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The Words of a Shameless Liar Are Worth Nothing

[ 23 ] January 23, 2017 |


This should be an obvious point, but given the number of people who seem to think that there will be major tension between the agendas of Trump and Congress, wonder if he can be worked with on infrastructure, etc. etc. it is really worth making:

My best guess is that Trumpian governance will end up looking more like the boilerplate conservative policy currently populating the White House website than like the feisty populism of the inaugural address. It’s possible, of course, that I’ll be wrong. Like everyone else I know who covers politics, I’ve had the chance to be wrong about a lot over the past two years.

But the fact remains that to an unusual extent for a politician, what Trump says is a poor guide to what he will do.

Thousands of people believed that Trump University would not claim Trump was hand-picking instructors unless he was, in fact, hand-picking instructors. On the one hand, they probably thought a successful businessman would value a reputation as a man of his word. On the other hand, they may have believed the legal system would protect them from fraudulent claims. In reality, Trump routinely stiffs contractors who work for him and wound up paying out an enormous fraud settlement over the university.

Every politician I’ve ever heard of sometimes says things that aren’t true. No politician that I’m familiar with has such an extensive background of fundamentally misrepresenting himself as Trump does.

The watchword for covering the Trump era ought to be watch what he does, not what he says.

The Trump Show is a macabre, fascinating, appalling, thrilling spectacle. But as far as we know, its relationship to the Trump administration is tenuous and ambiguous. The show is a show. The administration will impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

What politicians say is actually normally a pretty reliable guide to what they’re going to try to do, another political science generality that is not applicable to Trump. I’ll return to this point when discussing a longer piece I have coming out, but it seems clear to me that the domestic agenda will be set by Ryan and McConnell, and I see no reason to think that Trump will intentionally interfere with what they want to do. And, at a minimum, his populist feints mean absolutely nothing. I mean, if you think there’s the slightest chance Trump will renegotiate drug prices to benefit consumers, you are the sucker.


The “Burn Our Own House Down” Grand Strategy

[ 64 ] January 22, 2017 |

By MSgt Christopher DeWitt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have a piece in today’s Newsday on the swirling fog around Trump foreign policy. LGM regulars won’t see much new in it, but I do talk briefly about states that might be more optimistic about changes in U.S. foreign relation.

Only moderately less worrisome for U.S. allies is the proposition that Trump and his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, intend a geopolitical diplomatic revolution — one in which the United States leaves NATO to twist in the wind while it pursues a grand bargain with Moscow. Trump articulates a substantially different understanding of U.S. partnerships — as short-term transactions — than has dominated thinking among both mainstream Republicans and Democrats for decades. He seems to view long-standing democratic allies mostly as trade rivals, while flirting with less stable, less democratic regimes.

You can find similar themes in a recent article by Stan Sloan in the Diplomatic Courier.

Speaking of which, there’s a bill in Congress to withdraw from the United Nations. I doubt that it makes it out of the House, let alone the Senate, and I’m skeptical that even the Trump Administration would sign it. But the chances that something like will succeed are higher than they’ve been in decades.

Paul Musgrave has a good series of tweets running through the issue.


Anyway, you can go read the rest yourself. Definitely worth your time.

Not Even a Reacharound?

[ 61 ] January 22, 2017 |

Another Trump contractor gets ripped off:

At a reception in the White Housea short time ago, according to the pool report, President Trump spotted FBI Director Comey and called out to him. Comey came over to Trump to shake his hand and then gave Trump a hug before shaking the Vice President’s hand.

“He’s become more famous than me,” said Trump.

A lousy handshake and pat on the back in exchange for the presidency? What a rip. Well, at this point if you do business with Trump you are the sucker.

NFL Conference Championship Open Thread

[ 213 ] January 22, 2017 |

C2vZckQVEAEeKc1“With the exception of the 49ers, the Colts are the best-managed team in the NFL. Period.”

The Colts, who had Andrew Luck fall into their laps in 2012, somehow managed to blow the worst division in the NFL to a team that had the worst passing attack in the league and was missing its best defensive player for most of the year. Mere weeks later, Jim Irsay came down enough to fire the man who traded a #1 pick for Trent Richardson, although for reasons that remain unclear the coach remains in place.  Fortunately for Irsay, Trent Baalke just became available, so the organizational philosophy can seamlessly continue.

Speaking of squandering talent and gross managerial incompetence, Magary noted this week that even before the Chargers shot the hostage San Diego is one of the most tortured sports cities in the country:

But this is wrong. As pain goes, the Chargers have a resume that stacks up with pretty much anyone: Nate Kaeding, Ryan Leaf, trading a first-round pick to draft Bryan Still, trading ANOTHER to draft Mikhael Ricks, nine blown leads of 10-plus points in this decade alone, Marlon McCree fumbling his own interception in the playoffs against the Pats, losing at home in the playoffs to the Jets… TWICE (once to Herm Edwards and once to fucking Mark Sanchez), Craig Whelihan, Junior Seau killing himself, Eli refusing to play there (there!), Dr. David Chao, letting Drew Brees walk for nothing, Terrence Kiel’s lean, LaDainian riding his exercise bike, and on and on. There was also the time where the Chargers were reduced to extras in the only Super Bowl they ever made… a 49-26 whomping at the hands of Steve Young and the 49ers that was preordained the moment San Diego won the AFC title.

I know a few Chargers fans. Their fatalism is no different than that of your average Jets fan, or Eagles fan, or any of their other northern NFL counterparts who know exactly when things will go wrong for their team, and how they will go wrong. And the Chargers’ failures are just as traumatic for them as other teams’ more notorious boners are for their fanbases.

Barnwell had a great piece earlier this year observing that San Diego is now the most tortured fanbase in the country. In addition to the Chargers, the Padres have been to the World Series twice — first, against the best American League team of the 80s and next against a team that has a serious argument as being the best team in the history of major league baseball. And in the latter, the series started with Richie Garcia — one of the few people in American sports with an arrogance-to-competence ratio higher than Grigson’s — gift-wrapping four runs for the Yankees because he was pissy about the Padre catcher doing his job and trying to frame pitches.

Anyway, one management decision that never gets the scale of criticism it deserves was A.J. Smith’s decision to fire Marty Schottenheimer coming off a 14-2 season and having his team outplay Belichick and Brady in a playoff game but lose because an idiot decided to return what should have been a game-sealing interception. I wouldn’t be inclined to fire a 14-2 coach even if he was blundering in the playoffs — the Chiefs aren’t going to fire Andy Reid, even though he seemed to take an even higher does of Boulevard-and-Ambien at halftime last week, because unless Belichick is tired of the singles scene in Boston firing him would almost certainly make the team worse. But Schottenheimer wasn’t blundering in San Diego — he was just incredibly unlucky and the end of close games. And not only did Smith fire Schottenheimer, he replaced him with…Norv Turner, already well-established as the platonic ideal of head coaching sub-mediocrity. That talent base should have gone toe-to-toe with the Patriots for years, but Smith blew it, and now Chargers fans will never get the chance for another winner.

On to today’s games:

ATLANTA (-6) over Green Bay Did Denver winning last year with bad QB play portend a change in the NFL? Between Denver’s “historic defense and getting the breaks in every single close game” model predictably proving to be unsustainable and 3 Hall of Fame QBs and a fourth who was better than any of them this year in the championship games, I thin we can safely say “no.” You can make a case that my analysis from last week still applies here — in a shootout go with the QB with a longer track record of greatness — but Atlanta is a major step up in class offensively from the Cowboys, and while Ryan has never been this good he’s been good for a while. I’m not picking against one of the best offenses in NFL history at home in a shootout.

TEAM TRUMP (-6) over Pittsburgh Playing its best game, Pittsburgh can certainly win in Foxboro, but New England’s offense has also been fantastic, and Roethlisberger has been too erratic to pick against Brady and Belichick on the road, particularly since Brown actually had a point about the extra day and a half the Pats had to work with. Anyway, you know these teams. But connoisseurs of “Josh McDaniels, COACHING SUPERPROSPECT” stories can enjoy Peter King making sure to preemptively explain how Jed York’s grapes were sour after the 49ers decided to go with Shanahan. You see, McDaniels is an incredibly great coach who will be able to win as long as he takes over a team with championship-caliber talent. Hard to argue with that logic! I do fully expect him to be back in the Super Bowl in his appropriate role as Belichick’s playcaller, though.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 67

[ 17 ] January 22, 2017 |

This is the grave of Robert Wagner.

2016-05-29 12.22.13

Born in Prussia in 1877, Robert Wagner immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1885. Settling in New York, Wagner proved himself a rapidly rising star in Democratic Party politics from a young age. Graduating from City College in 1898 and New York Law School in 1900, he entered the state legislature in 1905 and then the state senate in 1909. Wagner became involved in reform causes to help the working class early in his career. He played a critical role in the commission formed after the Triangle Fire that led New York to pass pioneering legislation on workplace and building safety. He also worked to turn Tammany Hall away from its old corrupt past and into an organization that legitimately represented working Americans. In doing so, he was part of a larger movement remaking the northern wing of the Democratic Party in these years, a critical move in the coming New Deal.

Wagner was elected to the Senate in 1926. A close ally of his old friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Wagner would become the greatest friend the American labor movement ever had in the Senate. Most importantly was the National Labor Relations Act, commonly known as the Wagner Act, that provided the critical framework of labor law that gave workers real rights in the United States for the first time in American history. He also shepherded the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Wagner-Stegall Housing Act of 1937 through the Senate. In addition, he helped write the Social Security Act and introduced it to the Senate. He sponsored anti-lynching legislation that could never pass because of southern domination of the Democratic Party, but nonetheless was the right thing to do.

Wagner resigned from the Senate due to poor health in 1949 and died in 1953.

Robert Wagner is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York

Grit in the gears

[ 84 ] January 22, 2017 |
Sand sample from Kemil Beach National Lake shore at 3x - The Science of Sand

Sand sample from Kemil Beach National Lake shore at 3x – The Science of Sand

Yesterday was a brilliant day before I got home and read about the Trump/Spicer synchronized whinefest and that CNN was comparing the size of the D.C. march to the size of the inauguration and noting that ours was much bigger. Large public protests serve a number of purposes, and one of the most important is to transmit enthusiasm for protest to as many people as possible; to those who marched and those who did not. (Making President Manbaby fret is a bonus.)

But during and after the march people were asking What do we do next? And one of my answers is to think small, but frequent. What are simple, easy ways an individual can regularly let the world know that they object to this bullshit and will not shut up, to gum up the works, in short to remain at the soul and center of protest, which is to be a pain in the ass?

The answer to that question is up to the individual, and I don’t know the answer for myself beyond the notion that it would be fun and fulfilling to remind Republicans that the stinking yellow eyed rockfish in the White House is their stinking yellow eyed rockfish and that that their choices are to run far the fuck away from him or to spend a few hours in a giant sandblasting cabinet to get rid of the stench.

For example, Gov. Hogan made a big deal about not endorsing or voting for Trump, which is such a low bar that I don’t care. I could write Hogan to remind him that I expect him to oppose Trump, ask for examples of how he is opposing Trump and copy a Trumpertantrum or two into an email and ask him if he agrees. Those are very small things that I can do once every week or two that will keep me active and bug a Republican until it’s time for the next organized action.

The Postmodern Presidency

[ 246 ] January 22, 2017 |


I remember 10 to 15 years ago, when one conservative talking point was that postmodernism was destroying western civilization. And then they realized they could just create their own truths. I have long called the Bush administration the first postmodern prescience, but Emperor Tangerine is going all in.

“You did not answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood,” Todd interrupted. “Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one.”

“No, it doesn’t. Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck,” Conway replied. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is—”

“Wait a minute. Alternative facts? Alternative facts?” Todd interjected, looking incredulous. “Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true.”

Conway tried to interrupt, but Todd continued.

“Look, alternative facts are not facts,” he said.

On the other hand, when you’ve lost Chuck Todd on the 3rd day of your presidency….

What’s the over/under on the duration of the Trump presidency?

[ 281 ] January 22, 2017 |

For any member of the LGM community who doesn’t happen to be a degenerate sports gambler, the over/under is a betting proposition that establishes for betting purposes the most likely probability for an outcome.  (Example: the o/u on the AFC championship game today is 51, which means that the odds makers and the betting public have decided collectively via their wagers that there’s a 50% chance that the teams will score 51 points or more, and a 50% chance the teams will score 51 points or less.  If you take the under you win your bet if the teams score less than 51 points, and if you take the over you win if they score more than 51.  Also, don’t gamble on sports kids.).

Moving right along, Donald Trump’s twitter feed this morning.

OK let’s set the line.

Never Fuck a Republican

[ 62 ] January 22, 2017 |


Absolutely goddamn right

Mostly this is an excuse to use that image. Not sure who made this connection, but all due respect. Continue talking about resisting fascist scum.

Is Our Media Learning?

[ 86 ] January 22, 2017 |


WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency designed to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.

He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.


“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.

It would have been nice if they had laid off the “Shape of the Earth, views differ” before the election, but…

I’m more convinced than ever that the widespread assumption that Clinton would win and Trump didn’t need to be taken seriously was a huge factor in this election. (Cf. also, of course, the scale of today’s protests.)

Let them eat fake

[ 104 ] January 21, 2017 |

Republicans aren’t just evil, they’re tacky.

Amid the glitz of President Trump’s inaugural festivities, one item stood out in particular late Friday night: a spectacular nine-tier cake that the new president and Vice President Pence cut into with a sword.

To pastry chef Duff Goldman, the cake seemed a little too familiar — because it looked almost exactly like one he had made years earlier for Barack Obama’s second inauguration as president.

Just after midnight, the Food Network personality posted a side-by-side comparison of two cakes on his Twitter account.

And for a few hours yesterday the banner for Trump’s Twitter account showed a crowd shot from Obama’s 2009 inauguration. It’s probably just a matter of time before President Petite Mains starts smearing himself with Bobbi Brown 7.5 and insisting everyone call him Barack.

…Tiffany MacIsaac, owner of Washington’s Buttercream Bakeshop, stepped forward to say she had been the one to create the much-talked-about cake.

She said that the order came in while she was out of town, and that the client had brought in a photo of the cake from Obama’s inauguration asking her to re-create it.

“They came to us a couple of weeks ago, which is pretty last minute, and said ‘We have a photo that we would like to replicate,’ ” MacIsaac told The Washington Post by phone. Her bakery tried to encourage the client to use the photo as “inspiration,” as they do with many others, she said.

“They said, ‘Nope, they want this exact cake. It’s perfect.’ And we said, great,” MacIsaac said.

Of course. One thing Republicans aren’t is creative. That’s why their ideal society is pre-emancipation plus modern utilities and medicine for the deserving. Taking things from other people, that’s what they’re good at.

And now, the punchline.

MacIsaac said the attention caught her by surprise partly because, per the order, the Trump cake was intended to be more of a prop: All but a three-inch slice at the bottom was inedible.

“It’s just a Stryofoam cake. It’s not for eating,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be seen on TV.”

Thank goodness things aren’t too metaphoric or anything.


[ 76 ] January 21, 2017 |


We are now 2/1461, or 0.14% through the Trump administration. Unlike yesterday, today was awesome. Providence had about 5000 people in a great rally. Small compared to New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles, but it’s in the smaller cities that these rallies are also really important, including great rallies by those coastal elites in Sioux Falls, Little Rock, Asheville, Columbia, Austin, Albuquerque, and Springfield, Missouri. In a lot of these places, activism is not something people see much. Shoving ourselves in the fascists’ faces is critical. In Providence, there was consistently solid to great speakers, very inspiring. Lots of great signs, including the Roger Williams quote above (misquoted because it’s in God’s nostrils, not his eyes, but whatever). That’s how we roll in Rhode Island. My other favorite group was a bunch of young medical students in their white doctor’s coats with “Future Abortion Provider” signs. Even if one spelled it “Providor.” I guess spelling isn’t really a requirement to save women from patriarchy.

I knew a ton of people at the DC rally. My wife led a group of students from her small college in a tiny rural Pennsylvania town. And this is important. That area is absolutely horrible. I was there shortly before the election and a farm right outside of town had a hand-painted sign stuck to a tree that read “Trump. Vote4Balls.” I don’t know what could sum up the Trump voter better than this. I wanted to get a picture but I was being eyed warily by the neighbor and even though I’m a square looking white guy driving a Ford, I didn’t want to get shot for the picture. And in Shithole, PA, this is a concern. These students simply don’t see people on their side except for their professors and some other students. Many of them have never even been to DC, even though it’s only a few hours away. I can only imagine how inspired they must be. My dissertation advisor was there from New Mexico, friends from Rhode Island made the trip down, former students flew from Austin, graduate student friends came down from Nebraska, and of course Shakezula and Nexon were there from LGM. I think I knew more people at the DC march than my own wedding. Amazing.

And with Trump already whining about media coverage of his no-show inauguration that combines THIS WAS THE BIGGEST, MOST ATTENDED EVENT EVER with his supporters tweeting about how no one was there because they have jobs even though evidently they all voted for them because they don’t have jobs, the clown show is already beginning in the White House.

What was interesting is that all the speakers but one moved forward and focused on resistance. There was one, a folksinger, who ranted about superdelegates and wanted to re-litigate the primary. But no one cared. That’s past. It’s time to move forward into resistance. That’s where the people are and they moved forward in that today.

After the march ended, I had some beers with some of my union friends. We had a good conversation around the critical question–what comes next? Part of the genius of the civil rights movement was that the big marches always had a concrete goal–March on Washington was to pass a civil rights bill, the campaigns in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Albany were to desegregate those cities, Chicago was for housing equality, SNCC actions in the Freedom Rides and the sit-ins were for the government to enforce the law or for cities to act, etc. These rallies today are more like the Vietnam War protests. They are against a very evil thing, but without a real concrete goal on how to achieve it. That’s OK. There are a lot of people out there who got off the couch, turned off CNN, and came out to a march, sometimes for the first time in their lives. That’s pretty great. How do we turn that energy into something concrete? I know the big thing among many commenters is that it should all go toward voting in 2018. That’s fine, but 2018 is a long time off. We do need good candidates, etc, and all that is important. But we also need ways to channel this energy toward something else other than just the next election cycle. That’s not always the easiest thing to do so.

Of course given the horrors to come, there will be plenty of chances to reignite this energy. But even here it will be in the negative–we don’t want ACA to be repealed, we don’t want abortion made illegal, we don’t want the advances on gay rights to be turned back, we don’t want to return to Jim Crow, etc. And these are huge things. But we also need a forward looking agenda too. And that’s something that is much harder to agree upon.

I will also say that it took until the last speaker to get the real core of the issue that lots of people don’t want to hear–the enemy is capitalism as much as it is racism and misogyny and homophobia. Was glad it was said.

Now the real work begins. Let’s all try to match today’s energy going forward.

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