Peachfuzz bridge.

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It is astonishing to see how astonished people are at the President’s last couple of weeks. Reality check: we elected Donald Trump President of the United States. That’s why this administration is unloading like a clown car at a funeral. There’s no other way for me to put this: the man is a hyper-narcissistic dolt with the emotional maturity of a 7-year-old. He is temperamentally unfit for this or any political office. He has not even a vague understanding of the structure or traditions of our constitutional system, and has no interest in learning. Verily, he has little interest in anything other than large piles of money. When he told the Russian ambassador about the intel on ISIS , that was probably the first time that information had offered any utility from his perspective – he could use it to impress someone, at least. Otherwise, he has no interest in intelligence briefings and confines himself to a single page of bulleted items that he proceeds to ignore.

Captain PeachfuzzSo, what to do about this dolt? It’s hard to imagine the GOP-led House taking up impeachment proceedings, even with this level of ludicrousness. Investigations can swirl around Trump and criminal accusations may mount, but basically the only process by which he can be removed from office is a political one, and that is a non-starter with regard to a caucus that sees him as a signing machine. I’m thinking the republicans in the House and Senate will use something like the Captain Peachfuzz approach with Trump.

How does that work? Simple. On Rocky and Bullwinkle, all Captain “Wrongway” Peachfuzz’s crew needed to do was create a phony bridge, lead the captain into it, and then go about their normal duties. Captain Peachfuzz would be shouting commands, pulling levers, twisting knobs and the like, none of which were attached to anything. THAT’S what we need for Trump. Of course, we would have to avoid the problem that Peachfuzz’s crew encountered when the crackpot captain wandered by mistake onto the real bridge one day and started driving the ship like the proverbial drunken sailor. Of course, that’s what we have now, right?

Phony up a war room for the guy, people. Do it now before it’s too late. Your nation will thank you.

luv u,

jp

Dumpster fire.

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Every time I see that standard shot of the White House on one of the major networks, I expect to see a plume of black smoke rising from an open window. This administration promised to be a major dumpster fire and it hasn’t disappointed, the firing of FBI Director Comey this week (as he was requesting an expansion of the Trump Campaign/Russia probe) being just the latest flare-up. As predicted by some of the more observant commentators, the leaks began almost immediately – the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all posted pieces that put the lie to the various hastily concocted stories flying out of the White House. If they’re not hiding something very, very compromising, they’re doing a tremendous imitation of it.

Trump, day 110.The thing about dumpster fires – or any trash-fueled conflagration, for that matter – is that they conceal as well as destroy. It’s hard to ascribe intentionality to the Trump administration; they are without a doubt the dumbest box of rocks that ever rolled into the oval office, so the idea that they could cook up some massive deception campaign is kind of ludicrous. If they are not deliberately distracting people with their antics, they are certainly playing the role of the useful idiot. I’m not suggesting they’re running interference for Russia or anything like that. What their ineptitude facilitates more than anything else is the steady progress of the broader GOP agenda – namely, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling of our rudimentary social safety net, scuttling the ACA, pulling down regulatory constraints on industry, and so on.

We face some major threats. One is that Trump will launch another war as a means of changing the conversation. Another is that a terror attack will flip the script, as it did in 2001, and we will be riding the revenge juggernaut to the end of the Earth, literally. But not least among these is the threat that the Republicans will get most if not all of what they’re calling for. They already have Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Don’t think the Senate won’t pass some version of their draconian health care reform / tax cut. These are less dramatic outcomes, but no less destructive of our society.

Trump probably has extensive ties to Russian gangsters, just as he has with the domestic variety. It will likely come out eventually, but I warn you – don’t be distracted from the real work that’s going on in Congress right now.

luv u,

jp

Victory dance.

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Okay, can we all agree on something, people? Try this: the President of the United States is a remarkable dolt who knows nothing about anything outside of – perhaps – real estate and licensing his trademarks. His grasp of American history is tenuous at best and indicative of illiteracy at worst. He always seems to return to the subject of slavery and the Civil War, perhaps because he is surrounded by crackpot white supremacists who fill his empty head with their hateful opinions and convenient factual inaccuracies. The comments about Andrew Jackson are just the latest example, though when he talks about people like “Sharpknife” Jackson he seems actually to be talking about himself.

Spot my useless congressmember.It’s not at all surprising that Trump thinks that he himself could have prevented the Civil War. As a master-level narcissist, he thinks himself capable of anything. And even when he can’t accomplish anything, he celebrates and brags about it like he did. This week, when the House of Representatives passed their latest version of the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace debacle, Trump had the GOP House caucus come to the White House for a little victory dance. (My own representative, Claudia Tenney, could be seen in the second row, right behind the doltish Kevin McCarthy, taking selfies with another Republican congresswoman. Watch for that in an opposition campaign ad next year.)

Okay, so maybe that just proves that Republicans – including the massively overrated pseudo-wonk Paul Ryan – never watched Schoolhouse Rock and maybe they really just don‘t know how a bill becomes law. (They haven’t passed a real lot of them since taking control of the House.) Or maybe this is just Trump’s way of rubbing our faces in the fact that he got his way this time. It’s the kind of tactic Trump is famous for, of course. I suspect if he ever stopped bragging about himself, he’d fly around the room like a toy balloon someone let loose. The facts don’t matter – this is an attitudinal presidency, running on gall and braggadocio, tossing steaks out to the base pretty much every week.

It’s not a joke. The policy implications of this president will be enormous, maybe irreparable. We’re obviously going to have to fight for every inch, and this week the prize went to them.

luv u,

jp

Pappy’s back in town.

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The 100-day mark is fast approaching for the Trump administration, and this week they kicked it into high gear in an attempt to create the impression that they accomplished something over the last three months – namely, something that was on the President’s list of promises he made over the course of his craven campaign last year. With this in mind, they tossed out a few desperate efforts towards meaningful legislation, one of which being a one-page tax break proposal announced by Mnuchin on Wednesday.

This is a clear return to the G.O.P. presidential playbook, in a Trump kind of way. Of course, it smells more like a scam, the sparsely written outline providing very little detail or guidance for what would likely be a contentious legislative drafting process. But the outlines are there, and what it means effectively is that old Pappy Tax Cut is back once again. We haven’t seen Pappy since the days of Dubya Bush and his high-earner tax cut that blew a huge hole in the budget – one that we’re still grappling with, even with the minor clawback Obama extracted from the Republicans.

Shocker: more breaks for the rich.What’s in it? Prepare to be amazed. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. Reducing the top corporate tax rate to 15% and eliminating the estate tax altogether. If anything resembling this vague framework were to come into effect, it would shower enormous dividends on the most well-heeled people in the United States and cost the U.S. treasury about 2 trillion dollars. Suddenly Republicans aren’t worried about the deficit/debt anymore – astonishing! And why wouldn’t they give a massive break to the only people in the country – the one percent – who did well throughout the financial crisis? No reason at all.

Trump allies in congress were touting a new compromise on the “American Health Care Act” between the right and the extreme right, but that’s probably a non-starter. The act has been changed up to reflect more of the “Freedom Caucus” (i.e. a bunch of white dudes) agenda, including allowing states to make core benefits optional, letting health insurance providers charge a lot more to people with pre-existing conditions, like … I don’t know, pretty much anything that happens to you.

Then there’s impending war with Korea. Don’t even get me started on that. There’s such bad thinking on that issue from both major parties that it’s hard to know where to turn next.

luv u,

jp

Three percent solution.

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Some election news this week. Jon Ossoff, Democratic party candidate in the Georgia 6th congressional district “jungle” primary topped 48% of the vote tally, which is impressive in Tom Price/Newt Gingrich territory but still a couple of points below an outright victory. As always, the Republicans furiously worked the refs on this race, establishing the easy-bake narrative that Ossoff needed to win an outright majority and that anything short of that would be an abject failure. The mainstream media, of course, adopted this line because it’s simple and requires zero analysis (a lot of stories run this way), so the news shows the morning after the election were full of Democrats falling short postmortems. Useful.

Actual Tenney quote.Okay, because I am at heart a fair person, I will admit that the likes of Joe Scarborough said something that I actually agreed with this past Wednesday – something to the effect that Democrats need to rediscover getting out the vote, knocking on doors, calling people, etc. I agree. If Dems are ever going to return from the electoral wilderness, they need to start building their ground game right now. With the Georgia race and the contest in Kansas for that open House seat (lost to the GOP by seven points), that point has now been underlined and circled in red. (Okay, you can go back to despising Scarborough again.)

This doesn’t amount to a repeat of the same “air war” strategy the national Democratic party keeps running over and over again, dropping TV ads at the last minute. Democrats need to be a factor on the ground; they need to be a positive force in people’s lives. In my region, the congressional seat is held by a tea party Republican, way to the right of her district. We have only elected one Democrat in my lifetime – Michael Arcuri back in 2006. The only reason why he won was that the Democratic party invested in the race. They sent paid, seasoned campaign organizers to the district. They invested in a sizeable call center. They ran phone banks and knocked on doors. That – not the ads – was what put Arcuri over the top. I remember one of the party organizers giving a pep talk to the volunteers, telling us that a good ground game can add three percent to the vote total on election day. “We’re going to need that three percent,” he said.

There’s a coda to that story: two years later, there was none of that. Calling was done out of a cramped room in the local labor council office, and Arcuri just barely squeaked by in a presidential election year. In 2010 he got knocked off; same problem. This past fall, I was dialing for the Democratic candidate at the labor council again, working from a pretty crappy list. It’s not just lack of investment – it’s lack of the right kind of investment that kills our chances.

We have to start winning elections. It’s not the only thing we have to do, but it’s goddamned important.

luv u,

jp

Just like old times.

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This probably isn’t a wise practice, but I sometimes view Morning Joe as a bellwether of establishment opinion, particularly regarding foreign policy. Their panel covers the spectrum from neocons to liberal interventionists – a narrow span to say the least. And they appear to be as happy as the proverbial pig in shit about Trump’s recent cruise missile attack in Syria. Both the liberal interventionist wing and the neocon wing have been highly critical of Obama’s failure to start a unilateral, extra-constitutional war with Syria back in 2013, so this past week was sweet validation for them all. As a group, they seem anxious for evidence that Trump’s administration is “normalizing” and settling in to the usual, conventional insanity, so they tend to jump on every lurch towards the institutional consensus.

Mother of all BullshitAnd clearly, there is a solid, institutional consensus on American foreign policy. It’s a relatively small box that contains, on one end, the Obama approach, then the center-left liberal interventionist school (Clinton, Samantha Power, etc.), followed by the center-right establishment Republicans (James Baker, Kissinger, etc.), the hot-head interventionists (McCain, Graham, Cotton), and the neocons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Elliot Abrams, etc.). In terms of blowing things up and killing people, there isn’t a lot of distance between any of these groupings, and they all share a common imperial worldview. The encouraging development for the Morning Joe crew is the notion that Trump has now put himself in that box.

If this turns out to be a feature, not a bug, of the Trump Administration, the 2016 general election had no impact on foreign policy at all. Policy-wise, Trump appears to have put himself pretty close to Obama on that score. He maybe has a little more bomb than Obama, but it’s basically the same stuff, and the Morning Joe crowd has little to say about that. I sometimes wonder if these people remember last year, let alone 16 years ago. Do they remember that W. Bush ran a hair to the left of Gore on foreign policy – no “nation building”, right? – then pivoted back to the center-right of the consensus box after a few months (certainly after 9/11).? Obama did something similar. It’s pretty simple: presidents put out pleasing rhetoric during campaigns, then peddle back to the default policies when they win office.

Now Trump has dumped the MOAB super bunker-buster bomb on Afghanistan. What is this routine  now, bomb-drop Thursday? I guess we’ll see … next Thursday.

luv u,

jp

Bigfoot.

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Another week on foreign policy, mostly because it has been so heinous lately. The gas attack in Syria was particularly upsetting, in part because there was video footage of the aftermath (unlike in the case of the U.S.’s Al Ghayil raid in Yemen that killed a score of civilians, including nine children, or the bombing in Mosul last week). The Syrian regime, once again, is doing the one thing they do in response to a restive population: kill and torture. They literally know nothing else. That said, there seems to be a universal media consensus that the United States should fly its bombers in there and start blowing the place apart, as if that has ever made anything better over the past 50-60 years. (Spoiler alert: it hasn’t. It has made things exponentially worse.)

Trump arrives at a decision.Then there was the missile launch in North Korea. Deliberately provocative, yes, though again, our military rules on that peninsula – we’re constantly running joint exercises with the South Korean military that can only be seen as provocations by Pyongyang. Trump is going to take this up with China this weekend in his cheesy Florida resort getaway, but that just marks a continuation of the same disastrous policy. North Korea wants to talk to us, not China. This only possible way to reduce this massive threat to human existence on the Korean peninsula is provide Pyongyang with some guarantees of non belligerence. That is simply not on the table.

How will the Trump administration react to all of this, aside from blaming everyone else (e.g. their predecessors, the Muslims, the Chinese, immigrants, etc.)? It’s a little hard to say. Either one could blow up in our face on a moment’s notice. It sounds to me like Trump is leaning toward differentiating himself from Obama on Syria – that is, taking a more interventionist stance. That appears to be supported by the jabbering classes, as I mentioned earlier. (I heard a congressman from the GOP hair-gel caucus on Thursday’s Morning Joe urging a “no-fly zone” and suggesting that, if we hit Russian personnel or assets in the process, well, that would be “on them”.) This is how world wars start, so one would hope that whatever money laundering Trump has done for Russian oligarchs over the years, it will give him enough reason to at least adequately de-conflict with the Russian military before going all Lindsay Graham on Damascus.

Korea may be just as problematic, since I don’t think Trump owes a lot to Chinese fixers. They may be crazy enough to lob a bomb over there – we’ll have to see. Scary times.

luv u,

jp

P.S.  Spoke too soon. Trump is bombing Syria. This is getting really ugly. The TV commentators all have their “war faces” on, talking to admirals. Trump did a hostage-video style pre-taped announcement last night (strangely, from a podium, reading off of two teleprompters as if there were an audience – the sound quality was horrible). Everyone is beating their chests: American credibility has been restored. (Apparently no one in the world thought we would attack at random anymore, even though we’ve been doing it non-stop for 16 years.) Bigfoot is stomping around.

A look overseas.

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Another turn at the fire hose. Man, this is kind of dizzying. We’ve just seen a week in which the President has essentially undone the clean power plant rules, scuttled the Paris Accords on climate change, approved the Keystone XL pipeline project, and escalated his attacks on undocumented residents and on the poor miserable souls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who cope with our bombs on a daily basis. I could write five posts, but that would take the rest of human history, so suffice with this sorry tirade on foreign policy.

Making Mosul great (again).I didn’t want to let the week go by without saying something about the hundred-plus killed in a coalition raid in Mosul. Civilian deaths have been on the rise in that conflict since our military began its air assault on the more densely populated western side of Mosul. Well, that’s predictable enough. We are fighting the legacy of the previous decade’s catastrophic policy, which was itself a response to another previous decade’s catastrophic policy, and so on. ISIS or ISIL is Al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0, drawing on ex Baathist military personnel for many of its cadres, as well as disaffected Sunni youth, targeted by both the U.S. and the Baghdad government. The destruction/”liberation” of Mosul will not change the fundamental problems that prompted these people to turn, in desperation, to the extremists they once fought against.

We are also doubling down in Syria, now with hundreds of Special Forces on the ground. And as actual journalists like Anand Ghopal have reported, the U.S. is effectively fighting in tandem with the Syrian government, particularly in places like Palmyra, where nominally pro-western groups like the Free Syrian Army cannot operate. Our bombers hit a mosque a few weeks back – like the Mosul raid, our military denied it, then gradually admitted it. Each one of these generates more converts to the jihadi cause, and contributes to another catastrophic policy that we will be grappling with in the next decade.

Then there’s the bleeding sore that is Yemen. The Intercept’s Iona Craig has reported extensively on the Al Ghayil raid that killed dozens of civilians in a mountainside village on the pretext that Al Qaeda leadership were in hiding there. They weren’t – some low-level operatives were reportedly in one of the buildings. The village has been in the thick of the Yemeni civil war, and residents thought the U.S. attackers were Houthi rebels – hence the armed resistance. Again … this “highly” successful raid appears to have aided the side we officially oppose in that fight, though that’s a minor consideration in light of the heavy casualties suffered by the people of Al Ghayil.

Only eight weeks in and these conflicts are getting even more septic. Not a good sign.

luv u,

jp

Nuclear option.

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I’m undecided as to whether this is a great time to be a political writer or an abysmal one. There is so much going on every day of this new presidential administration, it’s enough to fill a months worth of posts. It’s hard not to return to the “drinking from a fire hose” cliche, frankly. Even so, I’ll take a whack at some of what happened this week in my wobbly, amateurish way and we’ll see where we end up.

Russia and Germany. Trump’s visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was odd and awkward. She had that kind of hostage video look, sitting there with Herr Mr. Hair, asking for a handshake and being rebuffed by the new leader of the “free” world. If she isn’t uneasy about this president, I don’t know what it would take; just listening to the press conference exchanges between Trump and the German press is enough to convince anyone that the man needs professional help. And the rebuff over the handshake will only feed the notion that he is a man who will say or do nothing to offend one V. Putin.

Mr. not-so-nice guyThat’s the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. So … why does he keep fucking doing it? If there turns out to be no serious collusion between Trump’s people and the Russian government, his administration is the most productive conspiratorial smoke machine ever constructed. Major administration advisors had conversations with Russian officials during and after the campaign, lied about it, then fessed up when the lie was exposed. If it’s above board, why don’t they just effing say so? I don’t get it.

Blind Justice. Gorsuch took the stand in his confirmation hearings this week in the U.S. Senate. Big charm offensive, though it’s obvious where he’s coming from both judicially and politically. Still, I count myself among the number who simply oppose Gorsuch because he was nominated by Trump. It they blow up the filibuster, fine … there’s no saving it for later. If when you use it you lose it, then it doesn’t really exist anyway.

It appears as though the Democrats are leaning towards this strategy, based on what Schumer and others are saying. Some of the Democratic senators, like Franken and Whitehouse, delivered some very strong criticism not only of Gorsuch but of the entire right-wing judicial and broader political agenda, so that’s all to the good.

The health insurance went down in flames, so I’ll return to that next week. My guess is that, AHCA or no AHCA, the GOP congress and Trump Administration will do everything in their power to crash the ACA through deregulation, funding cuts, and more. This fight will continue.

luv u,

jp

Point made.

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I think Sam Seder on the Majority Report said it best this week: the core of what the Republicans are doing is not policy, it’s ideology. It’s obvious every time they open their mouths. The policies they are advancing can only be seen as efforts to implement their extremist ideas, regardless of how negatively they affect large swaths of the population. They try to hide behind bogus concern for the well-being and “freedom” of ordinary people and “businesses”, but that’s a thin disguise. Listen to them talk for more than thirty seconds and the real agenda comes through, loud and clear.

Chief assistant rat bag.Take Speaker Ryan (please). He seems dedicated to souring people on the very idea of insurance. Ryan repeats the claim that 1% of the insured incur 23% of the costs of coverage. Even if his numbers are correct, isn’t that what insurance is supposed to do? The system is based on the notion that everyone doesn’t typically get sick at the same time – everybody pays into the system, and much of those funds are diverted to those who need health care at any given time. Important safety tip: That can be ANYBODY. You may feel great on Wednesday and get a dire diagnosis on Thursday, or get hit by an effing truck. Reality has a way of turning “makers” into “takers”, in Ryan’s parlance.

Another thing our Ayn Rand-admiring Speaker spouts with some frequency is this notion of “rights” without intervention from the state. He claims breezily that we may all have a right to health care, but that doesn’t mean the government should guarantee that right. So … what is this “right” – the right to buy something? By the same token, we all have the right to buy a Mercedes or take a trip to the south of France. Ryan makes it sound as though the government is violating your rights and infringing upon your freedom by, say, providing Medicare when you’re elderly. They MAKE you pay for it, right? That’s force!

I just heard a right-leaning Texas health policy activist on NPR decrying Medicaid expansion because people will be “dragged into it”, as if providing a free health coverage option for people on limited incomes is an attack on their liberty.  Trump’s budget director Mulvaney is justifying their proposed cuts to meals on wheels and after-school nutrition programs by claiming that they are “not showing any results.” On the school nutrition programs, “there’s no evidence they’re helping kids do better in school,” says Mulvaney. Again, from an ideological perspective, this makes perfect sense. Whereas for most sentient human beings it would be enough that we are contributing to the nutrition of the young, the old, the most vulnerable, to these jackals, there has to be some positive, quantifiable value they can take to the bank. Disgusting.

Trump is not the only problem we have, folks. It’s this whole GOP mindset, subscribed to by some Democrats as well, but squarely within the Republican wheelhouse. That’s the real fight.

luv u,

jp