Friday, October 27, 2017

One Of These Things Is Just Like The Other

Tomorrow's newspaper column:
It’s a good week to talk hypocrisy. 
First, the obvious: anyone who voted to put “their” sex predator in the White House isn’t allowed to criticize any Democrat who accepted money from “theirs.” The difference between the despicable Harvey Weinstein and the deplorable Donald Trump is that one got fired and the other got elected.  
Polls indicate the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the accusations against Weinstein; only eight percent of Republicans believe those against Trump. There, in full view, is “Foxification” and how it ruins our country. It’s of a piece with Trump supporters who received hurricane aid saying American citizens in Puerto Rico don’t deserve it. 
If that sort of hypocrisy is normal in today’s political climate (the one that’s not changing), another is far worse: Niger. As to the more minor issue: maybe Trump’s bone-headed call to Myeshia Johnson was the result of a doomed effort by John Kelley to teach a sociopath how to fake empathy. Kelley gave him words; Trump, unable to understand any suffering but delusions of his own, had no idea how to use them. Lacking the moral tools or simple decency to allow a war widow her grief, he’s been making it worse ever since.  
At one time, despite his enthusiasm for deporting non-offenders while at DHS, General Kelley appeared possibly honorable. His attacks on Representative Wilson eliminated that misconception faster than EPA quashed its scientists’ speaking engagements. For his false accusations, there are two possible explanations: either he was provided inaccurate (or misremembered) information about her speech at the FBI building, or he knowingly lied. If the former, a correction and apology would be forthcoming from a man of honor; if the latter, then of course there’d be none. To date, there’s been none. 
Then, with Trumpic name-calling, Kelly went far beyond mere lies. Trump’s amorality is a virus. The White House is an immunosuppression zone.  
Steve Bannon said criticism of Trump dishonors the military. And when Sarah “Going to hell in a Huckabee” Sanders says it’s “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general, where we’re headed with this administration became even clearer. True conservatives (do any remain?) should be appalled. It hardly needs stating that Trump has criticized four-stars repeatedly (just did so regarding Niger). Or that the Pentagon scramble to come up with names for belated condolence proves he lied when he said he’d called “virtually all” Gold Star families.  
But let’s get to the hypocriticrux of it. Dots aplenty surround the action in Niger that got four Green Berets killed, and we have a right to know if they’re connected: why was Chad, a reliable partner in the fight against ISIS, placed on Trump’s banned immigration list? Was its subsequent withdrawal from Niger related? Did that endanger whatever mission those men were on? Was there adequate support for that mission? Was it, as a “Congressional source” said, the result of a “massive intelligence failure?” Why did Trump use “private contractors” to retrieve the bodies? How many are in Niger and what are they doing? Why was Trump silent on the episode for so long? Was it because it belied his claim of vanquishing ISIS? What IS the mission in Niger, and why didn’t Congress know Trump had sent a thousand troops there? Does it dishonor America to want more than Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford’s account?  
These questions are at least as important as those surrounding Benghazi (asked and answered, over and over, for eight years). Yet we’ve heard of no plans by our Koch-owned, Republican-run Congress to convene hearings, Benghazi-style (kangaroid, multiple, parallel, repetitive, witness-limited, televised) or otherwise. Not Russian hacking, either. Oh, but they’re opening yet another dead-horse email investigation, and reanimating their uranium distortions. 
Will we be told, from the other side of Congressional mouths, inquiry into Niger would “politicize” a matter of national security? As opposed to Benghazi, et al.? How about considering it “supporting our troops,” which, General Kelly made clear, is becoming the prime measure not only of patriotism, but of dispensation to raise questions. From such an undrained swamp do juntas arise.  
Looking away is the biggest hypocrisy of them all. And there remain too many examples for limited space: deficits, executive orders, deficits, fair elections, deficits… And opposition research. Let’s not forget that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Truth? We Don't Need No Stinking Truth.

Why would anyone think Republicans would allow a truthful, deep, comprehensive investigation into Russian interference with our election process?
... Nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling...
Voter suppression and fake news got them where they are. It's clear that Russia helped in both. Why mess with a good thing, right?

The party of patriots. Lovers of the Constitution. America first. They hate us for our freedoms.The bullshit is so deeply ingrained, the deplorables so fully in charge despite (one likes to believe) being a distinct minority of Americans, that at this point there seems no way out.

Which is why.

[Image source]

Friday, October 20, 2017


My next newspaper column. It's decidedly local but, perhaps, an issue with wider relevance. The backstory is there's a guy in these parts who makes a fine living (a quarter mill a year, it's reported) cranking out voter initiatives (yeah, WA is one of those states, for better or worse, mostly worse) that play on the anti-tax, anti-government sensation that's sweeping the nation.
When we arrived here thirty-five years ago the Mukilteo Speedway passed mostly through forest. Harbor Pointe and Seaway/Merrill Creek didn’t exist, nor did many of the apartments downtown and along Casino Road. Mill Creek and much of what’s now part of Mukilteo hadn’t yet been incorporated. The Navy wasn’t here, or its developments in Marysville, or the crowded shopping malls to the north.  
Back then we could drive to Seattle in about half an hour almost any time. Bumbershoot could be enjoyed for $2.50 (free on Fridays) with room to spread out. The population of Snohomish county was about 350,000. One of the fastest growing counties in the country, it’s now nearly 800,000. If there’s an end in sight, it’s invisible to me.  
The “Negotiated Agreement,” which, we were told by our realtor, meant Paine Field would never become a commercial airport, was smoke. Bringing even more people, Alliant Air and United Airlines are first in line. And, because it looks like Northwest Washington will be the last part of the US to become uninhabitable due to climate change, still more will flock here, needing places to live; good news for builders. Both Everett mayoral candidates favor upzoning for taller buildings downtown, for more “density.” There’s gotta be point at which it becomes unsustainable: overcrowded, gridlocked, polluted, parched. 
But unabated population growth in these parts looks to be a permanent condition. If land in Everett and Mukilteo is about tapped out, there are still nearby farms to be converted, a few uncut trees, more zoning laws to change. Our freeways are maxed already. Social services, too. Police and fire protection, water resources, air quality, sewage treatment and, eventually, even power supplies, can’t support this rate of expansion forever. Much as I’d like, selfishly, to see a moratorium on growth I know it won’t happen. Too much depends on it. Candidates say no to more taxes, but yes oh yes to more taxpayers. 
The good news is there’s effective action we can take in response to unstoppable growth, and we must do it, now, before it’s too late. Happily, it requires almost no effort: Just say no. 
To Tim Eyman.  
Say no to his latest ploy for self-enrichment, cranking out initiatives, counting on American heads remaining in the sand.  
Apparently caring as little about quality of life here as Donald Trump cares about air, water, climate, education, equal rights, and access to healthcare everywhere, Eyman has offloaded yet another self-serving initiative, this one aimed at reversing our commitment to mass transit. Betting we’d prefer a permanent traffic jam over paying for a half-way livable future is a safe bet: he makes his money on the presentation, not the outcome. He wins either way, even if we don’t. (Which is why, I believe, he’s written initiatives that get struck down by courts: whipped outrage equals more donations. Even his latest b.s over “b.s.” fits the pattern: repeatedly bleating victimhood = ink = cash flow.)  
Because half of America has come to prefer ignoring those things which sustain us, it appears Eyman figures campaigning against taxes assures him of continuing to take (us via) the initiative. It has to stop. This is about far more than car tabs. It’s (sticking) a fork in the road. This is one of those times when, as citizens (and patriots!) we’re called upon to look beyond self-interest, for the sake of the future: our own and our neighbors,’ our children’s, and theirs. When the right thing to do is not, as a recent letter-writer proudly bragged, to “vote with my wallet,” but to vote with one’s heart and head (not to mention carbonized lungs). 
If just societies are conceived for the betterment of individuals through the power of many, it’s by individual willingness to share responsibility that societies survive. (Having splurged on an electric car, my RTA tax took a breathtaking leap. But, hey…)  
No crystal ball is required to see the consequences of voting for Eyman’s latest. If we can’t do anything about growth, we simply must do more about mass transit. Decades of cunctation have already increased costs. Not paying now will bankrupt us when there’s no choice. Money “saved” is a future lost. 
And, yes, it’s about time for a conversation about when enough growth is enough.  
[Image source]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Speaking Of Neiling: Winning Is Everything

The upcoming newspaper column:
It’s clear to all but the Foxified why Mitch McConnell bested his prior Himalayan heights of hypocrisy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Women’s health, immigration, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage? Just frosting on the wedding cake; Mitch cares about them only to propitiate the basest Republican base. It was to protect the means by which his party has the presidency and both houses of Congress: egregious gerrymandering and dishonest voter suppression laws. Both issues are at or approaching the Supreme Court, where Neil Gorsuch isn’t even pretending he’s not a partisan zealot. 
You lost, they say. Get over it. Yes. We did. Everyone lost. Democracy lost. Getting over it before addressing what happened is exactly what Trump and Republicans in Congress and state legislatures want. Vladimir Putin, too.  
But it was the Electoral College, people say. Yes. Conceived when there were no political parties, no popular elections, or, for that matter, announced candidates. If we’re to keep it, let’s return to original intent: states choose electors who, on their own, sequestered from the rest of us, meet to select our president. They could wear wigs and work by the light of whale oil.  
But it empowers small states, they say. Yes. Which already have disproportionate power in the Senate. In the House, too, where gerrymandered red states’ districts unequally produce Republican winners, and where fewer citizens are represented by their elected, giving residents of small states relatively more influence over legislation. Gerrymandering turns minorities into majorities.  
If any position deserves popular election, with every vote having the same weight, it’s the president of all of us. Why should a Nebraskan have more impact on the choice of president than, say, a Washingtonian? This time, the Electoral College got us exactly what the founders wished to prevent: kakistocracy.  
But it is what it is. So let’s talk about voter suppression. Again. Because it’s as un-American and dangerous as a president threatening (non-existent) “licenses” of news networks he doesn’t like; i.e., all but one.  
Notwithstanding Trumtalitarian lies, multiple investigations have found approximately zero in-person voter fraud, the wink-wink reason for red states’ voter ID laws. In the past election, hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters were denied. The vast majority were Democrats, and the number of those denied far exceeded the numbers by which Trump narrowly won those states. If Trump’s patently phony “voter fraud” commission has its way, it’ll get worse. 
Get over it, they say. We’ll get around to caring when it’s your nominee who benefits. Besides, what’s wrong with requiring identification, they ask? Nothing, if it’s as easily obtainable for the poor, elderly, and people in minority districts as it is for white Republicans. But the requirements and locations for obtaining ID were designed specifically to make it harder. Legislators in those states admitted it. Some lower courts have recognized the fraud. Do states even have a right to deny the franchise in a federal election? Enter the Mitchdefied Supreme Court, where democracy confronts hypocrisy.  
There’s more. Russian interference: sophisticated, relentless, carefully targeted. Until Robert Mueller makes it undeniable, let’s ignore collusion: it’s bad enough without it. Clearly they wanted Trump in office. (Will we learn why?) What they did should alarm everyone. (Instead of “Jews will not replace us,” this time Nazi re-marchers in Charlottesville chanted “Russia is our friend.” Donald Trump, busy reversing rules that protect our planet, neglecting Puerto Rico, and ignoring California wildfires, said nothing.) 
The extent of Russian use of social media to plant fake news has become disturbingly clear. If it’s hard, for now, to know the effect, suffice it to note the multimillions of times those messages were shared. They attempted to corrupt voter rolls in Democratic precincts, and may have succeeded. But Trump and his airwave propagandists, dismissing the constitutional threat, insist reporting it is the real fake news. Who can wonder why? 
Donald Trump (considered a moron by his SecState), his cabinet of grifters, and many R congressdwellers are in office because of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and direct and indirect meddling by a foreign enemy. If it’s reassuring on some level that such people couldn’t have won by legitimate means, all Americans should be alarmed that illegitimacy prevailed. Because, who knows, next time it could be Democrats.  
(Some have noticed: I haven't been including hotlinks lately. For the paper version of the newspaper column, I'd added tinyURLs for readers to use if they chose to, which some people complained were distracting. And since the Foxified ignore them and the well-informed don't need them, I've stopped. For the blog version I'd been converting those URLs to direct links. I prefer to provide that documentation, but for now...)   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unoriginal Questions

If kneeling disrespects the flag, what does it mean that people do it in church? Or before the Queen? Why doesn't she lop off their heads?

[Image source]

Friday, October 6, 2017

Guns. And Lies

Tomorrow's newspaper column, today:
Now isn’t the time to talk about it, the White House said, and Sean Hannity agreed. They were right, of course, because only hours after the horror in Las Vegas there was a multiple murder in Massachusetts. Then Kansas. Best to wait till there aren’t any. 
Shortly after signing a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns (the problem isn’t guns, said Paul Ryan, it’s mental illness), readying to sign one allowing wider use of silencers, Trump tweeted “warmest condolences” and “God bless you” to the victims. It was, he said, “In many ways a miracle,” because cops got to the murderer after only fifty-nine dead and five hundred wounded. (Had he used a silencer, would they have?) 
After speech writers composed a less prosaic response, our pretend-religious president teleprompted prayers for peace, healing, and banishing evil. Momentarily suspending his peddling of hatred and fear, he also suggested praying for an end to hatred and fear. Which left no time for addressing guns.  
If evil is to be banished, it’d have happened by now. If preemptive prayers don’t keep killers from filling hotel rooms with automatic weapons, perfectly legal in Nevada, after-action ones will likely go unanswered, too. Still, since it wasn’t the time to mention America’s tolerance for gun violence as the price we willingly pay to have protected ourselves from Obama’s terrorist army and from the next time a Democrat becomes president, there wasn’t much else to talk about. So prayers it is. Just not the other thing.  
Like how, after Australia outlawed assault-type weapons and tightened gun laws following a massacre, murder rates dropped by over half and mass murder disappeared; citizens relinquished hundreds of thousands of guns and they’ve yet to be enslaved. But legislating is hard. During the shooting, Congress had its hands full ending healthcare funding for nine million children.  
Chiding reporters who brought up gun laws, Press Secretary Sanders brought up Chicago’s gun laws. Following NRA guidelines, she didn’t mention their giant geographic loophole. Would gun laws have prevented Las Vegas? Maybe not. Like climate change, no single event is due to it, they say. But it’s getting worse. On day 274 of 2017, this was mass shooting 272. 
But, no, not the time. Then let’s talk about lying, which Trump does more often than the heavily-armed shoot at us.  
We had the votes, he said after his latest Obamacare failure, but a Senator was hospitalized. This he repeated, semi-automatic, even after the Senator noted he wasn’t in the hospital and, had it been crucial, he’d have returned to vote. Trump’s hospital excuse was fabrication; his insistence they had the votes was dishonesty, squared. 
Why does he lie so bizarrely? Why don’t his apologists care? That’s just Trump being Trump, they say. Recently I conversed with someone who said since all politicians lie, he’s glad Trump does it better. He wasn’t kidding. But good lying is hard to disprove. Trump lies about crime statistics, American business taxes, estate taxes, clean coal. He lies about what he said yesterday. He stands in cloudless sunshine waving the weather report, insisting it’s raining. His tax plan won’t help him or fellow top one-percenters at all, he declares. Every credible analysis says otherwise, but who ya gonna believe: Trump, or your lying arithmetic? His believers say, well, heck. Emails. 
The number and weight of Trump’s lies threaten democracy, annihilate trust. They portend a new and dangerous American exceptionalism. How frightening to have as president a demonstrable, recidivist, outlandish liar; having the nuclear codes, currently in a schoolyard name-calling brawl with another unstable person. Trumpists don’t care. Incredibly, when he claims his tax plan will hurt him personally while balancing the budget, they believe him. When he tells us North Korea, or Iran, or Democrats did something horrible, something war-worthy, there’s no precedent of any sort for assuming he’s being truthful. The danger is obvious.  
Then, for four hours, he visited Puerto Rico, whose citizens he’d called lazy moochers, lamented the expense of helping them, said not enough people died to make it a real catastrophe and other equally stupefying things, importuned praise while praising himself, overstated the relief effort, and tossed paper towel rolls at people like a t-shirt gun at a basketball game. 
It's obvious. Oh, say: can you see?
[Image source]

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Interesting, isn't it, that the people who are so offended by anything they see as disrespecting our flag are the same ones claiming government is "the problem." Who agree with Trump that a free and adversarial press is "the enemy of the people." Who work to devalue education, who are fine with suppressing the votes of people who might disagree with them.

What, I wonder, do they think the flag stands for, if not those things?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Redefining "Balance"

Deficits, it turns out, matter only when Democrats are in charge. Screaming about increasing debt, as was heard under Obama (despite, as has always been the case with Ds vs Rs, the deficit dropping after rising under Bush), will be a thing of the recent past. From the Tax Policy Center:
This paper analyzes presidential candidate Donald Trump’s revised tax proposal, which would significantly reduce marginal tax rates, increase standard deduction amounts, repeal personal exemptions, cap itemized deductions, and allow businesses to elect to expense new investment and not deduct interest expense. His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households. Federal revenues would fall by $6.2 trillion over the first decade before accounting for added interest costs. Including interest costs, the federal debt would rise by $7.2 trillion over the first decade and by $20.9 trillion by 2036.
But... but... Donald and Paul promised us budgetary balance. It's almost as if they were knowingly lying. It's almost as if they assume their base LIKES being lied to.

Which, it's obvious, they do.

The entire analysis is found at the above link. In fairness, it does predict short-term growth in GDP, which falls after the first few years.

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