Monday Morning Open Thread: If It Weren’t for Schaden, I’d Have No Freude At All

There are people who don’t pay attention to the news during weekends. Right now I don’t know whether to envy them, or to feel sorry for what they’re about to find out.

From the Washington Post, “Pressure on Senate Republicans to break shutdown impasse grows”:

Twenty-four days into the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and with the White House and House Democrats no closer to a deal, pressure is ramping up on Senate Republicans to craft an exit plan that will get federal employees back to work and pull their party out of a deepening political quagmire.

In a sign that Republicans are increasingly concerned that the standoff over President Trump’s long-promised border wall is hurting their party politically, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) suggested temporarily reopening the government while continuing negotiations. If talks don’t bear fruit, Graham said Sunday, the president could consider following through on his threat to bypass Congress and build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by declaring a national emergency…

Remember the old parable about the philosopher who avoided execution by convincing the king he could teach the king’s favorite horse to talk? Shorter Lindsey: Given a few weeks, I might be able to find a better talking point. Or everybody might get distracted by some new crisis. Or maybe the Oval Office Horse’s Arse will finally get a clue!
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Decline & Fall Open Thread: Our Cosplay “President”

Despite frequent praise for the U.S. military and the appointment of military leaders to Cabinet positions, it took Trump almost half of his first term as president to visit U.S. soldiers in a conflict zone.

In contrast, Obama’s trip to Iraq took place less than three months after he was inaugurated. He would go on to visit another conflict zone, Afghanistan, twice in his second year in office. Obama’s own predecessor, President George W. Bush, had also visited Iraq less than a year after the U.S.-led invasion of the country began in March 2003…

Last week, Trump announced that these soldiers would be coming home, as the Islamic State was defeated. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now. We won,” Trump said in a video message on Twitter. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced his resignation soon afterward.

But as he visited Iraq on Wednesday, Trump had a very different message — again, a real contrast to Obama’s message nine years before — for the roughly 5,200 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq. The message was that this time, there was no immediate plan to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Iraq. “In fact, we could use this as the base if we wanted to do something in Syria,” the U.S. leader added.

… “Arrogant” and “a violation of national sovereignty” were but a few examples of the disapproval emanating from Baghdad following Trump’s meeting Wednesday with U.S. servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase.

Trips by U.S. presidents to conflict zones are typically shrouded in secrecy and subject to strict security measures, and Trump’s was no exception. Few in Iraq or elsewhere knew the U.S. president was in the country until minutes before he left.

But this trip came as curbing foreign influence in Iraqi affairs has become a hot-button political issue in Baghdad, and Trump’s perceived presidential faux-pas was failing to meet with the prime minister in a break with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state…
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Time’s Up

From Charlie Pierce’s latest sub-required ‘Last Call’ newsletter:

… The fight over the wall was the first indication that some gears were coming unsprung. At a now-famous photo-op with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the president* looked utterly at sea, obsequious at one moment and truculent the next, boasting that he would be “proud” to shut down the government if he didn’t get the money for his big, beautiful wall. This moment brought home starkly the change in politics that is going to come when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives in January. Hearing the president* take ownership of a possible shutdown on his own behalf and that of his party made more than a few Republicans puddle up in their shoes…

And now, a NYTimes op-ed from Elizabeth Drew, who made the journalist hall of fame with her coverage of Watergate — “The Inevitability of Impeachment”:

An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the president resigns, the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an impeachment process next year will only increase. Too many people think in terms of stasis: How things are is how they will remain. They don’t take into account that opinion moves with events.

Whether or not there’s already enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump — I think there is — we will learn what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has found, even if his investigation is cut short. A significant number of Republican candidates didn’t want to run with Mr. Trump in the midterms, and the results of those elections didn’t exactly strengthen his standing within his party. His political status, weak for some time, is now hurtling downhill…

I don’t share the conventional view that if Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, the Republican-dominated Senate would never muster the necessary 67 votes to convict him. Stasis would decree that would be the case, but the current situation, already shifting, will have been left far behind by the time the senators face that question. Republicans who were once Mr. Trump’s firm allies have already openly criticized some of his recent actions, including his support of Saudi Arabia despite the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and his decision on Syria. They also openly deplored Mr. Mattis’s departure.

It always seemed to me that Mr. Trump’s turbulent presidency was unsustainable and that key Republicans would eventually decide that he had become too great a burden to the party or too great a danger to the country. That time may have arrived. In the end the Republicans will opt for their own political survival. Almost from the outset some Senate Republicans have speculated on how long his presidency would last. Some surely noticed that his base didn’t prevail in the midterms.

But it may well not come to a vote in the Senate. Facing an assortment of unpalatable possibilities, including being indicted after he leaves office, Mr. Trump will be looking for a way out. It’s to be recalled that Mr. Nixon resigned without having been impeached or convicted. The House was clearly going to approve articles of impeachment against him, and he’d been warned by senior Republicans that his support in the Senate had collapsed. Mr. Trump could well exhibit a similar instinct for self-preservation. But like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Trump will want future legal protection…

Nixon’s GOP backed Tricky Dick 110% — until they didn’t. The old crook was able to broker a soft landing, in no small part because so many other Repubs were complicit in his crimes. But Trump’s GOP is a lot dumber, crueler, and infinitely more self-centered than the early 1970s incarnation; I’m not sure they have the power, or the skill, to hustle their Dear Leader off to a gilt-plated exile without falling apart entirely. Or maybe that’s just what I hope.

Happy Friday, y’all!



Criminalizing Kindness

We are governed by monsters:

The Trump administration has arrested 170 undocumented immigrants who came forward to try to take migrant children out of government custody, federal officials said Monday. More than 100 of those arrested had no criminal record.

This is pure Trump/Sessions cruelty-as-policy:

The arrests follow a move by President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this year that allowed immigration authorities to examine the criminal background and legal status of anyone who steps forward to sponsor unaccompanied migrant children — usually parents or close relatives already in the U.S. — as well as any other adults living in their home.

That rule allowed ICE to collect biometric data, including fingerprints, of the sponsors as well as other adults in the home.

The obvious consequences of this move are two-fold.  For one:

Advocates for migrant children argue that increased background checks and arrests will scare away potential sponsors, resulting in more children being stuck in long-term federal custody while they seek legal permission to stay in the U.S. An adult’s immigration status is irrelevant to whether a home is safe for a child, and a child’s welfare should be the only focus of such background checks, advocates argue.

My only quibble with Tal Kopan’s writing above is that, while I get while the conventions of journalism dictate this kind of attribution, it’s not just advocates who argue that the threat of arrest scares people away from taking a given action…pretty much everyone gets the point here.

In any event, terrorizing would be loving care-takers of these unaccompanied kids has an immedate corollary: they will be — I won’t say cared-for, but warehoused by a government and an agency actively, intentionally, purposefully, unable to do a good job of it:

Children’s advocates fear that conditions for migrant youths could worsen as the number in federal custody grows. The Health and Human Services care system was intended to be a bridge for often traumatized children into a more stable home while they sought legal status in the U.S. Advocates fear the administration is treating it like a penal system.

The increase has been beyond what the network of shelters across the country can accommodate.

Again, the word “fear” might be more accurately replaced by “expect” or “are documenting”…but the point is clear enough.

To recap: the US government holds children they cannot care for — in some, perhaps many cases, kids that our border polizei stole from their parents.  They actively seek out members of the public who can care for these kids — who need not just food and shelter and affection, but schooling and all the daily life of growing up, almost all of which a US internment camp (never call it a Kinder Konzentrationslager) can provide.  Then they destroy dozens more families by arresting those willing to extend their household and family to include a child in need.

Donald Trump — but more, everyone in the Republican Party who does not recoil in horror from this depravity — are moral monsters.  And that is, for now, every nationally elected member of the GOP.  The Republicans run the House (for a couple of weeks more) and the Senate…they could say that no, this is a step too far.  They have not.  They are complicit; accessories and co-conspirators.

I am not a Christian, but I know that a great many are among those who have designed, implemented and provided the political cover for this evil.  I know that the Republican Party as a whole parades its Christian virtue as both its essential character and as the only legitimate source of moral value available to any American.

And to them — all of them, from Dear Hairpiece on down — I say y’all best hope that the afterlife you declare you believe in ain’t real. For I give you Jesus himself, telling you where your sorry asses will end up:

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment… 

Adriaen van der Werffe, The flight into Egypt, 1710.



Late Night Open Thread: When Slugs Vote for Salt

My every instinct revolts against agreeing with Tom Nichols, but: If even the hardcore conservative Conservatives have stopped making excuses for the Noble Hardscrabble Heartlanders, how long can the GOP oligarchs and their paid minions continue to engineer elections in their own favor?

And what happens when those oligarchs — and their ‘If dirt voted, white farmers/ranchers would be invincible!’ willing victims — realize their idealized past is never coming back?


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Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Corsi Talks!

… and apparently he’s going for a “severely diminished mental capacity” plea…

“Of course Mr. Trump couldn’t obtain competent legal advice. Look at the people he trusted!…”

It’s the Wingnut Wurlitzer equivalent of testing its latest recipe on the dog. If they can scrounge up some media pity for Jerome ‘Swiftboats & Birtherism’ Corsi, maybe they can weaponize public distaste for seeing the Oval Office Occupant frog-marched…

PHLEBITIS! How can you merciless Dems keep attacking an old man who’s in pain! Have you no humanity!…

(Fellow oldsters can back me up here: Gerry Ford’s handlers and the right-wing media used Nixon’s circulatory problems as an excuse for dropping all further Watergate investigations, on the grounds it would be ‘inhumane’ to keep attacking an invalid who probably didn’t have long to live. Of course, Nixon went on to further corrupt American politics for another couple of decades after that, in case ‘we’ need reminding.)



Deploraville Dispatch

Did you argue politics with relatives over the holiday weekend? My Trumpster kin had nothing to say about their orange idol. I suspect they’re ashamed of him but too stubborn to admit it.

I’d like to think that’s progress, but I know better; they still believe the same stupid shit that made them vote for a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue in the first place.

Over the weekend, I read a Washington Monthly piece by Daniel Block about Democrats in deep red areas — kinda the opposite of the Deploraville safari articles about “heartland” Trump voters.

There’s a lot of truth to it, IMO. Here’s an excerpt:

Reporters have descended on conservative bastions like Augusta, as well as counties that recently flipped from blue to red, in a bid to understand how a reality television star became president. They have spoken to longtime, working-class conservatives and ex-Democrats who, through Trump, finally found a vehicle through which to express their political frustrations. In doing so, they’ve routinely painted a picture of Trump-voting America so predictable that it has become a trope. Yet very few journalists have chosen to focus on the Democrats in Trump country who stayed Democrats…

But even in places like Augusta County, thousands of people voted for Hillary Clinton. No depiction of Trump country is complete without them. Most of their neighbors may be standing by the president, but if Augusta is any indication, Democrats in rural red counties are just as fired up and enthused as their counterparts in liberal cities. In Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, which includes Augusta, no Democrat has mounted a midterm congressional campaign in twenty years. This year, four people ran…

As more activists come out of the woodwork, the Democratic Party gains more people like Frank Nolen: human faces who can make the party more accessible to residents with hidden liberal inclinations. This is critical for the party’s fortunes. Building a viable electoral infrastructure depends on making it socially acceptable to be a Democrat.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the people who belong to the party that opposes an abusive, corrupt, would-be authoritarian degenerate are the ones who suffer social consequences for that. But it’s a reality that many of us live on the daily. That’s part of the reason you won’t find me boo-hooing over Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ comped cheese plate or pitying Tucker Carlson for blowback to his hate-mongering.

Fox News feeds its viewers a steady diet of “oppressed conservatives in Hollywood” stories and plays up incidents where its wealthy hate-mongers are harassed by ordinary citizens. The Fox News audience eats that victimization shit up — all the while engaging in subtle and overt intimidation tactics against neighbors with different political views.

The Post has an article today by doctoral candidate Emily Van Duyn about Democratic women secretly organizing in a deep red part of Texas. Some of the women in the underground group she studied shared why they’re unwilling to “come out” as Democrats:

The existence of this group does more than tell us about 136 women in a small county in Texas. Their experience of fear and intimidation challenges assumptions about democracy in the United States. That is, in a truly liberal democracy, people should be able to voice their views without fear of retaliation.

These women’s choice to engage and persist underground also challenges us to reconsider the privilege of being publicly political and the possibility that the things we see on the surface in our communities, the yard signs, the bumper stickers, are not the whole story.

It’s not the whole story, and we can’t write off the folks in those places. I know it’s tempting to give up on red areas — I live in one, and sometimes I think the best solution is to re-stage Sherman’s march. In a post about radicalized rural kids earlier this week, Mistermix observed:

This is not to say that radicalized rural kids aren’t a problem – but the problem is bigger than that. The Senate and the Electoral College over-represent states that intelligent progressive kids want to leave. Maybe, as Deb and James Fallows have reported, some of these kids will stay and enlarge blue dots in otherwise conservative states. But why bother when you can just move a few hundred miles away and not have to deal with the narrow minds and poverty of spirit that infects rural America?

I don’t have a good answer to that dilemma for individuals. I fled my conservative home turf as a young person too, only to ultimately return. But as a society, if we want to have a functioning democracy (and maybe even avoid a second civil war), those of us who do choose to remain in red areas — people like Cole, some of you, and me — have to do the hard work of building an electoral infrastructure, as outlined in the Washington Monthly piece.

That’s the only way forward. I sure hope we can pull it off.