Open Thread: Palin Wept


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All of them, Katie!

Yeah, I think Sam Bee is right — the President-Asterisk can’t read, at least not with any fluency. And he’s too spoilt to put in the effort to overcome his deficits.

(I always suspected Dubya was an unacknowledged dyslexic / ADD sufferer, but at least his parents had taught him to fake an interest. Sometimes. “All right, you’ve covered your ass… “)
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Government, Meet Bathtub

It’s easy to run a government that does (next to) nothing.

Here’s where Trumpism — or really Pence-ism, or really, exactly what the GOP has been promising (threatening) will have its most immediate, and quite possibly its most damaging impact:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The NEH and NEA cuts are at once symbolic — the GOP is killing stuff liberals like, which is reward enough in those quarters — and, I think, intended to distract from other hugely reckless choices:

The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs: the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The total savings from cutting these four programs would amount to nearly $900 million in 2017.

At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.

At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the State Department’s jurisdiction, funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are candidates for elimination.

The single most important point I can make is that this is the Kansas-ification of America.  This isn’t a Trump policy choice.  This is Mike Pence shepherding plans the Republican Party has been trying to implement for years, decades even.  I doubt it will all get through, but much of it will, I’d guess, and when it does we will need to hang every shitty outcome and terrible choice around the neck of every Republican officeholder.

This is what they want. This is what they told us they wanted. They’re likely going to get it, to some approximation.  And they’re going to have to own it, so that once again, Democrats can come in and fix the serial catastrophes we’re going to witness very damn soon.

Also, too — who wants to bet all the pieties about the deficit and restoring balance to the budget will fall to the tax cuts to come?

Fuck it.  I’m heading back to the seventeenth century.

Image: Francesco de Rossi, Bathesheba at her Bath1552-1554.



Open Thread: Prepping for the Women’s March

(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
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Advice for the locals, from the Washington Post:

Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents.

Drivers will encounter day-long— and rolling— road closures near the Mall and public transit users should expect long waits at Metro stations and crowding on platforms and trains…

Metro announced Wednesday that trains will start running at 5 a.m. and up to two dozen trains will be added to accommodate the crowds. (The transit agency had originally said it would run regular Saturday service, which meant stations opening at 7 a.m.)

Demonstrators will gather for a rally at 3rd Street and Independence Avenue on the morning after the transfer of power to president-elect Donald Trump. The crowds will then march along the National Mall to The Ellipse, near the Washington Monument. Thousands of people are expected at the event, which organizers say is not a protest but a way to “promote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups.”

The location: The stage will be on 3rd Street and Independence Avenue by the National Museum of the American Indian.

The program:
8 a.m.— activities start with images and video on display.
9 a.m. — pre-rally with speakers, music and public service announcements.
10 a.m. — the official rally starts, featuring celebrities including Katy Perry, Cher, America Ferrera and Uzo Aduba
1 p.m. — participants start marching toward The Ellipse where the program will end.

The March route: The group will begin to walk from the gathering location around 1 p.m. and march west on Independence Avenue SW, from 3rd Street SW, to 14th Street SW; then will turn north on 14th Street SW to Constitution Avenue NW; and will march west on Constitution Avenue NW to 17th Street NW, near the Ellipse and Washington Monument, where the events will come an end…

More information on parking, public transit, bike routes, and a list of banned items at the link.

Anybody who takes photos they want to share — either in DC, or at the Sister Marches — send them to me or TaMara and we’ll put them on the front page.

ETA, by request
: Here’s Adam Silverman’s post on ‘Peaceful Assembly and Personal Security‘.



Make It Stop! (Open Thread)

My dogs hate ice cream trucks. They cannot abide the tinkling, high-pitched songs played over the loudspeakers. As pups, they used to howl, but now they just frown. (Sometimes we howl when the ice cream truck is near to try to get the dogs to join in, but it never works.)

Daisy Mayhem, pictured above, was never a patient creature. But now that she’s becoming a grizzled old dog, she has a very short fuse. Yesterday evening, I thought she was going to fling herself over the fence, find that truck and sink her fangs into its tape deck (I imagine it is an old, shitty tape deck to match the old, shitty vehicle).

Anyhoo, I recognize that look in her eyes. I’ve seen it in the mirror. Make. It. Stop.

Captain Obvious observation: there’s much hypocritical conservative butt-hurt across the land over insinuations that Trump isn’t legitimate, isn’t a good person or that his upcoming Ultimate Ego Gratification Event (UEGE) should be boycotted. Even 1970s crooner Tony Orlando got in on the act!

I’m afraid the SS “Embarrassing to the World” sailed 11/9, Mr. Orlando, so tie a yellow ribbon ’round your big fat yap. Orlando is performing at one of the inaugural balls sans backup singers, so there will be no opportunity for Der Gropenfuhrer to be found fumbling at the crack of Dawn (yes, I went there…sorry).

WaPo has an article up about the blow-back groups and individuals are getting for attending the UEGE — including the Girl Scouts. From quotes in that piece and exchanges I’ve seen elsewhere, it seems the reaction of non-Trump supporters to the UEGE falls into at least two categories: those who view participation as validation of the “peaceful transfer of power” and those who see it as normalizing Trump.

Personally, I see it as the latter, and I wish each and every Democrat and/or person who values decency and American self-determination would decline to participate in or watch the proceedings. But I’m not going to harsh on people who feel obligated to attend, such as the Clintons. Sitting through that travesty will be hell enough.

While reading the article, I was struck by the comment of a talk radio host and parent who objected to an email sent by his kid’s teacher, in which the teacher conveyed his decision to allow the class to watch the swearing-in on TV but not the speech:

Radio host Steve Gruber took issue with the email, telling the Free Press, “He has an opportunity to demonstrate that even when you lose, you come together for peaceful transfer of power. The message to 10-year-olds in his class is that the president is a bad man, and that’s not acceptable.”

I remember being angry when a Sarah Palin knock-off on our local school board refused to allow public schools in my district to air an address to the kids from President Obama because socialism! But the thing is, Mr. Gruber, Trump is a bad man. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Hypocrisy sets a bad example for the children.

Open thread!



Yelling at assistant referees

538 has a good piece on the implicit bias referees have when they get yelled at in NFL games:

a sideline bias in the NFL is real, and it’s spectacular. To prove it, we looked at the rates at which refs call the NFL’s most severe penalties, including defensive pass interference, aggressive infractions like personal fouls and unnecessary roughness, and offensive holding calls, based on where the offensive team ran its play.1

For three common penalties, the direction of the play — that is, whether it’s run toward the offensive or defensive team’s sideline — makes a significant difference. In other words, refs make more defensive pass interference calls on the offensive team’s sideline but more offensive holding calls on the defensive team’s sideline. What’s more, these differences aren’t uniform across the field — the effect only shows up on plays run, roughly, between the 32-yard lines, the same space where coaches and players are allowed to stand during play.

Speaking as a referee, this makes intuitive sense. And it is a logical extension of the massive amount of research that shows crowd noise is a major factor in gaining home field advantage from refs. We’re human.

I would like to see a follow-up study for soccer and assistant referees. This would be a fairly clean study as the operational procedures produces a great data set for assistant referees. 95% of the time, both sets of benches are on the same side of the field. For the non-soccer folks, there are two assistant referees. AR-1 stands on the bench side with the right shoulder to the goal. A team bench is usually a few yards behind him and coaches have a technical area where they are allowed to wander freely. AR-2 is on the far side with no one behind them. Teams switch the direction of attack at half time.

So AR-1 has Team A in his ear for forty five minutes where A is attacking. And AR-1 also gets Team A in his ear for forty five minutes while they are defending. Team B does not have easy and constant access to AR-1 as they are always at least ten yards away from the halfline and at the professional level (where the data would be) there is a fourth official to act as a buffer.

My prediction is that Team A would over the course of the season have fewer offside violations called during its attack than Team B. I think the mechanism that will occur is that most assistant referees know that they are evaluated when the flag goes up on close calls. If they are not 100% certain that an offside violation has occurred, they are told to keep the flag down and not call the violation. If they miss an egregious offside, they will be graded down. But if they are not calling the occasional offside where the attacking player is off by half a shoe, their evaluation will not be impacted. None of this is conscious bias, it is human nature where a referee can firmly believe that they are only 95% sure instead of 100% and thus they keep their flag down.

I would love to see this data as I think the logic would hold true with a very clean data set.








Thursday Morning Open Thread: Keep Going After the Bastids

Per Crooks & Liars:

A frustrated Senator Warren asked Rep. Price direct questions about his own policy prescriptions, but he refused to give a definitive answer, even about the cuts he has repeatedly called for.

Sen. Warren discussed his calls to cut funding and asked, “You recently authored as chair of the House Budget Committee would have cut spending on Medicare by $449 billion dollars over the next decade, is that right?

Rep. Price replied, “I don’t have the numbers in front of me.”

She replied, “I have the numbers.”

He said, “I assume you’re correct.”…

Sen. Warren then brought up Trump’s positions on both health care plans, in which he states there will be no cuts to the programs, funding-wise. She asked if Trump was telling the truth and he replied, “yes.”…

Warren said, “Can you guarantee to this committee that you will safeguard president-elect Trump’s promise and while you are HHS secretary, you will not use your authority to carry out a single dollar of cuts to Medicare or Medicaid eligibility or benefits?”

Price said, “What the question presumes is that money is the metric. In my belief from a scientific standpoint, if patients aren’t receiving care even though we’re providing the resources, it doesn’t work for patients.”

Warren said, “We’re very limited on time. The metric IS money. The President-elect…said he would not cut dollars from this program. So that’s the question I’m asking you. Can you assure this committee you will not cut one dollar from Medicare or Medicaid should you be confirmed to this position?

Price replied, “I believe that the metric ought to be the care that the patients are receiving.”

Warren said, “I’ll take that as a no.”…

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Apart from applauding Women Who Take No Shit, what’s on the agenda for the day?
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Late Night Open Thread: Hail, Glowryus Leeder

If only it were as lazy easy as trademarking someone else’s slogan!

… The slogan itself was not entirely original. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had used “Let’s Make America Great Again” in their 1980 campaign — a fact that Trump maintained he did not know until about a year ago.

“But he didn’t trademark it,” Trump said of Reagan…

The trademark became effective on July 14, 2015, a month after Trump formally announced his campaign and met the legal requirement that he was actually using it for the purposes spelled out in his [2012] application…

“It actually inspired me,” Trump said, “because to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.”…

Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

“Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

“Get me my lawyer!” the president-elect shouted…

“I never thought I’d be giving [you] my expression for four years [from now],” he said. “But I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great.”…

Or at least that’s what Trump’s personal media will tell us! Remember Jeff Gannon?

Other journalists would be grilling [[press secretary] McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question laden with false assumptions.

In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”…

Trump has already deployed the Gannon strategy as president-elect. During his press conference last week, he pivoted away from a series of questions about the intelligence community’s fears about his interactions with Russia to take one from Matt Boyle from Breitbart, the conservative website previously run by his chief strategist and that spent the election pushing his candidacy. Boyle’s softball sought Trump’s opinion of what “reforms” the media industry should undertake to avoid the “problems” of its election coverage. We should expect Trump to continue to use his platform to lift up such supportive outlets…



Sign Help

I have a friend heading to the march in Washington, and we are looking for some ideas for a sign for her to carry. Personally, I would just carry a sign that says “FUCK THIS BULLSHIT” but I am a crude vulgarian. She would prefer something punny and clever.

Have at it.








Guest Post From Cheryl Rofer: The Department of Energy, What Does it Do? 🤔

(Not Cheryl Rofer!)

Fails Dancing With The Stars, Wins Nuke Prize

by Cheryl Rofer

According to the New York Times, Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, presidential aspirant, and now Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy, um, didn’t know what the Department of Energy does when he accepted Trump’s nomination. “Sure I’ll be Ambassador for Oil and Gas,” he said. Twitter is meeting this revelation with humor and “We’re all going to die.”

In a better world, like the one we’ve been living in the past eight years, Cabinet secretaries actually know something about the organizations they are leading. It’s time to disrupt that fusty idea. We have Betsy DeVos, who wants to eliminate public education, as Education Secretary, a fast-food executive as Labor Secretary, and so on. Rick Perry has advocated eliminating the Department of Energy, so he was the natural pick.

Does that mean we are all going to die? That’s not so much the purview of the Energy Secretary. The President has a military guy who carries around the “football,” which is the most immediate starter of nuclear wars. As far as policy goes, the Secretaries of State and Defense have much more to say about starting wars nuclear and conventional. And, surprisingly for this administration, they actually seem to have responsible views on nuclear weapons. Here are excerpts from James Mattis’s and Rex Tillerson’s testimony to Congress. They are quite different from what Donald Trump has tweeted, and much more like the policies that Obama has followed.

Mattis almost says something that the arms control community has wanted to hear from the president:

the role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

Change that to

the only role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

and a lot of arms-controllers would be very happy.

The Secretary of Energy is in charge of building and maintaining nuclear weapons, so there is some concern about accidents and such, but fortunately it will not be Rick Perry handling the wrenches or working the gloveboxes. A big downside of someone like Perry is that there is no way he can play the role Ernie Moniz did in developing the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Now the question is how much influence Mattis and Tillerson will have on their boss.



Shaping the Operational Environment: McClatchy Reports that the US Intelligence Community is Investigating Ties Between the Trump Campaign and Russia

Among all the other news, big, medium, and small was this important report:

McClatchy has reported that:

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

And:

The working group is scrutinizing the activities of a few Americans who were affiliated with Trump’s campaign or his business empire and of multiple individuals from Russia and other former Soviet nations who had similar connections, the sources said.

ETA: I want to emphasize something important I failed to above or below in the original post: this probe started months before anyone in the US Intel Community new anything about the oppo research documents that were leaked last week:

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

(we now return you to the original post)

While I cannot prove it, it is logical to reason that this information was provided to the McClatchy reporters so that it would be reported before the inauguration on Friday. By getting the information out now, the purpose of the reporting is to make it much more difficult for the incoming Administration to shut this investigation down or to interfere in how it is conducted.

For good, bad, or otherwise this is not going away. And the President-elect and his team seem unwilling to even try to provide reasonable explanations to knock the suspicions back. The longer this drags out the worse it will be. For all of us.

As I wrote last week before the President-elect’s press conference:

As a national security professional, what I would like to see is the President-elect address the now long standing and ongoing allegations regarding his connection to Russia. If the allegations are spurious, as he and his team have claimed every time they’ve come up, or if there is a straightforward and simple explanation that can be made, he needs to make it. I think a lot of the foreign, defense, and national security policy concerns that many across the political spectrum have with the President-elect’s longstanding policy preferences dating back to 1987 arise from all of the smoke around the claims of Russian connections and interference for Russia’s, not the US’s, not the President-elect’s, interests.

The sooner the President-elect and his team can either provide evidence for why the allegations and rumors are spurious or provide a simple and straightforward explanation for the seeming preference for Russia and the abandonment of the post WW II and post Cold War international order the better.



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: “I Don’t Try to Predict the Future, I Try to Prevent It” (R. Bradbury)


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So many falling anvils, so few anvil-rated shelters — and that’s just in my small personal circle.

I’m stockpiling non-inauguration-related stories for Friday, in the cynical expectation that they’ll be preempted by breaking news.

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Apart from the slow-rolling tshit tsunami, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Don’t Know Much About History

Hoo boy, Betsy DeVos is a real winner. If you are a c-list blogger with a potty mouth or a writer for a comedian/comedy show, her hearing yesterday was fucking amazing. If you care about education policy or have children, well, you know, sorry about that.

There were so much fail it’s hard to just limit it to one blog post, but here goes. First, she has no idea the difference between proficiency and growth or the existence of the debate, which is to education what evolution/creationism is to hard sciences:

I’m pretty sure any undergraduate at ANY college in America with at least ONE education course could answer that better.

Next up, she seems completely unaware that IDEA exists:

Again, she is so ignorant of everything around here, I sort of hoped that Franken and Hassan would start making up federal laws that don’t exist and asking her position on them, just to see what she would say.

And then finally, there was this:

Just so we are clear, there is no no grizzly infestation menacing Wyoming public schools:

Audra Morrow, a teacher at Wyoming’s Valley Elementary School in Cody from 2004 to 2006, explained to Mic that no guns were necessary to ward off ursids, and that the fence and bear spray were “absolutely” sufficient measures on their own.

“No firearms in our schools!” Morrow wrote. “We do have bear spray but have never had a problem that would require using it.”

And I’m not joking that I am just scratching the surface here- she also stated she did not support standards for every school that receives federal money and on and on and on.

Welcome to the United States of Dumbfuckistan.



Open Thread: Little Man in the High Castle

Everybody relies on their routines, to some degree. But when a 74 70-year-old isolates himself in his home, refuses to deal with anyone outside of a small circle of intimates, uses gimmicks to screen himself from contact with input he can’t control… From the Washington Post, “Donald Trump waits in his tower — accessible yet isolated“:

Exactly one week after becoming president-elect, Donald Trump stepped outside his namesake fortress here for the first time. He ventured just five blocks, to dinner at the 21 Club — a dark-mahogany-and-red-leather-banquette throwback, where model airplanes and sports memorabilia hang from the ceiling and jackets are de rigueur for men.

The vintage haunt, where Trump dined with family members, feels like home. The waiters know his preferred table (No. 14, which Frank Sinatra and Richard M. Nixon also used) and his regular order (the $36 burger, well done, with fries).

So it has been for the president-elect, who has retreated to one comfortable, familiar refuge after another — his soaring Manhattan tower, his white leather-upholstered Boeing jet, his lush golf courses, his opulent beachside castle.

Trump is a man isolated, increasingly cocooned away from the voters who lifted him to his seemingly improbable victory. He favors his own people and his own places, creating the veneer of accessibility — his tweets reach millions and he still answers his cellphone — while placing himself in almost entirely habitual settings.

He spends most of his days in Trump Tower, with few close friends and few meaningful one-on-one interactions beyond the family members, advisers and loyalists who are whisked by gold-colored elevator to his 26th-floor office for private audiences. Trump rarely leaves, not even for a breath of fresh air; nor does he encounter many people he does not already know or who do not work for him…

In many ways, Trump seems most comfortable communicating at a slight remove, with a stage or a screen — television, Twitter, phone — serving as the intermediary between him and the public. Such tools are both his megaphone and his shield, allowing him to blast out a message undiluted with little risk…

At least when Reagan was first inaugurated, he was a skilled enough performer that he didn’t overtly present as an Alzheimer’s victim. Or maybe we just didn’t recognize the symptoms as quickly, back in those innocent days.



007, 007, and Oceans 11

Al Gore was very fat last year:

Average surface temperatures in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015

If you look at charts, the surface temperatures have gone up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 25 years.

This is even scarier, while oceans have risen an average of about 0.11 inches a year since 1983, that could accelerate rapidly:

If high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue, they concluded, oceans could rise by close to two meters in total (more than six feet) by the end of the century. The melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 15 meters (49 feet) by 2500.








President Obama’s Final Press Conference: Live Feed