Unhinged (Open Thread)

Trump did a phone interview with a Fox News friendly this morning. It did not go well.

In the first clip below, Trump accuses Robert Mueller of a “crime,” claiming the special counsel “terminated” texts and/or emails between “stupid lovers” Strzok and Page.* Then he bellows about the content of the “illegally terminated” texts/emails, thus indicating that he somehow read them despite their being allegedly lost to posterity. It’s just incoherent.

The second clip is even worse since it pertains to a real issue rather than a demented fantasy: the Trump concentration camps at the border. Trump indicates he may not sign the funding bill from the House, underscoring yet again his intent to use abused children and their desperate families as pawns to get wall funding.

He also repeats the lie about the family separation policy (100% Trump’s) in short-hand fashion since, on Fox News, it’s an article of faith that President Obama created family separation and Trump is the hero who’s trying to end it. Trump then rants that his administration is doing a “great job” at the border and whines about people focusing on “one little site” (where children have been hideously abused!) instead of the big picture, which is also a heinous fail-parade of cruelty and misery by any objective measure.

The clips are almost worth watching just for Bartiromo’s facial expressions. She’s one of the many amoral sleaze-bags at Fox News who helped propel this raving lunatic to power, so watching her failed struggle to shape the interview so that her subject sounds more like a human being in control of his faculties than a semi-sentient YouTube comments thread is almost comical.

I’m past believing that any unhinged public performance by Trump will move the needle with the media or the public and affect coverage or approval ratings. At this point, such a hope is probably as vain as the pundit yearning for a “pivot” in which the lunatic in the Oval Office suddenly starts acting like a president — even a regular old bad, corrupt and incompetent president. But damn!

Open thread!

*BTW, do Strzok and Page have any avenue of redress for their constant vilification and defamation by a sitting president? Trump is so bizarrely obsessed with those two, never failing to use the word “lover” multiple times (and with maximum creepiness!) when discussing them. He apparently derives some sick, hypocritical satisfaction from emphasizing their alleged infidelity.

Trump routinely and baselessly accuses the two of participating in a conspiracy theory to take him down, and I don’t doubt that each renewal of that accusation prompts Trump’s unhinged fans to threaten the two. Trump’s fans have a history of threatening violence, sending mail bombs and amassing weapons and creating “kill lists,” so “irresponsible” doesn’t begin to cover Trump’s treatment of Page and Strzok. It’s criminal, or at least it should be.

Beto O’ Rourke Demonstrates a Statistical Concept

Many moons ago in statistics courses as a young, skinny, eager to learn graduate student, we discussed the statistical concept of regression to the mean. I will just put it in layman’s terms, which is that if in statistics you happen across an outlier and subsequent measurements have it closer to the mean, it is known as regression to the mean. Again, I am paraphrasing and not getting into linear regression or any of the more complicated things- you statisticians and math whizzes can clarify anything I have argle-bargled in the comments. At any rate, regression to the mean has a number of colloquial names, one of which is reversion to mediocrity.

Beto O’Rourke really looked like an outlier in his Senate campaign in 2016- people were whispering Barack 2 and there was a huge buzz about him running for President, and blah blah blah you remember the campaign. As time has shown us, running against the most hated man in the Senate who was potentially not only the Zodiac Killer but the son of the man who killed JFK really helped out Beto. Since then it has been a steep decline into a shitty brand of travelogue videos and unforced errors and, well, this:

Which gets me to the point of this post, which is Beto’s announcement today:

Non-military households would pay a “war tax” to help cover the health care of veterans of newly-authorized wars under a plan Beto O’Rourke’s campaign unveiled Monday.

The former Texas congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential contender’s proposal is part of a series of health and economic measures aimed at improving care for veterans.

O’Rourke is in Tampa on Monday for a veterans’ roundtable, where he is expected to discuss his plan for the first time. It comes before the Democratic field holds its first debate Wednesday and Thursday nights in Miami.

O’Rourke is also calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with half the money currently being spent there redirected to programs for veterans of those wars.

Money collected through the “war tax” — which he is proposing for future wars — would go into a new trust fund for veterans established at the outset of each war.

I will fully admit that I have not kept up with everything that has oozed out of Seth Moulton’s piehole or followed Tulsi Gabbard’s grift in detail, so I can not say this with 100% certainty, but this is the dumbest fucking thing that I have observed any Democratic candidate propose this election cycle. It’s so stupid I’m sure I can’t cover all the ways it is bad.

First and foremost, we already have a crisis with our military- it’s been volunteer for so long that we now have generations of professional soldiers with children who are now professional soldiers, and it has become the family business. On top of our already jingoistic authoritarianism that is so prevalent (fucking every sporting event is brought to you by the military/industrial complex, military discounts, sappy commercialism, fucking spots at Lowe’s reserved for veterans, and all the other bullshit), we’ve gotten to the point that a number of soldiers and veterans ALREADY think they are better than the rest of the country. That’s bad.

Second, non-military families already pay a war tax, and it is called THE FEDERAL INCOME TAX.

Third, we already set aside money for special things. Perhaps you have heard of social security. That money is safe and secure, right?

And on and on and on. Maybe Beto thinks this will slow down future calls for war. He’s wrong. Only one thing, and one thing only, will do that- bring back the draft.

What he is proposing is a bad idea. Only someone not qualified for President would look at this and say “sure, that makes sense.” Only someone manifestly unfit to be President would then PRESENT THE IDEA AS HIS OWN. Just stop sending fucking people off to pointless wars and stop electing Republicans who want to cut VA funding and privatize it. The End.


So Beto O’Rourke, as it turns out, is very fucking average. And I don’t say that as an insult. I consider myself a very average person. I remember a conversation I had last year with my doctor when he was talking about blood pressure medicine and rare possible side effects, and I just stopped him and told him- “I’ve discovered over the years that I am a very average person. What I mean by that is if a drug, or exercise regimen, or rehab plan, or basically anything works for 95/100 people if they follow it, it will work for me. I’m never one of the 5/100 who has complications.” Everything about me is rather unremarkable- even my blood type is O+, the most common blood type there is. I have very average goals in life, I have very average interests. My intellect may be a little above your average bear, but I have made up for that with decades of booze and a degree in street pharmacology, with a little laziness and by being easily distracted by pretty things and animals.

And I am perfectly ok with that! I know I sound angry a great deal, but it’s because I am usually ranting when you read me, but for the most part I am very happy and content and ok with my lot in life. I like blending in, I like not being the center of attention. I lived with some overachievers in undergraduate- guys who were in student government and fancied themselves leaders and wanted to be the best at everything and you know the type. Went off to be lawyers, work on Wall Street, try to conquer the world and the like. They all are 50-51, just quit their jobs because they are burnt out and miserable, and are really struggling trying to figure things out- what do I want to do, where do I want to live, how do I find meaning, all that kind of shit. I try to tell them to get some dogs and a garden and some birdfeeders and to live more in the moment and stop worrying about what other people think, and if they really want to be humbled and gain some perspective on their place in the universe, get a cat. But they don’t listen and are talking about STARTING A NONPROFIT or GOING TO CULINARY SCHOOL or GIVING BACK.

So average and mediocre aren’t insults- it’s the norm. And it is ok.

Unfortunately for Beto, though, we don’t need an average President. So maybe just pencil in some time for skateboarding or haircuts in 2020. I also hear there is a Senate seat in Texas you could run for.

About last night…

After warming up by ranting about last night’s Fox News programming, Trump finally tweet-screams an account of the scrubbed Iran strike:

Jun 21, 2019 08:03:14 AM – President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran – Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled…..

Jun 21, 2019 08:03:16 AM – ….Death to America. I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!….

Jun 21, 2019 08:03:17 AM – ….On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not….

Jun 21, 2019 08:03:18 AM – ….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!

Note that the outburst begins with several lies and contains multiple instances of self-aggrandizement, including the obligatory humble-brag about how generals call him “sir” — it’s pathetic how compulsively he points that out.

Anyhoo, what have we learned? Nothing. A malignant narcissist/pathological liar has weighed in with his account. I’ll believe it when someone with a shred of credibility, i.e., not Trump or a Trump minion, tells us how it went down.

Open thread!

Money Kills

I believe I hold anti-vaxxers in the same regard I do gun-worshippers.  It’s all ok until you put someone else at risk…which you do all the time.

What triggered this latest outburst of dismay and disdain? This Washington Post report on a new front in billionaire fuckery:

A wealthy Manhattan couple has emerged as significant financiers of the anti-vaccine movement, contributing more than $3 million in recent years to groups that stoke fears about immunizations online and at live events — including two forums this year at the epicenter of measles outbreaks in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Of course the folks at the epicenter of this malicious nonsense are hedge fund MOTUs:

Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa, have long donated to organizations focused on the arts, culture, education and the environment. But seven years ago, their private foundation embraced a very different cause: groups that question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

I don’t know what it is about the thrill of ultra-successful rent seeking, but somehow that much money gained so incommensurately with effort or social utility seems to convince those dancing in its golden shower that they are absolutely suited and even obligated to set the terms of social life for all of us. Which means they get to kill folks with impunity.

And I do mean kill, as in blood on their hands; in this case, often that of children.

Nine At least two reportable vaccine preventable deaths in the US in 2017, the last year for which I could easily find CDC data. Add to that the suffering (and expense) of all the non-fatal cases of vaccine-preventable diseases, including the record-breaking number of cases of measles in 2019 – 1044 as of June 13, more than any year since 1992, and thus the most since measles was briefly and optimistically declared eradicated from the US in 2000.

Oh those halcyon and innocent days when we thought that folks would rejoice at being released from a once epidemic reaper of children!

Why are these reckless rich pukes doing this? No one seems to know:

How the Selzes came to support anti-vaccine ideas is unknown, but their financial impact has been enormous. Their money has gone to a handful of determined individuals who have played an outsize role in spreading doubt and misinformation about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. The groups’ false claims linking vaccines to autism and other ailments, while downplaying the risks of measles, have led growing numbers of parents to shun the shots.

There is an increasingly direct line between such funding and the actual harm produced by anti-vax propaganda:

The Selz Foundation provides roughly three-fourths of the funding for the Informed Consent Action Network, a three-year-old charity that describes its mission as promoting drug and vaccine safety and parental choice in vaccine decisions.

Lisa Selz serves as the group’s president, but its public face and chief executive is Del Bigtree, a former daytime television show producer who draws big crowds to public events. Bigtree has no medical credentials but holds himself out as an expert on vaccine safety and promotes the idea that government officials have colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to cover up grievous harms from the drugs. In recent weeks, Bigtree has headlined forums in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, N.Y., both areas confronting large measles outbreaks.

And here’s the quote that made me think Sing Sing is too comfortable for such folks:

“They should be allowed to have the measles if they want the measles,” Bigtree told reporters outside the Brooklyn meeting on June 4. “It’s crazy that there’s this level of intensity around a trivial childhood illness.”

I used to think we needed confiscatory estate taxes so that, for example, the Koch brothers would have had to go out and actually earn some scratch before they got to buy the US judiciary.  I still think that’s a necessary corrective to wealth inequality, but I’m now wondering if a pre-mortem levy might be necessary if we’re ever going to recapture the public space from the depredations the wealth-makes-me-smart crowd.

Oh, and one more thing: adults need vaccines too.  I realize I haven’t asked my PCP if I’m up to date in my last couple of check ups, and plan to correct that omission STAT. Free advice, worth what you paid for it…

Image:  attr. to Philippe de Champaigne, Portrait of a Dead Child, c. 1650.

Corporate Dems for Warren! (Open Thread)

This fucking guy:

What a fucking fuck-face. Including Medicare for All was a nice touch since Warren co-sponsored his damned bill.

At least Sanders is making it clear this run is all about his Trump-scale ego early in the race. Maybe this is why?

Can’t wait to see that old turd flushed down the drain, and the sooner the better.