Unlimber That Gas Mask

Amidst all the attention grabbing stuff — you know, just a president accusing his predecessor of high crimes — the Trump administration proceeds with impressive consistency with moves designed to make the world worse, Americans sicker/poorer, and their inner circle enriched.

Next week, it’ll be the air-we-breathe’s turn:

The Trump administration is expected to begin rolling back stringent federal regulations on vehicle pollution that contributes to global warming, according to people familiar with the matter, essentially marking a U-turn to efforts to force the American auto industry to produce more electric cars.

The announcement — which is expected as soon as Tuesday and will be made jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, and the transportation secretary, Elaine L. Chao — will immediately start to undo one of former President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental legacies.

During the same week, and possibly on the same day, Mr. Trump is expected to direct Mr. Pruitt to begin the more lengthy and legally complex process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s rules to cut planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The regulatory rollback on vehicle pollution will relax restrictions on tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and will not require action by Congress. It will also have a major effect on the United States auto industry.

I don’t want to go all-apocalyptic on this news, in part because I want to sleep more than four hours tonight, and more because there are some secular processes underway that reduce the impact of Trump’s and Republican willingness to destroy the climate and give Americans respiratory diseases — think the long-term losing market battle coal is waging against everything else, and the advances in transportation tech that will help mitigate the license to ill being granted the domestic auto industry. (I’d note that those car companies based in countries that do impose efficiency rules will now get an advantage over the big three that could very likely hit the domestic industry hard in a decade or less…rather like the way Japanese car companies were poised to take advantage of the oil shocks of the 70s, to great wailing and gnashing of teeth in Detroit.)

But even with that rather meagre reed of hope, there’s no way to spin this as anything but craptastic news for both the global and every local environment.

Every act this administration takes; every law this congress takes is the fruit of a poisoned tree: an election manipulated by foreigners, and undermined by domestic law enforcement.  There’s no room for negotiation here.  Step one: 2018.

Image: Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Gas masks for man and horse demonstrated by American soldierc. 1917-18



You’re Fired! and Ready to Go…Errr, P’raps Not

There’s much to be said about the still-unpossible fact that the shitgibbon is now president.  But in this day one of our national experiment in test-to-destruction governance, there’s something…missing.

That would be a government.  Or at least, an administration.

There are roughly 675 Federal positions that require Senate confirmation.*

There are some four thousand more jobs to be filled by direct appointment, and while many of those are minor, many are not.**

So that’s the hole. How far along is Trump to filling it?

Well, according to The Washington Post‘s tracker, Trump has so far sent 30 names to the Senate.***  None have been confirmed.

Update: James Mattis and John F. Kelly have now been confirmed for Defense and Homeland Security respectively.

By comparison in 2009, six Obama cabinet nominees were confirmed as of the inauguration, and four more followed the next week.

And even if/when all those nominated so far do make it through the Senate process, they’ll be doing — or rather not getting done all the work of the senior management of their departments.

Foreign policy? We ain’t got none, for the time being, no matter how often Trump bellows “America First!”  There are no appointees at State below the secretary level. That’s not “none-confirmed.” That’s none, as in not a single deputy, assistant, or under secretary has yet been named.

We’ve got no boots on the ground either.  In a break with prior custom, Trump demanded the resignation of every serving ambassador as of today.  With only three as-yet unvetted, much less confirmed, ambassadorial appointments, and dozens yet to be made, the US is without its head-of-mission everywhere.  While it’s true that politically appointed ambassadors have professional staffs that are still in place, the fact remains that our international representatives aren’t there.

Same goes for the national security apparatus.  The odious and unfit Michael Flynn does not require Senate confirmation, so he’s on the job.  He’s got no help though:

Trump has made one other NSC appointment, tapping retired Gen. Keith Kellogg to be NSC chief of staff. And some reports indicate that Matt Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal China correspondent who joined the U.S. Marines and grew close to Flynn, may become the NSC’s director for Asia.

It ain’t going to get any better any time soon.  Flynn’s in charge of filling out his org chart, and, as the same Politico article notes, he’s making a mess of it:   Read more



Open thread

Some catchy music to end the weekend.

Chat about whatever.



Do Not Be Distracted By What The Shitgibbon Says. Pay Attention To What His People Do

One of the signal failures of the media throughout the Trump dumpster fire of a campaign was to focus on his words — parsing, shifts in terminology, trying to distinguish between lies and hyperbole, or simply providing theater criticism on his performances, connections to audience and so on.  All the while, the critical information: what the combination of his ample history, the (few) clear positions he staked, and the people he hired revealed about what Trump would actually do as President.

That basic error is still with us, nicely diagnosed in this post by Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic:

It works like this: Donald Trump, the president-elect himself, says something that sounds like he might be moderating on the issue. Then, his staff takes a radical action in the other direction.

Last week, Trump told the staff of The New York Times that he was keeping an open mind about the existence of climate change.

This was, as Meyer notes, treated as a major shift, given Trump’s earlier claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax.  As a result, many slow learners touted this story (Meyer self-indicts here.) But, of course, Trump’s almost certainly intentionally vague statement —

“I think there is some connectivity” between human activity and the warming climate, Trump said. “There is some, something. It depends on how much.”…

both grants him almost unlimited freedom of maneuver and was almost immediately belied by what his transition team is actually doing:

A day after Trump talked to the Times, The Guardian reported that the Trump administration plans could cut all of NASA’s Earth science research….

…which, as many have already noted, is vital for ongoing climate monitoring and ongoing attempts to study the implications of human – driven global warming with the resolution needed to inform action.

hieronymus_bosch_versuchung_des_hl-_antonius

Then there’s this:

Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, Steven Groves, has been added to Trump’s State Department transition team. Just last week, Groves called for the United States to leave the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the overarching treaty that governs how the world organizes itself to address global warming. Groves also said the U.S. should move to “dismantle” domestic climate regulations.

Thus, a picture of a Trump administration policy on climate change: destroy the research infrastructure needed to study climate, and wreck both national and international prospects for action to address what a true existential crisis.

The moral, to use Meyer’s phrase, is that Trump is a master of the two-step, baffling the unwary (aka, seemingly, the entire New York Times staff) while proceeding behind that verbal smokescreen towards the worst possible choices.  We need a much more vigilant press, and a brave one.

Image: Hieronymous Bosch, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (left panel detail), 1495-1515.  Not an exact match to the post, but I’m kinda just looking for apocalyptic images these days, and this certainly works for that.



Listen To Someone Who Knows Something About The Shitgibbon’s Mentor

Masha Gessen knows from vicious fascist dictators.  Here’s what she has to say under the headline “Autocracy: Rules for Survival“:

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says….

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.

[See Betty’s post below]

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you….

Rule #4: Be outraged

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises

Rule #6: Remember the future….

ozymandias_collossus-_ramesseum_luxor_egypt

This is one of those read-the-whole-thing deals.  Masha has lived what she’s talking about here.  I have had the good fortune to spend some evenings talking with her, and she is at once one of the sharpest, most un-bull-shit-able political thinkers I know and among the most courageous people I’ve ever met.

If you don’t have time, or, like me, have only a finite tolerance for looking straight at the beast looking back at us, here’s the short form, as stated in Rule 4:

If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

That leads to the logic of Rule 6:

Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

I expect we will lose most battles for years to come. Perhaps all of them.  ETA: Fuck that noise.  The comments below decrying defeatism are right.  We’re going to win a bunch.  Not everything, and people will get hurt, badly.  But Republicans are already over reaching.  They’re fuck-ups and we’ll be able to take advantage of the openings they provide.  See this from David Cole for a little hope.  Which is why I keep coming back to Masha’s conclusion — say no, and keep on saying it — and see it as a pocket-guide-for-the-perplexed.

I’ve more to say, as I think towards what specific forms my resistance may take, but none of that’s really formed yet, beyond giving some money to some of the most obvious targets.  More later.  In the meantime, what Gessen says:  Trump will not last forever, and resistance is many things — but not futile.

Image: the Ozymandias Colossus — Raames II, mistakenly identified as the mythical king Ozymandias.  This ruin inspired Percy Bysshe Shelly to write this.



Putin’s Puppet and NFLG Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid has just released a letter to FBI Director Comey that is utterly (and IMHO appropriately) brutal.

It contains two key elements.  The first is a direct assertion that Comey has engaged in partisan political action, and may (by implication, has) broken the law by violating the Hatch Act.

The second is this:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

neuville_alphonse_de_-_the_spy_-_1880

Hillary Clinton’s aide’s husband sent dick picks from a computer that may or may not contain emails that may or may not add to our nation’s stock of risotto recipes.

Donald Trump, apparantly, has consequential entanglement with the former KGB thug-led Russian government and its klepto-thug circle of supporters.

We know hair-raising innuendo about the former.

About the latter, from the same institution?  Crickets.

Sauce for the goose damn well ought to be sauce for the gander.  And Comey’s a hack who needs to go at the earliest politick opportunity. (And yeah, that’s not a typo.  I like that old spelling.)

No BS here: if the FBI has pertinent information on Trump’s potential for conflict of interest due to his Russian encounters, we need to know this now.

Here is Reid’s letter in full:

Dear Director Comey:

Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another. I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.

The double standard established by your actions is clear.

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.

Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department. You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that for all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton.

As you know, a memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on March 10, 2016, makes clear that all Justice Department employees, including you, are subject to the Hatch Act. The memo defines the political activity prohibited under the Hatch Act as “activity directed towards the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”

The clear double-standard established by your actions strongly suggests that your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.

Please keep in mind that I have been a supporter of yours in the past. When Republicans filibustered your nomination and delayed your confirmation longer than any previous nominee to your position, I led the fight to get you confirmed because I believed you to be a principled public servant.

With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.

Sincerely,

Senator Harry Reid

Image: Alphonse de Neuville, The Spy1880.



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.