to say
General Buchanan...
there's no doubt about it
you are a general.
There's a reason 
you're a general,
But he's no games:
I said
give me a general
I don't want to have any --
I don't want
to have a general
that plays games...

Not My People? Tis of Thee!
Your governor has been - 
who I didn't know
I heard very good
things about him.
He's not even from my party
and he started out right
at the beginning
appreciating what we did.
And he was
tremendously supportive
and he knew the 
level of problem
that you had
at the beginning
and the level -- 
what happened...
right from the beginning
this governor
did not play politics.
he didn't
play it at all.
He was saying
it like it was
and he was
giving us
the highest grades.
And I want to
 -- on behalf of our country --
I want to
thank you.

One Shoe Drops
And Mick Mulvaney is here -
right there - and
Mick is in charge
of a thing

Now, I hate
to tell you
Puerto Rico,
but you've thrown
our budget
a little out of whack
we've spent a lot 
of money on
Puerto Rico
And that's fine.
We've saved
a lot of lives.

And The Other Shoe Drops
If you look at the
--every death is a horror.
if you look at a
real catastrophe
like Katrina and
you look at the
of people
that died and
you look at what
happened here with really
a storm
that was just
totally overpowering
has ever seen 
anything like this.

Gimme the number!
What is your
death count,
as of this moment?

October 1, 2017

Sunday School 10/1/17

We only had time for a couple of quick classroom visits today.

First, we checked in with John Dickerson on CBS' Face the Nation. Guests today included House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. A lot of the discussion was on the new tax plan that the Republicans have been pitching. 

Needless to say, there's a difference of opinion between what Ryan and Schumer think will make sense for the middle class, who are the targets? objects? pinatas? of the new tax plan. Here's part of what Ryan said.
Well, first of all, the whole purpose of this is to get a middle class tax cut, to help the people who are working paycheck to paycheck and keep more of their own hard-earned dollars. They haven't had a break in a long time. Our economy's been growing between one and two percent for a long time. We haven't had three percent growth in about a decade, and that means workers are struggling.
Dickerson asked specifically what would happen to the blue collar worker's paycheck, and pressed Ryan for a promise (which I think was a waste of time, but maybe that's just me). Here's Ryan:
You know some money's coming to you. We're going to double that standard deduction. We're going to make it so he can fill out his taxes on a postcard. We're going to lower his taxes. That's really important. So he has more take-home pay. But here's another component to that is look at this machine shop, this business pays about a 40% tax rage but it competes with companies all around the world who pay an average 22 1/2% on their taxes.
So we're going to lower the taxes on this business so it's globally competitive, so it can compete with its foreign competition. And then we're going to give this business an ability to write off investments they make in this business to buy more machines, to hire more workers, to raise wages. That, to us, is really important.  
Dickerson pushed some more, noting that it sounded like rich people (estate tax people, carried interest people, the alternative minimum tax folks - they make out great, what about the middle class? Ryan, again:
Can I go through that? Can I get through that? We're going to double your standard deductions so you can file your taxes on a postcard. We're going to take people who are in the 10% bracket and put a lot of that money in a zero% bracket. We're taking the 15% bracket down to 12%. We're going to get rid of the marriage penalty. We're going to increase the child tax credit. We're going to maintain critical things like incentive for home buying, charitable giving, education,. Those are all middle class tax things. The purpose of this is to help people who are living by a paycheck keep more of their own hard-earned money but also get more jobs, a faster-growing economy.
And on and on it went.  Ryan pushed the "American businesses pay 40%" mumbo jumbo, which we know is not the case most of the time, and even when Dickerson pushed back, he didn't back away. We need to help our businesses compete by lowering taxes, period end of sentence seemed to be the answer. He promised a deficit-neutral plan, and that a growing economy will help us retire out debt more quickly, and he talked about entitlement reforms. He talked about doing things in 'regular order' and he talked about doing things via reconciliation (the process that brought reforming the ACA to its knees) as if you could follow both of those processes at the same time.

And, he noted bipartisanly,
We do work with Democrats, but we're not going to give Chuck Schumer the ability to filibuster this bill because we think that would derail tax reform. 
Which segues nicely into Dickerson's discussion with Schumer, disagreed with basically everything Ryan said.
We Democrats sent a letter to the Republican leadership and the president, said that here were three things that we thought that tax reform ought to have. 1) Tax breaks out not to go to the top 1% but ought to be focused on the middle class.  2) it out not to blow a hole in the deficit and 3) it ought to be done in a bipartisan way, not through reconciliation.
Unfortunately, the Republican plan doesn't agree with any of those. First, it's completely focused on the wealthy and the powerful not on the middle class Second, it blows a huge hole in the deficit. And third, they said they're going to do it through reconciliation. That's a partisan process. It excludes Democrats. It's the same process that led to the demise on health care. And let me just address one thing, John. Speaker Ryan keeps saying it helps the middle class. That's not true. What he's saying and what the plan is are totally different. 
Schumer pointed out that the tax policy center said
...80% of the tax breaks in their plan are aimed at that top 1%. And the top .1%, the people who make over $5 million, who are one in 1000, get a tax break of over a million dollars.
And he also pointed out the loss of state and local deductibility, which will likely be lost (because it doesn't fit on a postcard, I'm assuming). And, he pointed out the huge failure of the Kansas experiment, which was all about cutting taxes and the miraculous growth that would come from that.
They dramatically cut taxes and said "There's going to be growth and an increase in the surplus." Well, after they did it, they predicted the surplus would go up $300 million; it went down $700 million. They had to cut money for schools and infrastructure And then they had to put in a tax increase. 
And so it goes. And so it goes.

Quickly, here's what was happening at Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, who was joined by Brock Long, the head of FEMA.

As background, the mayor of San Juan is chastising Trump for not responding quickly enough after Hurricane Maria; Trump is criticizing her leadership, slamming Puerto Ricans, and tweeting his brains out to the people of Puerto Rico (the majority of whom are without power or communications) about #fakenews, those pesky reports that administration is not doing enough, fast enough, to help compared to what they did in other areas.

Long talked about his pushing forward, pushing in and pushing forward (it started to feel a little creep there for a bit) and in the end Chris Wallace asked what it was going to look like for Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.
Weeks from now? Well, you know, the key is, it's a couple of factors. Right now, you know, many days ago, we mission-assigned the Army Corps of Engineers to do one very important job, emergency power, but also begin rebuilding the grid. So, getting power back is obviously the most important thing.
In conjunction with that we're trying to work with the private sector to get telecommunications back up. The governor's reporting this morning that about a third of telecommunications has been put back up after two major hurricanes an all the equipment that was damaged, telecommunications is about a third, you know, back up and running. 
So, we have to get the power up. We have to get communications back up And then the bottom line is, that that takes a long time because it was almost a total loss when it comes to the power grid. And so, it's going to be multiple - multiple months before power is restored to many of these areas and that's just a reality. 
That's what we were saying before the storm hit and I think people have to remember that. Going into the storm, we were -- we were setting expectations that this is going to be a nightmare for Puerto Rico. 
There's your "fake news" right there, folks. From the horse's mouth.

See you around campus.