Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Eve of Deconstruction

Image by Todd McLellan.
Philip Rucker's Bannon interview, in the Washington Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.
So it's easy to laugh—obviously my first instinct. As in, too bad Jacques Derrida is dead, he would have made such a great Secretary of State. Or maybe Commerce, or the head of Faith-Based Programs.

It won't go away that easy

Obamacare won't be riding into the sunset, Republicans will. Image via EvilSpeculator.
I've long been convinced Republicans would not be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they don't have any ideas for that promised replacement—they can't come up with any ideas virtually by definition, because the parts their constituents want to keep are dependent on the parts they're committed to getting rid of—but I haven't been smart enough to see how it works out in a practical sense, in the sausage-making process. This is now coming clear, in a series of Tweets by the genial young Matthew Chapman, a Texas video game designer who's turned out since the election to be one of the great Twitter ranters.

It starts with the Congressional Budget Office, which must review the budgetary consequences of the repeal. Apparently they've done this with a Ryan-sponsored proposal:

(Topher Spiro runs health policy analysis at the Center for American Progress.)

It's going to cost hundreds of billions to get rid of it, as you probably knew already. Which doesn't mean much on its own, since as you also already knew, Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president.

But in an almost evenly divided Senate there are no ways of passing it.

Since no Democrat will vote for repeal, they can't use the normal procedure, in which the Democrats would kill it with a so-called filibuster (refusing to close debate and move to a vote). Instead, they must use the budget reconciliation process, for which (according to the Byrd Rule) the bill either has to be budget-neutral, or contain a sunset provision, where the new law expires after some fixed period and the older law comes back into effect, and the deficits are pushed out by mathematical manipulation into the fictional time after the law expires (this is what happened with the Bush tax cuts that led to the famous Fiscal Cliff massacre of 2013). So it's back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile insurance companies have to know by April whether the ACA is going to continue to exist or not so they can start devising their policy offerings for 2018. Since Congress isn't going to be able to manage repeal by then no matter what, they'll have to put it off for at least a year while Ryan attempts to whip up a Plan B. And Republican congresspersons continue getting more and more spooked by constituents' unexpected affection for the law. And the problem of how you get rid of the thing in a budget-neutral way or a way you can successfully pretend is budget-neutral (that's what the sunset provision really is) remains as insoluble as ever.

Stay tuned, but I don't think it's ever going to happen.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's not the same

Washington, September 12 2009. via Fox News.
I'm seeing a lot of traffic on the Twitter, including from some distinguished journalists, drawing an equivalence between these town hall meetings where Republican legislators are getting screamed at and the Tea Party agitation of 2009-10, much of it with the optimistic view that this could augur one of those big waves in the 2018 elections:

Or even pessimistic, worrying that protesters are making themselves obnoxious, and nobody likes that:

And for counterpoint the breezy Cillizza dismizza:

And then there's this:

It struck me there's an enormous difference between these protests and those of seven or eight years ago, in that these are about reality.

The Tea Party was complaining about taxes going through the roof and masses of Mexicans invading our country when taxes had in fact been going down for years and Mexicans had started migrating in the opposite direction. Not that most of them were lying, I think they really didn't know. They hadn't gone to the trouble of putting two payslips together and figuring it out, and they didn't live in places where there were any Mexicans, and they didn't know what they were talking about, just what Rush and Sean were telling them, and our beloved mainstream media didn't seem to know either—the Chris Cillizzas and Adam Nagourneys who don't feel they're being paid to know anything about real life since how does that impact the horse race anyway?

This week's town hall protesters, in contrast, are talking about access to lifesaving medical care and Donald Trump's tax returns, and it carries a certain conviction. Anyway it feels a lot different to me.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Mom, the century's broken! I wasn't even TOUCHING it!

No idea what the source of this is. Via.

David F. Brooks, "This Century is Broken", February 21 2017:

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. 
This turns out to be true, although it's extremely close. Due to a dwindling birth rate, the median age is 38 (it was 31 as recently as 1985), so about half of us turned 21 before 1999, and if we agree that the 21st century began in 2001 (and in fact I'm not putting up with any disagreement on this, so shut up), then it's clear that a majority are immigrants from the 20th. But it's a very narrow one, which will have vanished before the next presidential election.

I'm not finding any sources for this odd little fact, and it's possible Brooks just made it up; the fact that it's true would be just a coincidence.

It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.
It might be more accurate to say that the previous half-century had been an unusually sad period, since it experienced most or all of the world wars (I think the French wars of 1792 through 1814 count as one, but the authorities don't seem to) and all of the Great Depressions in human history.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Annals of Derp: What's the Matter with Sean Hannity?

Thanks to some research conducted with friends on Twitter, I am now in a position to say what's wrong with Sean Hannity, which is that he is unfortunately locked in what the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget referred to as the preoperational stage of cognitive development, typical of children ages 2 to as late as 7.
As a fan, Mortal Wombat/Purveyor of Truth ("What is up with Media Pushing Popular Vote"), explains at the Hannity Forum, "this map shows to me that more of the country wanted a change. But the Libs really need to stop talking about the Popular vote. It keeps fueling the flames of the rioters."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cheap shot: If at first you don't succeed

So I followed this guy under the impression that he must be a dadaist:

Apparently not, he's just another 4chan creep who does this kind of thing not because he has a sense of humor but because he doesn't have one.

Anyway later on, rushing to the defense of our president's opinion that something terrible involving Muslim migrants had happened in Sweden last night, or at any rate some time...

Sadly, no. A little research revealed that this video depicts a quaint native Malmö custom where the indigens get a little drunk on the evening of December 31. And some of the guys end up shooting fireworks at each other, which would be rowdy and crude and something you would not see in, say, Stockholm or Uppsala. But I don't think you'll find any immigrants in that video. They feel it's too dangerous.

The quid for the quo

Evromaidan, November 2013, via Wikipedia. Of course some people will still tell you this was arranged by George Soros and Victoria Nuland. But they're the same people that think Putin is a leftist.
So the stakes Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is playing for just clarified themselves, in a big way, in this Times story by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane: It's not just relief from sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation over its seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, though that's included; it's really the restoration of the Russian Empire (not the USSR, which aspired toward socialism, but the older, murkily religious and violently patriarchal thing, where Moscow used to refer to itself as the "Third Rome", the successor to Byzantium, the uniter of Europe and Asia under the banner of Christ and Orthodoxy).

Which has to go somewhat beyond the story Twohey and Shane (constricted by the rules of proper journalism) are telling, which is basically about palace intrigue in Washington, and a proposal for lifting sanctions that was working its way through the National Security Council at the time old Flynn got himself fired:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

You can keep recycling this article, but you can't make it be about something else.

Image by Mabel Amber/Pixabay.
Everybody's dumping on poor Sabrina Tavernise and her Times "analysis" about how we liberals are never going to convert any Trump voters if we keep being so mean-ass about it and wounding their tender feelings (who's a snowflake?), by making fun of their #MAGA caps and refusing to go on dates with them.

I don't have much to add to Steve's take, in particular, except I think everybody (including Vacuumslayer and Roy) is missing one vital detail about 72-year-old Syracusan Ann O'Connell, one of Tavernise's three examples of the "moderate conservatives" we should be making nice to—a loyal Democrat (why, she voted for a Democratic presidential candidate as recently as 1996!) who has

Latest News on the Trump-Is-a-Liberal Front

Right, Ross. And when Francis denounces Trump's policies on immigration and refugees he's just trying to distract us. After all, the Vatican City already has a wall. Photo by Karen Olson of the Meandering Kiwis.
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Trump Era's Catholic Mirror", New York Times, February 15 2017:
Forget about that Stephen Bannon and his relationship with Cardinal Raymond Burke and the other reactionary forces within the Roman Catholic hierarchy openly conspiring to unseat Pope Francis with charges of heresy if that's what it takes; the real Trumpista in the Vatican is the vulgar, populist Pope himself. I am not a crank.

It's not a Japanese internment order

Screen shot from Evan Salcido/YouTube.
Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt 75 years ago today, is often thought of as an order to put ethnic-Japanese residents of the United States, including US citizens, in detention camps, treating them all as enemies of the state, just because that's what actually happened.

But by Trumpian logic that's totally unfair. It didn't apply to all Japanese, just "any or all" of those in "military areas". Not including Hawaii, for instance, where 40% of the population was of Japanese origin, and where the real-life Japanese attack on the United States had occurred (from Japan, not from anybody living in the territory), but only a few thousand were interned, and not including anybody east of the Mississippi except some Italians and Germans (including German Jewish refugees, because it was thought they might be German agents abusing Americans' natural sympathy for refugees, does that sound familiar at all?).

In fact it really didn't apply to Japanese at all; the word "Japanese" isn't used anywhere in the order. Just "persons", at the discretion of the designated commander:
I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order.
So how can you possibly call it a Muslim ban Japanese internment order? It was just Keeping America Safe. </sarcasm> Or an invitation to racial discrimination and arbitrary tyranny, depending on how you look at it, you know, but I have an idea which, based on the way it turned out.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Very classy! And huge! Bedminster.
Inspired by the Politico story featuring a leaked video of President Donald J. Trump entertaining the guests at the Bedminster Golf Club by inviting them to interview candidates for cabinet positions—hey, they're paying good money to be the president's personal guests!

To the tune of:

In today's weasel news

Weasel, via Dreams of Animals.

Brooks consults the Kristol ball

Not finding a credit for this image. Anybody?
David Brooks, pulling out his Kristol ball, finds the future is fuzzy: he can't imagine how the Trump administration will survive for the whole quadrennium ("What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like"), but he can't imagine how it will meet its demise either.  Gone are the good old days when you could rely on the nation to unite in the effort to get rid of a criminal president:

I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.
There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.
Funny thing about Howard Baker, ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate burglary, and how he asked his famous question:

Friday, February 17, 2017


Photo by Stephen Crowley/New York Times.
There once was a toady called Pruitt
Who was terribly anxious to do it.
   But instead of a chick
   He inserted his dick
In a rare Chinese vinegar cruet.
Bonus: That time I caught Scott Pruitt lying in court (had nothing to do with the EPA, either; it was Obamacare). I'd forgotten all about it.

Funny business

Yevgeny Rybolovlev, Donald J. Trump, and the Palm Beach estate the former bought from the latter for $95 million, said to be the most expensive residential property sale in US history, though he hasn't shown any interest in moving in or renting the place out in the nine years he's owned it. Via Politico.
Just laying this out:

There's a non-barking dog in Kumar's story in the form of a name that's missing from it—one that I've gotten very interested in recently: