April 30, 2017

Trump in Transition (v16)

Ah yes, the First 100 Days. The honeymoon, when the leader of the free world is typically at his most popular, with the support of the people in ways not likely to be seen for the rest of his term.

Some honeymoon.

President Trump has the lowest approval rating of any president in recent memory, with barely 41% of us supporting him. He maintains the rock-solid support of his base, even in the face of actions that run counter to his promises, but that doesn't seem to matter much.

Trump told us that the 100 day measure is a 'ridiculous standard' while he touted his accomplishments of the first 90 days  - screw those last ten -  and at the same time he's told us how great he has done: strong borders, a SCOTUS pick, jobs, jobs, jobs, economic confidence, cleaning up the mess left him by the Obama administration and so on. And Executive Orders - 30 of them, more than any president since Truman - from the president who poo-pooed them on the campaign trail.
I want to not use too many executive orders, Executive orders sort of came about more recently. Nobody ever heard of an executive order, then all of a sudden Obama - because he couldn't get anybody to agree with him - he starts signing them like they're butter (ed. note: #whatthesniff) so I want to do away with executive orders for the most part. 
Maybe he'll stop issuing one every three days or so after he finishes dismantling the Obama legacy; after all, that's why Trump ran for president in the first place. Obama had a birth certificate the whole time, the bastage, and then there was the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner...

While president Trump thinks the 100 days thing is ridiculous, candidate Trump took it very seriously, even issuing a 100 Day Contract with America, full of promises against which he should be measured. Here's a scorecard from Quartz.com that uses Trumpian measures of success for their ratings, with these results for the 28 promises in the Contract:
  • Tremendous! -- a complete success (5)
  • Nice! -- a good result (0)
  • Politics! -- something done/compromise made (3)
  • Failing! -- little done/minimal success (2)
  • Sad! -- nothing done/disappointing result  (13)
  • Total Disaster! -- things are worse than before (5)
My scorecard will contain no surprises for regular readers, who know I'm a 'strongly disapprove' in polls. Let's take a look.

Cleaning up corruption and special interest collusion in Washington: A generally meaningless hiring freeze, a lobbying ban for the political class, and a two-for-one regulation trade off were put out there, but it's laughable to believe that special interests and 'corruption' in Washington will decrease under this administration.

This administration thinks running the country from the dining room of the president's private, for-profit club is OK. And hired POTUS' daughter and son-in-law as special advisers, antagonizing even Alex Jones, the administration's Conspiracy Theorist in Chief.
We did not elect Ivanka Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. I think she's talented, she's beautiful, I think the dresses she wears, the clothing line are cool. I have nothing against her personally. Or Jared Kushner, but we didn't elect him to be the president either. He's a Democrat...
And hired disgraced General Michael Flynn  for his strident anti-Obama stance; he's now under investigation by the Pentagon for taking money from foreign governments. (Trump tells us Flynn is Obama's fault; I wonder what two regulations were dropped for this new one requiring vetting someone after you fire them?)

And that won't release the president's taxes. Or the White House visitor logs. But boy, they have proudly met with all kinds of special interest groups and CEOs, promising who knows what beyond massive regulatory rollbacks, tax cuts, and, apparently, unfettered access to the administration.  Collusion? Corruption? Don't be silly.

Congressional term limits was on the list; that was actually a meaningful change. We knew it was going nowhere, but the Only I Can Fix This president should have at least given it shot, don't you think?

Protecting American workers. NAFTA; TPP; China; identify and immediately eliminate foreign trading abuses; lift restrictions on traditional energy production; allow energy infrastructure projects to go forward; cancel payments for global climate change and fix our own water and energy infrastructure were the promises here.

On NAFTA, he and his team have said both that we'll going to pull out (tradus interruptus) or renegotiate better terms (more foreplay, please) - I think in the same day. Looks like renegotiating has the upper hand, today.TPP is out. Like most Americans, I can't speak to the implications of that, so I don't know if it's a win or a loss.

On energy, he's been busy. The administration said yes to the Keystone XL pipeline (size matters and XL is way more bigly than a plain old ordinary pipeline). He said yes to the Dakota Access Pipeline. He ordered a review of national monuments, for ways to take the shale, oil, coal and natural gas from them. He overturned a number of the Obama climate change and environmental protections, preferring that the states control what happens within their own borders. He just issued additional orders for an America First Offshore Energy Strategy which includes the Atlantic coast, the Gulf Coast and the Arctic coast.

He's definitely keeping his word to energy companies, and for construction jobs, for sure, if anything comes from his orders. There could be millions or billions of jobs, who knows? There could also be millions or billions of desert, mountain, glacier, forest, and coastal acres destroyed in our job-creating assault on the environment, too - from the administration of a man who fought to keep less than two hands full of wind turbines from being built within eyesight of one of his resorts.

For Earth Day, he told us this:
My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.  
This April 22nd, as we observe Earth Day, I hope that our Nation can come together to give thanks for the land we love and call home.
His policies, to date, don't lend themselves to what he said. There is simply no balance here.

Restoring security and the constitutional rule of law. Cancel all of Obama's "unconstitutional" orders; begin the process of filling the Scalia seat on the Supreme Court; cancel federal funding to sanctuary cities; begin removing two million criminal illegal immigrants and cancel visa if their countries won't take them back; and do the Muslim ban and institute extreme vetting.

Regardless of their constitutionality, which would be decided under the vaunted 'constitutional rule of law,' Trump will continue his assault on the last eight years of government, we know that.

He did fill the seat left open by the obstructionist Republican majority in the Senate who believed "eight is enough" unless and until there is a Republican president, and the seat got filled only after the rules were changed, something that was poison unless and until there was Republican president.

Trump proudly told us he's the first president in 136 years - 136 years!!!- to fill a SCOTUS seat in the first 100 days. He failed to mention that only he and Richard Nixon entered their terms with an open seat, but hey, who's counting?

To his credit, illegal border crossings are way down, and that's a good thing. And we are getting rid of people with drunk driving convictions. I'd rather see them getting the gang members and drug dealers and rapists and murderers he told us about out of our country, but I'm sure that will come with time once they figure out how to vet and prioritize.

The Muslim ban - sorry, travel ban, has been rejected twice by the courts; sanctioning sanctuary cities  has also been nipped in the bud temporarily; time will tell on these as well.

Some of the promised legislation he would "introduce and fight for" in the first 100 days that was included in the Contract have not really come to fruition, either.
  • Repeal and Replace Obamacare - sorry, not yet. Stymied by Republicans, Paul Ryan's fault, trying, but not enough votes to bring it to the floor.
  • Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification - sorry, a bulleted list of priorities released on day 97 is not sufficient. His promise here, by the way, was a 35% reduction for a middle class family of four, and a corporate rate of 15%. That last one is on the list we saw last week. 
  • American Energy and Infrastructure Act - sorry, not yet. Lots of talk and Executive Orders and stuff, but no deal for this trillion-dollar plan, or how the public-private thing will work.
  • School Choice and Education Opportunity Act - sorry, not yet. This one will pay parents to take their children out of public schools, and end Common Core
  • Affordable Child Care and Eldercare Act -- sorry, not yet. This one seems like a no go (sorry, Ivanka) since he's getting rid of all tax deductions other than mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
  • End Illegal Immigration Act - aka The Wall - sorry, not yet. This one is so fraught with issues that it was pulled from the table last week so that the government would not be shut down.
  • Restoring Community Safety Act - he gets a partial thumbs up on this; after all, they did roll out the hot line to report crime by illegal aliens and I think the task force is somewhere in the West Wing. Maybe 'he went to Jared' on this?
Importantly, over the first 100 days, it's become clear our allies can't be sure what we stand for, or what we're going to do, because it changes daily. Because it changes tweetly. Because it changes depending on who's talking at the time.  Just ask Canada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, and South Korea, to name just a few. 

We - you and me, American citizens -  can't depend on what the Administration says, either, for the same reasons noted above. But we do know that every crowd is a record, everything is wonderful, the media is fake and failing, polls are bad and Trump is great and everyone loves him.

Unless, of course, those things are not true? 

Helluva great first 100 days. Just ask anyone.

April 28, 2017

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: Free Speech

Ann Coulter, the long-standing outspoken conservative, she who was Tomi Lahren before there was a Tomi Lahren, she who may have tossed out a brief Nazi salute at the Republican National Convention (although we know she really didn't), was planning on speaking, in a public square or a triangle park or a traffic circle or something like that on or near the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

No, seriously, she was going to speak at Sproul Plaza, the site of iconic free speech protests back in the 60s, when free speech was all the rage.

Coulter was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley by two groups, Bridges USA (politically moderate) and the College Republicans. That invitation was rescinded -- too dangerous, bad, not safe -- but then the University offered her a different date but Coulter was not having it. She wanted Thursday and she was going to take Thursday, whether the university wanted her to or not And whether the police wanted her to or not.

As it turned out, the groups that had invited her backed away, not wanting to be associated with the promised violence and protests. And Coulter, after noting that it was "up to the police to keep her safe" backed down and decided not to show up. Interestingly, she also reminded us that former Homeland Security Security Janet Napolitano is the president of the University of California. And that
She had to keep the entire nation safe. I think she can keep a college campus safe. 
She's got a point there. And of course she's got a way with words, which is why she would make an interesting speaker, whether you agree with her or not.

What the hell is wrong with us that we cannot allow her to speak her mind, at Berkeley of all places? Yes, she's a provocateur; yes, she's opinionated; yes, she's brash, and surely, she's not a lefty. But does that preclude her from speaking anyplace other than on conservative TV and radio shows?

Do her words justify violent protests? Of course they don't. Neither did Milo's, really - and yet, he too was shut down and not allowed to speak at Berkeley, even before the videos suggesting he 'supported' pedophilia were brought to light -- by conservatives -- with the purpose of keeping him from speaking at CPAC.

According to this report, Milo is not done with Berkeley yet. He's planning to "occupy the public plaza" and to host free speech rallies this fall, protesting how the university is handling appearances by folks like him, and Coulter. And, he blamed liberals for the fear of violence.
It's happening because the left knows it's losing. It's losing the political battle and losing the free speech battle. And like a dog being kicked to death, it is lashing out.
He, like Coulter, has a point.

We have a problem, whether it's because the left lost, or because the right thinks everyone on the left is a snowflake. Or, because we have become intolerant of anyone and everyone who does not agree with us.

From my middle aged white lady perspective, threatening violence in an effort to keep someone with whom you disagree from exercising their constitutional right to free speech is not brave, or strong. It's cowardly, and nothing to write home about. And how it got to the point where we interpret our rights to apply only to us and those who agree with us, and not to those who disagree, is beyond me.

Is it our intractable politicians, their heels dug so far into their own ideology that they can barely walk upright?

Perhaps it's the Internet, which encourages anonymity and stokes slowly burning embers of hate?

Or maybe our president, who employed a take-no-prisoners approach to winning, and who, when faced with statements of fact from an opponent, simply yelled "wrong" over and over and over and then moved on to verbally assault the next one?

Or fear, real fear, of being 'taken over' by the other side, by the other guy, by "those people" - you know, the ones who don't look like you or think like you or talk like you or pray like you?

Or patriotism? Are these folks all acting out of some deeply held belief that their vision of America is the only vision, and that only those of the same ilk are allowed to speak?

Former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who served in the House for ten years and the Senate for 30 before retiring this year, once said
America is not a melting pot, it's a sizzling cauldron.
I don't know the specific context for her remark, but it seems so true, and so sad. Is rage our new identity?

Above I pointed the finger at five possible 'causes' of this, to show how easy it is to blame someone, or some thing, for the actions of others. We're told to do that, we're taught to do that, it seems that's one of the first things we learn.

But we all know where the answer lies - and we know who to blame.  We just have to look in the mirror.

April 26, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v87)

Well, well, well. It's Wednesday again, already. Time for some healthy wondering.

Ann Coulter will not be speaking at Berkeley after she was going to be speaking after she wasn't going to be speaking after she was going to be speaking, at the invitation of Bridge USA and the College Republicans. The two groups (the former a bunch of moderates, the latter a bunch of conservatives) professed an interest in having an open conversation about ideas.

What that all turned into was an open conversation about threats and protests and safety; the first two were guaranteed had Coulter spoken; the third could not be guaranteed in the face of the first two. I wonder, though, would that have been the case had the speaker been more pleasant? We know that Milo wasn't pleasant enough, and now Coulter. Is there anyone on the right would could pass?

Speaking of things that could pass, I hear president Trump has signed another decorative order, um, sorry, Executive Order setting the stage for all kinds of carnage to occur at our national monuments. That's right -- drillbabydrill and minebabymine and digbabydig and blastbabyblast and burnbabyburn and all the rest.

Trump's plan is to put the states back in charge, let them control what happens on the lands within their borders, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has 120 days to issue a full report on 30 sites created over the past couple of decades, and 45 days to issue his report on what to do with Bears Ears. designated by President Obama in December 2016.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one wondering how long before we see Trump hotels, Trump spas, Trump golf courses, and the like where we used to see unspoiled natural resources? Or, will the developer-in-chief decide to stay away, once we have our oil derricks and sawmills and pipelines and the rest crisscrossing our formerly protected sites?

I mean, we say how well he took the idea of wind turbines off the fairways of his golf course at Aberdeenshire, right? According to this report, Trump sent 16 letters to the government complaining about aesthetics, and advising that the turbines would cause economic and political problems.
Don't destroy your coastlines and your countryside with these monstrous turbines. Your economy will become a third world wasteland that global investors will avoid.
I wonder, does he remember saying this? And would not the same thinking apply to pipelines, derricks, fracking rigs and mines? Or does that only happen in Scotland?
Its adverse visual impact on my development and the beautiful Aberdeen coastline will be disastrous and environmentally irresponsible. 
Or, more likely, I'm thinking. does it only matter where Trump has skin in the game?

And finally, speaking of having skin in the game, rumor has it that Trump himself would be a big beneficiary of his tax plan, which will cut the corporate tax rate from 35%  to 15%, even for billionaires like him who file their multinational corporate taxes under their personal returns. The fact that lots of data, such as this example, suggest that US corporations don't pay the 35% top rate but in fact pay something considerably less, with major corporations paying $0 year over year.

It's disingenuous to pretend that the rate on the books is the one that is paid; Trump knows it, Congress knows it, and so do most Americans. That said, I wonder if there's any plan to ensure that corporations, including Trump himself, actually pay that percentage? And if not, why bother making the change?

Is that enough wondering for one night? Well, let's do just one more, circling back on free speech.

Did you hear about Ilie Nastase and his (alleged) delightful comment about Serena Williams' baby, due in the fall?
Let's see what color it has. Chocolate with milk? 
Um, Berkeley, would you have Nastase speak on campus, I wonder?

April 23, 2017

Sunday School 4/23/2017

On this gorgeous day, it's kinda hard to believe that folks were inside gibber-jabbering about politics, but that's what happens during Sunday School.

Today, let's check in with the folks at ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos; one classroom is about all of the attention I have.

The focus of the round table discussion was on Trump, and his first 100 days, and those pesky coastal elites versus Trump voters in the heartland, and the new ABC-Washington Post poll, which shows Trump voters love Trump way more than the rest of us do, which of course is no surprise - but he's got the lowest 100-day approval rating (42% in this poll) than anyone since sliced bread or something, to the extent that really matters.

Trump himself has called the 100-day measure ridiculous, at the same time as he's tooted his own horn about having the most successful 90 days since that same loaf of bread was sliced. I guess it's those fast and furious last 10 that will make the difference in his opinion. Jonathan Karl, ABC's White House guy who reported on today's show, noted
But I've got to tell you, I am seeing a mad scramble in the West Wing to try and get points on the board before the 100-day marker. On the on hand, they want to pass, make another effort to pass health care. And then there's tax reform. You mentioned the promise that he made on Friday that he is going to unveil a plan for tax reform on Wednesday of next week. This shocked his own top advisers.  The idea had been floated a few days earlier. They had agreed that they wouldn't do it yet. It wasn't ready, And then they heard him say it, clearly an indication that he wants to still get something done, something more before they reach that 100 days. 
Also chiming in this morning was Terry Moran, the network's chief foreign correspondent, with some interesting insight. Stephanopoulos asked about Trump's handling of things overseas, and wondered about the sense that "he's trimming his sails, that the world is changing Trump more than Trump is changing the world."

Moran offered this:
Well, I think what president Trump is learning, George, is what all presidents learn. It was summed up a long time ago by a British prime minister who was supposedly asked by a young reporter, "what's your foreign policy?" And he said "events, dear boy - events."  And it's true, events can drive presidents more than presidents can.
Talking about how strong Trump's support is among his base, we heard from Bill Cunningham, a radio guy from Cincinnati. He had lots to say about why people love Trump, and that he never gets a call from anyone complaining about Trump, but here's the most interesting - and, for Democrats, perhaps the most important thing he said:
You know, George, I think largely it's emotional (Trump's 'hold' on his voters). Donald Trump is a rock star. And to give you some idea, we're the middle of Trump country. I ca walk or drive to Canada, Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the border of California, and never set foot in a Clinton state or a Clinton county. 
That's an uphill climb, for sure, for whoever becomes the standard-bearer for the heartbroken Democratic Party.  It seems Bernie (Still Not a Democrat) Sanders is still getting his free media time, which is good for him, I guess, but not for the party, IMHO.

Also on the show? US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, talking about walls (good), crime (bad), gangs (bad), sanctuary cities (bad) and DREAMers (iffy). And the contrast there was California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had these opinions about walls (medieval), crime (California has the world's sixth largest economy), gangs (not mentioned), DREAMers (we're just trying to move forward, create jobs, we did our infrastructure, keeping families together is good for the economy, hard to know who to believe) and sanctuary cities, which were recently notified by Sessions III that federal funding was at risk:
We're ready. We have been abiding by federal law for quite some time before Jeff Sessions became the attorney general. We're going to continue to abide by federal law and the US constitution. And we're hoping the federal government will also abide by the US constitution, which gives my state the right to decide how to do public safety. That's not their responsibility under the US constitution... We fully respect that they have the responsibility to enforce immigration law. So, we're in the business of public safety. We're not in the business of deportation.
When the AG of California refers to the US government as a "hostile external force" things are apt to get interesting, don't you think?

See you around campus.

April 19, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v86)

Are you enjoying your spring break? You do have a spring break, right? I confess, I took a mini-break from the blog for a week, but now I'm back and wondering, this Wednesday, about all sorts of stuff.

For example, should I wonder which country we're going to bomb next? I mean, three countries in not quite three months in office -- we're off to quite a start, no? Seriously - I'm just kidding. I do wonder though, how many of those Mother of All Bombs things we have in our arsenal. We dropped that one on those Afghani ISIS tunnels last week, but I thought America dropped that particular bomb on November 8th?

Last week the president said in an interview that we were sending an 'armada' to the Korean peninsula as a show of strength against North Korea, to show them that we're not messing around as they continue to test missiles in the hopes of having one capable of reaching our West Coast. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on the Trump News Network, we heard this:
We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you.
The thing is, we're just now sending the armada  however many days later. Because at the time we heard the powerful...very powerful message, the armada was in fact heading away from the Korean peninsula. That might have sent a very powerful message that (a) he doesn't know where his armada is, or (b) his people don't know what he's saying, or (c) it could be a very sneaky way of continuing his approach to not telegraph his plans. Either way, like the dropping of the 20,000,000,000,000 pound bomb on the ISIS tunnel network in Afghanistan, keeping people guessing can actually be considered a foreign policy - as long as someone knows the plan. Someone does know the plan, right? I don't need to know who, I just don't want do wonder if there is someone orchestrating all of this.

Speaking of keeping them guessing, we will have to wonder no more about the fate of Bill O'Reilly, the host of The O'Reilly Factor on Trump News. It seems that the network, after having gone through the embarrassing 'Ailes Factor' last year, had little tolerance for O'Reilly's peccadilloes once it came to light that five women had been paid some $13M to settle complaints of sexual harassment. O'Reilly was let go today.

Probably to no one's surprise, given his history, Donald Trump came to the defense of Ailes last year, noting shortly after Ailes left the network
It's very sad because he's a very good person. I've always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he's done. So I feel very badly. I think it's so sad. He's such a great guy. Roger is - I mean, what he's done on television, is in the history of television, he's gotta be placed in the top three, or four or five. And that includes the founding of the major networks. So, it's too bad. I'm sure it was friendly. 
And, again to no one's surprise, he was in O'Reilly's corner as well.
I think he shouldn't have settled; personally, I think he shouldn't have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong. I think he's a person I know well -- he is a good person.
Perhaps there's no reason to wonder any more whether the old "it takes one to know one" adage applies to creepy white guys.

One thing I do wonder about is the race to replace now-HHS Secretary Tom Price, who represented Georgia's 6th district before being tapped to help dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the Trump administration. Yesterday's special election featured 18 candidates: two Independents, five Dems, and a boatload of Republicans. The main Dem, Jon Ossoff, won 48.1% of the vote; because he didn't get at least 50%, he'll face Republican Karen Handel, the distant second-place finisher (19.8%) in a knock-out round in June.  So why do I wonder about this one?

Well, let's see. For starters, Ossoff doesn't even live in the district, he lives down the road with his girlfriend who's in med school at Emory University. And, while he raised more than $8M for the race, the vast majority of that money also doesn't live in the district. In fact, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity,
When the candidates' own campaign money is excluded, the Georgia 6th special election has attracted about one Georgia penny for every $10 in national cash.
I don't know about you, but I wonder where Ossoff's loyalty would fall, should push come to shove: with the constituents of the district, or his moneybags? Do we need campaign finance reform, or what?

CNN photo
And finally, I wonder, what the heck is up with Reince Priebus?

Are things so bad at the White House that he's pretending to be a Secret Service agent travelling with Mike Pence over there in South Korea?

I really wonder about this one.

April 12, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v85)

Tonight, on this Wednesday, let's go wandering through a land of wonder.

In North Carolina, we no longer need to wonder the official price of legislative conviction; it's been determined: no college championship games for five years. Facing a looming deadline from the NCAA indicating that plans for college tourneys through 2022 were going to go through without any opportunity for Tar Heel State bids, a compromise that no one was happy with - not the folks who originally voted the law in, and not the the LGBTQ community - was reached, and the NCAA's deadline was met. A study by the AP estimated the economic loss to be at least $3.76B over a dozen years. Whether it was these two carrots, or the outrage of the masses, we may have to keep wondering.

What we don't have to wonder about, though, is the capacity for NC legislators to press on with restrictive legislation.  This bill, for example, would retaliate against athletic conferences that boycott North Carolina universities for the state's anti-LGBTQ 'orientation'. State universities such as North Carolina and NC State would be forced to leave their conferences at the end of their current media contract should any retaliation occur. Because nothing says "we don't tolerate retaliation like retaliation do" or something like that.

And there was this bill, which sought to defy the United States Supreme Court:
Marriages between persons of the same gender are not valid. The General Assembly of the State of North Carolina declares that the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision of the United States Supreme Court of 2015 is null and void in the State of North Carolina... Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individual of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.
The House Speaker advised the bill would not be heard, recognizing the law of the land supersedes the law of North Carolina. I wonder, how long will this Republican be in a leadership role? Is he the future, or is he just a temporary distraction from the rest of his party?

Let's move on to Texas, a state where there are virtually no laws too ridiculous when it comes to restricting legal abortions, or harassing women who wish to have them, You know, requiring clinics to meet all of the requirements of to have hallways wide enough to allow two hospital beds to pass unobstructed, when there are no hospital beds in clinics? Or the one that would have required fetal remains from miscarriages and abortions to be buried or cremated, which was blocked by a judge.

The good thing to come out of Texas is a bill that aims to punish unregulated 'self-pleasuring' (wink, wink).
The law, introduced last month and forwarded to the committee Tuesday, calls for civil penalty for unregulated masturbatory emissions that are outside of a woman's vagina (or) medical facility. Any man who does so faces a $100 fine because the act is considered an act against an unborn child and failing to preserve the sanctity of life.
The 'Men's Right to Know Act' as the bill is called, is a breath of fresh air - I applaud State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Dem representing residents in Houston, for her creativity and legislative skill in drafting and keeping the bill moving. I wonder how the men on the legislature are taking this? Are they learning anything, or are the just sitting there while the womenfolk have their fun?

You know, like they're doing in Minnesota, where men will be men but they sure don't like being called out by women. Seems there was discussion around a provision a bill that would fine protesters for blocking highways, and the women of the Democrat - Farm - Labor (DFL) party, including women of color, spoke in opposition to the provision; one quoted an emotional letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr. that spoke of sometimes having
no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.
Apparently, while the women were speaking, the men were in another room, playing cards - which did not sit well with Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, who called the wayward members back to the floor, noting
I hate to break up the 100% white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate.
She went on to note that she was "really tired of watching women of color, in particular" being ignored by fellow legislators.  There was no wondering how the men felt, including the one who had submitted the offending legislation. He called for an apology; Hortman refused. She was asked the next day for an apology, and refused again, according to reports I've read.  After the bill passed, including the contested provision, there were even more calls for an apology from Hortman. Not only did she refuse, but then the chair of the DFL party called on the Republicans to apologize for their budget proposal.

I wonder, will other women in state legislatures learn from the Texas and Minnesota situations, and take advantage of their opportunities to protest legislatively, or procedurally, to make their voices heard? And will the 'new' Democratic National Committee begin offering support and encouragement for similar positions to be taken by others in the party, or their affiliates?  

I also wonder how long it will take for North Carolina to get some of these uppity women in their legislature?

April 9, 2017

Trump in Transition (v15)

It's been awhile since I've done a Trump in Transition (TiT) post - mostly because he hasn't really shown any signs of 'transitioning' into anything.

He plays golf every weekend at his own courses; he tweets like a crazy man; he takes credit for things that he shouldn't when he's happy and parcels out blame that he shouldn't when he's unhappy, and he has his daughter officially at his side. No transition there, right?

But then, he went and launched cruise missiles, five dozen of them, at an airbase in Syria, telling us what he did after a nice dinner with members of his club, the President of China, and members of his administration and family (even some who aren't both).
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield from where the chemical attack was launched, It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.
So, does this mean he's transitioning, pivoting, becoming more presidential? He certainly pivoted, no doubt about that.  America should not get involved in Syria, Trump famously warned President Obama  four years ago, the first time Assad did this.
We should stay the hell out of Syria, the "rebels" are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL BE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS? ZERO
He clearly understood at the time the risk of taking any action:
What will we get for bombing Syria beside more debt and possible long-term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.
And boy, did he understand how that swampy thing worked, or what?
The president must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria - big mistake if he does not! 
But, again, we don't always follow our own advice, do we?

We're America. We lead, and often don't even worry whether others will follow, because we have the military power, we have the moral high ground, and because it we don't do it, no one will, right? And Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, again. It's important that he did it again, since the last time he did it, our friends in Russia helped ensure that he got rid of his stockpile of the damn stuff, so he couldn't use it again. That was the outcome when Congress didn't AUMF, or authorize the use of military force, when President Obama asked for it back in 2013.

Congress agreed with Trump then, that this was the wrong thing to do. Just ask lying sombitch Mitch McConnell:
A vital national security risk is clearly not at play, there are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there... Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime - something the President says he does not intend to do - or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration. 
Even Orrin Hatch, the songwriting senator from Utah, advised us then
What is clear is that launching a few missiles will do nothing to end Syria's civil war, and is neither a real strategy to stop the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria nor a guarantee that chemical weapons won't be used in the future by the Assad regime. That is not a plan for the region.
I am leery of America getting more involved in someone else's war, without having a clear plan and a defined reason for doing so. I'm particularly leery of this man, this administration, doing that. There is absolutely zero consistency, and I think, no core belief from this president; there is no 'Trump doctrine" that we can look to, because it changes with the weather.

He's told us over and over and over we are not the world's policeman, we will always be America first, we are no longer going to go it alone without our allies, we don't belong in someone else's war, we have nothing to gain....  and he's right about one thing. No one deserves what happened last week, but neither should America be dropping inconsequential bombs on another country in response to children dying (if that's even the reason why we did this), at the same time we refuse them safe passage because they guy who ordered the bombing thinks the children and other refugees deserve a wall or a dome or an underground shelter or something out of a bad movie.
They should build a safe zone. Take a big piece of land in Syria and they have plenty of land, believe me. Build a safe zone for all these people, because I have a heart, I mean these people, it's horrible to watch. But they shouldn't come over here. We should build a safe zone. 
We made a safe zone for the Russians by giving them a heads up so they could get their people and materiel out of the way. And of course, the Russians would have extended that notification to the Syrians. We made a safe zone for Bashar al-Assad by allowing the same airfield to be used within hours to launch missions against the same town hit in the chemical attacks.

What did we accomplish? What are we doing? Which America are we? What's the plan? Who is in the Oval Office with Trump helping make the decisions?

Bueller? Anyone?

April 5, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v84)

It's Wednesday. You know what that means.

Let's start with Steve Bannon. Do you wonder what he's thinking, now that he's been booted from the National Security Council's Principals Committee by Donald Trump, or by HR McMaster, or by Jared Kushner - who even knows who actually pulled the strings, since Bannon has been considered by some as the string puller, the man behind the Big Boy desk as it were. Now, he's allegedly assigned to "working on health care" which seems like a demotion. I mean, national security plus everything else, to dealing with the petulant children in the House? Egads. I'd have skipped a press conference too, if I were him.  

And about those petulant children in the House, what on earth are we to think about them? Republicans fighting against Republicans, and Republicans fighting against the President, and the President fighting against Republicans. I wonder how they can possibly have the strength to fight Obamacare?

Yes, the sort of Repealish and Replacey bill that Speaker Paul Ryan tried to cram down everyone's throats in 17 days, with no success other than pitting R against R? We were told at the time that the best chance for fixing the failing health care plan was lost, and we were told by Trump that now we just had to wait for Obamacare to die and the Democrats, who owned the failure, according to Trump, to come crawling to him for help to save the darn thing.

I didn't wonder much last month when all of this played out which part of it was not true; I mean, the only thing we never really have to wonder about is whether Trump or anyone in his administration is lying. Last month, I was enjoying too much the Rs being at each others throats and all - but I should have been wondering.

For we now know that the part that was untrue was the part about, well, all of it.

Because Steve Bannon was too busy to attend a press conference - the only one he's missed, I read somewhere,  because he was "working on healthcare" and trying to salvage the mess that Paul Ryan got them into - and that Paul Ryan may not be able to get them out of.

Speaking with Norah O'Donnell, Ryan said this:
What I worry about, Norah, is if we don't do this then he'll just go work with Democrats to try to change Obamacare -- and that's hardly a conservative thing. If this Republican Congress allows the perfect to become the enemy of the good, I worry we'll push the president to working with Democrats. He's been suggesting that much.
Ah, there's nothing like the smell of House partisanship in the morning. Except maybe the stench emanating from the Senate, as they wring hands (wishing they were necks) over how, not if, Mitch McConnell's Republicans will confirm Neil Gorsuch as the next SCOTUS Associate Justice.

I mean, are the Dems desperately trying to snatch the title of the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight from the Rs, or what?
  1. Gorsuch the best we can hope for from Trump/Pence. It was his first shot, and picked because he is about as mainstream as we're going to see. If he has another chance (sadly, that's likely even if he only serves one term), each successive nominee will be more distasteful than the last. That much, no wondering is required.
  2. Merrick Garland deserved a vote - that's absolutely true. It also has absolutely nothing to do with Gorsuch. The Republicans were jerks, but that's water over under the bridge, over the dam, and in the basement already.  When, I wonder, will the Dems learn that being as bad as the other guys is not a feather in their cap?
  3. Donald Trump, his transition team members, cabinet members, family members and Mar-a-Lago members, his business partners and bankers and dentist and hair stylists  and Trump Tower lease holders may currently have, or may have had, interactions with Russia - but that has nothing to do with Gorsuch.
  4. Even if Trump is impeached or quits or falls into the mouth of an alligator during one of his million rounds of golf, Gorsuch is a legitimate nominee.
The Dems would be fools not to find a way to get to 60 votes. McConnell would owe them - bigly - if they were to do this. And even if he never properly thanked them for helping him out, he would know,  and we would know, and the world would know, and that should be enough. 

If, on the other hand, they force McConnell's hand and he changes the rules, the Dems will have no one to blame but themselves.  And we will have no one to blame but them. 

No wondering about that, at all.

April 4, 2017

Oh Battlefield, My Battlefield

Stephen Crowley/NY Times photo
As you may have heard, president Trump has just donated his first three months' salary to the National Parks Service (NPS).

The picture in the article linked above shows two hands holding a check, but no faces. One hand is in what is clearly an NPS uniform.

In the interest of advancing the journalistic profession, here's the part of the picture that shows the face of Tyrone Brandyburg, who at the time the picture was taken, was the Superintendent at West Virginia's Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Brandyburg looks about as excited as I would have been to be at this particularly galling photo op.

On the campaign trail, Trump had promised to donate his salary to charity. I'm not immediately sure whether that's what he thought he just did, but I am certain he has dashed the hopes of the press, who were advised by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that they would be the ones to choose the charity, and I'm sure they would have relished the chance to do good with $78,333.32.

Why characterize this as a particularly galling photo op? Well for starters, Trump has proposed cutting the NPS budget by nearly 12% this fiscal year in his America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.

That's about $1.5B, in case you were wondering, so his piddly donation, which he wants to be used to help maintain and improve our historic battlefields, seems to be an insult of $1,421,666.68 proportions. Not only did he choose a governmental agency whose funding he plans on decimating, he opted to support the battlefields, which are already some $229M behind in maintenance.

Nonetheless, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seemed suitably impressed.
As a veteran myself, I want to say I am thrilled at the president's decision to donate the check he did today. We're excited about that opportunity.  Want some Kool-Aid?
OK, he didn't really ask if anyone wanted some Kool-Aid.

He'll need it for himself, as he will have to figure out how to allocate the bulk of his limited budget dollars to rerouting traffic patterns and reconfiguring tourist amenities to accommodate all of the planned Diverse American Mining Needs (DAMN) and Collaborative Resource Acquisition Parcels (CRAP) that will soon populate our national parks and historic sites.

It's not known at this time whether the battlefields the president newly holds dear will come out on the other side of these upcoming NPS changes in any way resembling their current state. We do know, though, that 'history' is just another word for Stuff We Interpret Loosely, Lady (SWILL), so there's at least some possibility that Superintendent Brandyburg may not even recognize Harpers Ferry when all is said and done - assuming he's still employed, that is. After that picture gets widely circulated, his long-term employment may not be guaranteed.

That said, new signs have already been ordered to place around all of the historical battlefields, to commemorate the donation and to help advance the tourist experience and the mission of the Park Service.
The National Park Service (NPS) preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The National Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.
I'm sure everything will become clear once the signed are all installed. I can't reveal my sources, but I managed to get my hands on the template that was sent to the manufacturer.

They're going to look just great, wouldn't you agree? With a lighted flagpole?  Can't wait.

April 2, 2017

Sunday School 4/2/17

We're going to spend some time in the Fox News Sunday classroom, as we did not have time to get to them last week.

Right off the bat, I was intrigued by the opening segment, reported by Kevin Corke from Washington, speaking to host Chris Wallace. I mean, who would have thunk that someone at Fox News other than Shepard Smith, would say this?
Chris, as usually is the case in Washington scandals, it's the cover-up and not the crime that usually ensnares. And there are legitimate questions about that with respect to the ongoing controversy over what House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes knows about possible surveillance of Trump aides and how he came about getting that information, Nunes you may recall claiming to have such compelling information he needed to rush to the White House and tell the president himself. But he did that without sharing what he found with fellow members of the Intelligence Committee, which is highly unusual. 
This as FOX News has confirmed that Nunes received key information from a pair of White House aides, calling into question no only his relationship with the administration, but his ability to be impartial.
Scandals? Cover up? Crime? Controversy? Claiming to have compelling information? Highly unusual? Calling into question the Republican's ability to be impartial?  Holy Horrors, Batman!

Also on the show today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who talked about why we don't need an independent investigator on Russia.
We've got a bipartisan investigation underway now. It's called the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Burr and Senator Warner had a joint press conference this week. I think they clearly laid out that they're going wherever the facts take them. We don't need another investigation We know the FBI is looking at it from their perspective. It's being handled appropriately and it will be handled well. 
He also promised we would see Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch confirmed this week -- one way or another.  Wallace questioned whether McConnell would use the nuclear option if he can't stop a filibuster.
Look, what I'm telling you is that Judge Gorsuch is going to be confirmed. The way in which that occurs is in the hands of the Democratic minority. And I think during the course of the week, we'll find out exactly how this will end.
He reminded us that even with the "most controversial Supreme Court nomination in history" (Clarence Thomas), "not a single senator, not one, not Ted Kennedy, not Joe Biden, no one said you had to get 60 votes." With that, McConnell threw the ball firmly in Chuck Schumer's court, pardon the pun.

The big deal of the show was EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as we know is head of an agency with a suggested 31% cut in funding, who visited to talk about that environment thing. Wallace outlined some data presented during (or by) the Obama administration as the Clean Power Plan was being developed:
  • there would be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks per year and
  • 300,000 fewer missed work and school days and
  • 3,600 fewer premature deaths a year
  • half of all Americans - 166,000,000 people - now live in counties with unhealthy air
  • carbon pollution from the power sector would be reduced by 2005, would be 1/3 lower than in 2005
In a nutshell, here's Pruitt's response:
  • The president is keeping his promise to reduce overreach
  • pro-jobs and pro-growth and pro-environment are not mutually exclusive
  • the EPA and the federal government should not pick winners and losers
  • fuel diversity is important
  • we have shown leadership
  • pro-jobs and pro-growth and overreach and tools in the toolbox
Wallace also challenged Pruitt on his comment about the interview during which he was asked whether he believed "that it's been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate." Pruitt's answer, in case you've forgotten:
No, I would not agree that it's the primary contributor to the global warming that we're seeing.
When pressed on this, Pruitt said
No, look, Chris - I said... in my confirmation process, to individual senators as well, that there's a warming trend, the climate is changing. And human activity contributes to the change in some measure.  The real issue is how much we contribute to it and measuring that with precision. But then also, what is the process as far as the response, what can we do about it, the tools in the toolbox to address the CO2 issue?
One last question from Wallace:
Under the president's new budget, the EPA is cut 31 percent, that is more than any other agency And I want to put up some of the cuts that are included in the president's budget. Here are some of the 56 programs that would be scrapped: Great Lakes restoration, water runoff control for farmers, pesticide safety. What does that say about the commitment of this administration and you to cleaning up the environment when you're making a 31 percent cut of in your agency and cutting things like that, water runoff for farmers?
Well, said Pruitt.
Well, part of -- part of the issue, Chris, is that over the last several years, there has been a lack of commitment to state partnership. You know, we have state Departments of Environmental Quality across the country have the resources and the expertise to deal with clean water and clean air issues and so, renewing that partnership -- 
I've met with several governors, in fact within the first week of being on the job, I met with 20-plus governors. And those governors across the country are committed to pro-jobs and pro-environment. They have to serve their people in those states as well.
And I will tell you this, Chris, this attitude in Washington, DC, that people in Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and Colorado and the rest of the country don't care about the water they drink or the air they breathe and are not going to take care of the water locally and (in their) states, I just don't believe that. That narrative is something we reject and we look forward to partnering with states across the country to achieve good outcomes.  
So there you have it. Seems in the eyes of the EPA administrator, each state can handle things individually. Just like students in our Sunday School classrooms have to handle their work individually. Well, maybe not the same; the latter seems more logical than the former, doesn't it?

See you around campus.