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.



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.



Donald Trump: Fascist

I can’t think of another way to describe him after this* [Politico link]:

Donald Trump suggested canceling the election Thursday and granting himself the presidency.

“What a difference. You know, what a difference this is,” Trump said during a rally in Toledo, Ohio, after comparing his tax plan with Hillary Clinton’s.

“And just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for? What are we having it for?” he asked. “Her policies are so bad. Boy, do we have a big difference.”

Because that’s how he rolls, and how the party that nominated him would, if they could.

I got nuthin’ beyond that.

640px-joseph_mallord_william_turner_-_the_decline_of_the_carthaginian_empire_-_wga23169

Except perhaps this:  the Republican party is a wholly owned Trump subsidiary now. It must be destroyed, its walls pulled down, its proud towers cast down, its fields sown with salt.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est

*Actually, I’ve been using that label for the Cheeto-faced Ferret-heedit Shitgibbon for some time.  But that’s neither here nor there.

Image: J. W. M. Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire1817.



Welcome to Gilead

handmaids-taleLike many of you, perhaps, I have been literally appalled at the GOP for decades. And every time I reach a kind of equilibrium, they appall me worse and I have to readjust.

But this business of repealing the 19th Amendment? That’s on a whole new dark and disturbing level. I can barely find the words to express my new level of appalledness, but fortunately someone else did: Margaret Atwood. From one of the most chilling sections of her chilling book, The Handmaid’s Tale:

It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics at the time.

Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.

I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

That was when they suspended the Constitution.

She then goes on to describe in chilling (that word again!) detail the rapid, systematic disempowerment of women: barred from working outside the home, barred from owning property, etc.–all the way to becoming property themselves.

The scary thing is how plausible it all sounds.

A couple of years ago, Atwood visited West Point:

After her opening remarks, the questions posed by the cadets — who identified themselves by name and rank before asking — referred to everything from Islamism to Descartes, whom Atwood paraphrases at one point in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Yes, if she were writing the novel now she might have borrowed some of the oppressive tactics of Muslim fundamentalists, but, 30 years on, contemporary American politics — such as conservatives’ references to “real rape” in the run-up to the 2014 elections and the bizarre belief held by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that a woman’s body reflexively disables conception in the event of “legitimate rape” — still offers ample inspiration. When those stories broke, she said, the hashtag “#handmaidstale” began to appear all over social media. The book has been filmed, made into an opera and is currently being adapted as a graphic novel.

Surprisingly, none of the questions referred to the ostensibly Christian nature of the Gilead regime. In 2012, a cadet named Blake Page resigned from West Point, complaining that the excessive religiosity of the culture at the academy “willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America” and fosters “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets.” (Among the practices Page objected to were mandatory events that routinely included prayers.)

Perhaps most striking, given Mercer’s hopes for a new vocabulary, was that all of the questioners were male, and none of them asked about the status of women in Gilead.

A certain apocryphal “Chinese curse” comes to mind.

BUT, being an optimistic sort, I’ll also point out that The World Values Survey has for years been documenting a global shift away from “survival” (authoritarian / sexist / xenophobic / etc.) values to “self-expression” (equality / tolerance / etc.) ones. I was taught that privilege fights hardest at the end, and so there’s plenty of reason for hope, especially given digital technology’s wondrous capacity to decentralize information and power.

Not that the Far Right is going to disappear, but they’ll just get more and more marginalized.

You can call me a gullible fool–and I’m sure someone will!–but in the words of the immortal Joel, I have been a fool for lesser things. Also, I like the company I’m keeping, out here in the ranks of the foolish optimists.

Also, too:

The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985! Talk about a Lady Oracle!

Hulu’s doing a movie!

Ms. Atwood is a long-time animal rights proponent.



Time To Take Acting President Mike Pence Seriously

Francisco_Goya_-_Night_Scene_from_the_Inquisition_-_Google_Art_Project

From The New York Times:

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

Two obvious thoughts:

First:  the Trump folks can’t be bothered to hide the con, not even a little.

Every Trump voter out there, know this:

Remember:  in any good confidence game, most of the work is done by the sucker.  So you Trump voters?  You’re marks. Chumps. Just the latest in the long, long line of folks whom the ferret-headed Mussolini-of-Queens-County has played for losers.  You think you’re electing a tough guy who can get things done? He tells you himself that’s bullshit.

Second: as we confront the FSM-help-us-and-save-us possibility that Trump actually wins come November, who Pence is, what he thinks, and what he wants to do are much more important than they should be, more vital even than the Cheney history would remind us.

And that should scare the living piss out of us.  “Scare” isn’t the right word, actually.  Try “terrify.”  With Trumpismo as the public face of the United States and a theocratic, misogynist, bigoted incompetent administrator with zero effective knowledge/experience of the world beyond our borders in charge of domestic and foreign policy?….

Heed the words of Master Bruce:

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Image: Francisco de Goya, Night Scene from the Inquisition1810


Late Night RNC Fustercluck Open Thread



Stay away from Cleveland

Folks, I know how tempting it is to go to the snakes’ den and tell them what you think to their face. I have done it. It’s cathartic. It feels great. Please don’t.

From a tactical perspective the convention does not need our help to be be a complete dumpster fire. Half the people in that convention hall hate the other half with the heat of a hundred suns, while a huge faction of delegates are openly scheming to unseat the nominee, i.e., destroy the party in order to save it. We should give them space to express all these feelings at each other. A common enemy outside would just give them a reason to rally together. Trump wants chaos. He feeds on it. The crazier things get outside the more Republicans will support him. Someone else once gained (siezed) power the exact same way.

Second and more important, Cleveland will be a security nightmare. Cleveland cops are a long way from role models on a good day. Next week the Cleveland PD will be overwhelmed, scared and dressed like an invading army. They will have divisions of staties and National Guard who will almost certainly follow their lead, open carry lunatics dressed like commandos will wander around giving them heartburn, and they will have an especially short fuse for anything that might be connected with Black Lives Matter. I recognize that is not fair. They have the badges and that is the mood right now, at least among departments with a history of racial problems. Does that sound like Cleveland to you? Best case scenario, expect aggressive crowd control and ‘free speech zones’ a good mile from the convention. I would not be surprised to see kettling, violent arrests for little or no reason and a whole lot of mace. It would not surprise me to see LRADs and possibly even microwave-based active denial systems deployed. I know the last one sounds crazy, but microwave torture (“crowd control”) beams have developed to the point where police departments could theoretically deploy them, if the DoD completely lost its mind. Given the circumstances I would not 100% write it off.

Finally, I know you know this already, but Trump’s hard core are fucking nuts. They are armed, racist, angry and they don’t believe in non-violence. Ohio’s laws let people open carry any guns they want right up to whatever line the Secret Service draws on the pavement. You legally have to retreat before using deadly force in Ohio, but don’t count on Florida Man knowing that. The RSVP list already includes those neo-Nazis who had the rally in Sacramento with all the stabbings. Inside the convention horrible people will be whipping up hate and fear like a soufflé cook on a meth bender.

I understand that dissent is the beating heart of a free society, and I would never tell anyone that they can’t go and speak their mind at jerks who richly deserve it. All I am suggesting is, for this occasion anyway, maybe live tweet it instead.