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The Further Adventures of Paul Ryan, Serious Policy Wonk of Great Seriousity

[ 123 ] February 24, 2017 |

ryan is a working man

One of the most ludicrous frauds in American politics is Paul Ryan’s ability to convert exactly one note — a Cliff’s Notes version of John Galt’s courtroom speech, with Special Guest Appearances at soup kitchens to make his rapacious support for upward wealth distribution to look like concern for the poor people whose lives his political career is devoted to making worse — into a reputation is a serious policy wonk. But his attempt to defend his we’ll-have-a-plan-soon to strip health care from millions of people is making him look especially ridiculous:

Having the freedom to “buy what you want” sounds good! Only in the context of health care, it’s a disaster for the non-affluent. Many people cannot afford basic health care services, and the vast majority of people cannot afford care for an unexpected major illness. Giving rich and poor people alike the “freedom” to purchase as much health care as they think they need is a cruel joke, not a serious health care policy. And it’s worse than that; people cannot, in fact, reliably predict how much health care they might “need” in the future, which is why insurance is necessary for practical access to health care in the first place.

Ryan is also attacking the regulations that require insurance—both employer-provided and purchased on exchanges—to meet minimum coverage requirements. But this is not “freedom” of any value.  Regulations that protect customers from junk insurance reduce their “freedom” in the sense that FDA regulations take away people’s “freedom” to buy beef laced with strychnine. It’s true that under the ACA young and healthy people pay more for insurance than they would under a “free market” in health care, but this is how insurance works: You pay more now so you can afford insurance later. Objecting to the ACA because the young and healthy pay more than they otherwise would is like saying its unjust to pay taxes to support the fire department when your house hasn’t burned down.

While it would be very wrong to be complacent, at least it’s looking more and more likely that Ryan won’t be able to pull ACA repeal off. That members of Congress who actually believe this abject nonsense about the value of the freedom to be bankrupted by and perhaps to be killed by preventable illnesses might be responsible for saving the ACA would be like a black fly in your Chardonnay, but we also have to credit the many members of the public who have stood up to Ryan’s war on access to health care.

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Nick Kristof Didn’t Get My Memo

[ 202 ] February 24, 2017 |
Portrait of me, vacuumslayer

Portrait of me, vacuumslayer

Because here’s article number *mumble mumble mumble thousand mumble testicles* imploring us to cut Trumpkins some slack. For the last time…no.

Friday Links

[ 126 ] February 24, 2017 |
Warren Zevon 1978 press photo.jpg

Some Guy.

We open with a Letter to the Editor:

You have stolen a fantastic song by the brilliant Warren Zevon and turned it into a confusing political nonsensical rant.  Worse, you don’t even acknowledge Zevon or his inspiration H.S. Thompson.

Hunter and Zev will long be remembered by their artistic genius.   You, on the other hand,  will go down in history for vulgar plagiarism, or more likely,  be forgotten altogether.

Moving on…

 

4chan and Trump

[ 399 ] February 24, 2017 |

I know next to nothing about the subcultures explored in this essay, and therefore can’t vouch for its accuracy,  but it’s a fascinating read.

On Gamergate:

Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and video games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.

If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women.

Yiannopoulos’ rambling “arguments” against feminism, are not arguments at all, as much as pep talks, ways of making these dis-empowered men feel empowered by discarding the symbol of their failure — women. As an openly gay man, he argues that men no longer need be interested in women, that they can and should walk away from the female sex en masse. For example in a long incoherent set of bullet points on feminism he states:

The rise of feminism has fatally coincided with the rise of video games, internet porn, and, sometime in the near future, sex robots. With all these options available, and the growing perils of real-world relationships, men are simply walking away.

Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.

On Trump as Pepe the Frog:

We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.

All the left’s mockery of Trump served to reinforce his message as not only an outsider, but as an expression of rage, despair, and ultimate pathetic Pepe-style hopelessness.

4chan’s value system, like Trump’s ideology, is obsessed with masculine competition (and the subsequent humiliation when the competition is lost). Note the terms 4chan invented, now so popular among grade schoolers everywhere: “fail” and “win”, “alpha” males and “beta cucks”. This system is defined by its childlike innocence, that is to say, the inventor’s inexperience with any sort of “IRL” [in real life] romantic interaction. And like Trump, since these men wear their insecurities on their sleeve, they fling these insults in wild rabid bursts at everyone else.

Trump the loser, the outsider, the hot mess, the pathetic joke, embodies this duality. Trump represents both the alpha and the beta. He is a successful person who, as the left often notes, is also the exact opposite — a grotesque loser, sensitive and prideful about his outsider status, ready at the drop of a hat to go on the attack, self-obsessed, selfish, abrogating, unquestioning of his own mansplaining and spreading, so insecure he must assault women. In other words, to paraphrase Truman Capote, he is someone with his nose pressed so hard up against the glass he looks ridiculous. And for this reason, (because he knows he is substanceless) he must constantly re-affirm his own ego. Or as Errol Morris put it, quoting Borges, he is a “labyrinth with no center”.

But, what the left doesn’t realize is, this is not a problem for Trump’s supporters, rather, the reason why they support him.

Trump supporters voted for the con-man, the labyrinth with no center, because the labyrinth with no center is how they feel, how they feel the world works around them. A labyrinth with no center is a perfect description of their mother’s basement with a terminal to an endless array of escapist fantasy worlds.

Trump’s bizarre, inconstant, incompetent, embarrassing, ridiculous behavior — what the left (naturally) perceives as his weaknesses — are to his supporters his strengths.

In other words, Trump is 4chan.

While Clinton won young voters (18-29) by a wide margin (55-37), that margin was sixteen points lower than Obama’s margin over McCain, and six points below Obama’s margin over Romney.  To be fair, sex-starved semi-employed white guys living in their moms’ basements represent only a small part of this larger demographic. Hopefully.

 

 

 

 

 

The Trump Administration: Restoring Integritude to the White House

[ 51 ] February 23, 2017 |

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On the plus side, the FBI rejected the request. On the massively minus side, the White House violated long-standing restrictions designed to protect ongoing investigations.

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.

It gets better:

The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts. But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described. The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn’t discuss aspects of the case but wouldn’t say exactly what McCabe told Priebus

No, of course we don’t need to worry about the ghost of Richard Nixon haunting the White House. Why would you ask?

Extra special bonus: listen to Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka make an unhinged phone call to Michael S. Smith II (via Pejman Yousefzadeh). Really, listen to all twenty-some minutes. It isn’t just that Gorka’s an unqualified hack and a charlatan, it’s also his pseudo-academic bluster. Gorka sounds like someone trying really, really hard to come across as a Deep Thinker™️ and scholar in an attempt an intellectual dominance. He fails.

Trump and Antisemitism

[ 136 ] February 23, 2017 |

BritLibCottonNeroDiiFol183vPersecutedJewsIs Donald J. Trump an antisemite? If so, he would not be the first American president to harbor prejudices against Jews. Nixon, despite his close relationship with Henry Kissinger, obsessed about whether Jews were out to get him. Regardless, this question was the subject of a heated exchange on CNN yesterday.

CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany posed a simple question to Steven Goldstein, the Anne Frank Center’s executive director, on Tuesday night: “You think the president does not like Jews and is prejudiced against Jews?”

Goldstein’s response was unequivocal: “You bet.”

So began an intense exchange on CNN’s “Out Front” that escalated when McEnany suggested that President Trump cannot be anti-Semitic because his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner.

“Does he hate his daughter?” McEnany asked. “Does he hate his son-in-law?”

“You know what, Kayleigh?” Goldstein shot back. “I am tired of commentators like you on the right trotting out his daughter, trotting out his son-in-law as talking points against the president’s anti-Semitism. They are Jewish, but that is not a talking point against anti-Semitism, and that is a disgrace. Have you no ethics?”

Indeed, ‘some of my best friends are Jewish’ isn’t much of an argument—even when it extends to one’s own family. As Erin Burnett correctly noted, it’s far from unheard of for people to make exceptions to their prejudices when it comes to, say, ‘their Jews’ or ‘their blacks’ or ‘their Catholics.’ For that matter, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the Prime Minister of Israel praised a President supportive of his policies.

However, I think that a focus on Trump’s personal views misses the point entirely. Since the start of his campaign, Trump has rarely missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to condemn antisemitism, whether among his supporters or in the form of anti-Jewish terrorism. The administration’s exclusion of Jews from its Holocaust remembrance statement, and the way that it doubled down on the matter, justifiably provoked concern among members of the Jewish community and their allies.  Consider the statement by the Trump that McEnany invoked:

Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had — 306 electoral college votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.

I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on because lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time.

I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation. Very divided. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that. And, you know, it was something that was very important to me.

As far as people — Jewish people — so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love. Okay? Thank you.

As Callum Borchers noted:

“For those wanting to give the president a fair chance,” McEnany said, “you would have heard him condemn anti-Semitism. … That sounds like a condemnation to me.”

If it was a condemnation, it was one that did not specifically mention anti-Semitism and began with an off-topic boast about Trump’s electoral college win — all in all, an unconventional answer from a president.

To put it differently, Trump took a softball question—’Mr. President, I am providing you an opportunity to condemn a wave of antisemitic incidents’—and provided an discursive and elliptical answer. We shouldn’t have to be parsing his precise meaning. When Trump did call antisemitism “horrible,” it shouldn’t have come across as petulant damage control. What this suggests to me is not so much that Trump is antisemitic—but rather that he just doesn’t care that much. It’s another example of his narcissism and spotty empathy for the suffering he might inflict—by commission or omission—on others. Trump’s Jewish problem, in other words, is merely a symptom of the fundamental flaws that render him unsuited to the Presidency.

 

 

Republican States Rights Doctrine

[ 90 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Spicer really laid out Republican states rights doctrine today in about 3 seconds. First, he was asked about transgender people and bathrooms.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the White House had rescinded guidance to public schools on transgender students’ access to facilities that match their gender identity because it ought to be a “states’ rights” issue.

Spicer also pointed to a federal judge in Texas who blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s guidance last August. Obama had instructed the Department of Education to instruct public schools not to discriminate against transgender students.

“It’s a states’ right issue. And that’s entirely what he believes,” Spicer said, referring to President Donald Trump, “that if a state wants to pass a law or rule or an organization wants to do something in compliance with the state law, that’s their right, but it shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”

A mere few minutes later, he was asked about states that had legalized marijuana.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”

It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.

And there you have it. States’ rights for policies that President Bannon and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III when states do something they like, full-throated federal repression when states do something they don’t like. Why, it’s almost as if “states’ rights” is not a principle!

Today in Trump’s America

[ 106 ] February 23, 2017 |

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White people feel emboldened to kill people of color in Trump’s America.

A Missouri man is accused of shooting and killing an Indian immigrant engineer he thought was Middle Eastern and wounding two others after shouting “get out of my country” and opening fire.

Adam Purinton was arrested after fleeing Austin’s Bar and Grill, a suburban Kansas City restaurant that was packed Wednesday night when he allegedly blasted off several rounds at 7:15 p.m.

Cops arrested the 51-year-old at an Applebee’s hours later in Clinton, Mo., some 80 miles away after they were able to negotiate with him over the phone early Thursday morning.

The fatal victim was identified by the Kansas City Star as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an aviation engineer at technology company Garmin whose Facebook page says he is from Hyderabad, India.

Surprised ICE doesn’t sign this guy up.

The American Gestapo

[ 99 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Above: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

ICE is the American version of the Gestapo and they should be demonized as such, individually.

An undocumented woman in desperate need of brain surgery has been forcibly removed from a Texas hospital — and her relatives in New York fear she could lose her life, a family representative said early Thursday.

Sara Beltran-Hernandez was detained after trying to migrate to the Big Apple from El Salvador without proper documentation in November 2015, family spokeswoman Melissa Zuniga told the Daily News. Beltran-Hernandez has been held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas ever since, as her Queens-based family members have tried to petition for her asylum.

Earlier this month, Beltran-Hernandez, 26, began complaining about severe headaches, nosebleeds and memory loss. Last week, she collapsed and was subsequently taken to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor and determined that she needed surgery.

But Zuniga told The News that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents forcibly removed Beltran-Hernandez from the Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth on Wednesday evening.

“They had her tied up from hands and ankles,” Zuniga said. “She was brought in a wheelchair and is not being given treatment even though her nose continues to bleed and she has told them her head is exploding.”

Beltran-Hernandez had been put on a surgery waitlist over the weekend, according to Zuniga. But when Beltran-Hernandez’ relatives called on Wednesday night, the surgery was suddenly off the table.

“ICE was preparing paper work to get her back to the detention center,” Zuniga said.

We need to find out who these terrible human beings and confront them. We need to make working for ICE so shameful for these people that they quit. More directly, we need to take radical action to stop this. Maybe I don’t know what the right path is, but we need to do something. This is horrifying and despicable and we cannot allow it to continue.

NEO-MCCARTHYISM!!!111!!!!

[ 290 ] February 23, 2017 |

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Watching Glenn Greenwald desperately fling his hands and talk VERY LOUD to dissemble from his role in electing Donald Trump through funneling everything about Hillary Clinton the Russian propaganda arm known as Wikileaks gave him throughout the election is pathetic. Only Greenwald and Katrina vanden Heuvel know the real truth–that by focusing on Russian interference in American elections, that we are engaging in a NEW COLD WAR that makes any criticism of Glenn NEO-MCCARTHYISM! If you don’t believe this YOU ARE A DESPICABLE LIAR!!!! AND A REDBAITER YOU JOE MCCARTHY YOU!!!*

No one should ever take Glenn Greenwald seriously again. He’s a malevolent force of pure self-righteousness who simply refuses to consider that he is part of a problem instead of the only truth teller of whatever topic he chooses to write about.

*Post written in classic Greenwald all-caps blog commenting style. I hope my imitation is acceptable to you.

The Great Pumpkin Moderate Republican President Is Coming!

[ 138 ] February 23, 2017 |

Zaid Jilani, who is paid to write about politics ostensibly from the left, actually tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 12.51.15 PM

So, let me get this straight:

  • Donald Trump had a great infrastructure plan (note: it wasn’t.) He was totally committed to it.
  • Through a mysterious mechanism that will probably never be identified, his administration became packed with finance executives.
  • After their spontaneous appearance in meetings with Trump, these alien finance executives “shut down” Donald Trump’s very serious infrastructure plan.
  • Their mechanism for “shutting down” the plan was to make an argument, which Trump agreed with.
  • Even had these finance executives who mysteriously appeared in meetings with Trump had not been able to “shut down” Trump’s secret plan to create a new PWA by arguing that it was a bad idea and Trump agreeing with their arguments, I would ask how anyone could possibly think there was the slightest chance in hell the proposal would be enacted by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, only I’m not sure Jilani knows who these people are.

And to add to the comedy, I’d bet Euros to pesos that like many of his buddies Jilani is firmly convinced that Obama, who by this point in his first term had actually signed a major New Deal-style infrastructure program, is a Reaganite shill for capital because he was unable to get multiple Republican votes (not to mention Lieberman, Bayh, Nelson, etc. etc.) for a trillion-dollar stimulus.

I will grant that Jilani’s faith in Republicans is towards the extreme end (Trump is going to stick it to big pharma! And he totally would have done it if the Goldman Sachs people Hillary Clinton forced him to pack is executive branch with didn’t force him to back down!)  But this is part of a broader phenomenon. Trying to minimize the historically yooooge and increasing differences between the parties obviously involves a lot of lying and distortion about Democrats. But it also involves applying a much more charitable standard towards Republicans — the slightest crumb thrown by even a completely obvious fraud like Rand Paul, say, is glommed onto as hope for a Principled Alternative to the Democrat Party.  “The ACA was a Republican plan” is a bullshit argument because it understates what statute accomplished, but it’s also bullshit because it’s massively too generous to the national Republican Party, whose offer to the uninsured has always been either “nothing” or “worse than nothing.” (Cf. also “Hillary Clinton is a moderate Republican.”)

Hence, we get stuff like this:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 2.17.38 PM

So, the the hope that the Republican Party will turn in a populist direction is be based on 1)two statutes passed by a Democratic Congress with veto-proof majorities and signed by a Republican president who would be either noncompetitive for the Republican nomination today or very different in their political stance, and 2)actions that happened more than 100 years ago. In conclusion, it’s very surprising that Donald Trump hasn’t governed as a New Dealer. But I’m sure the next Republican president will totally deliver the goods!

…as noted in comments, another classic of the genre. Yes, it truly mysterious why the left has not “won slots” in the Republican Party and why it is not trying to do so. Similarly, it’s hard to understand why the NAACP in the 50s decided to invest in litigation rather than lobbying the South Carolina legislature.

The Pruitt Emails

[ 41 ] February 23, 2017 |

Hear_speak_see_no_evil_Toshogu_cropped_enhancedAs you may recall:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Friday won Senate confirmation to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency he repeatedly sued to rein in its reach during the Obama administration.

The vote was 52-46 as Republican leaders used their party’s narrow Senate majority to push Pruitt’s confirmation despite calls from Democrats to delay the vote until requested emails are released next week.

As part of a public records lawsuit, a state judge in Oklahoma on Thursday ordered Pruitt to release thousands of emails that he exchanged with oil and gas executives by Tuesday. Pruitt has refused to release the emails for more than two years.

Yesterday the emails came out, and they’re pretty much what you would expect.

The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one firm, Devon Energy. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once.

The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitt’s office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. AFPM encouraged Oklahoma to challenge the rules, noting: “This argument is more credible coming from a state.” Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both of these regulations.

It takes a special kind of craven to push through Pruitt’s nomination before their release. Here you have a Republican official who resisted compliance with public records laws, and the GOP rushes to secure for him his promotion before the American people have a chance to see what he was hiding. Of course, the whole reason someone like Pruitt is attractive to the modern GOP is his war against the environment on behalf of polluting industries. So the contents of the emails should be a feature, not a bug, right?

Such shenanigans reminds me of Pruitt’s attempts to dissemble on Bernie Sanders’ question about climate change—or, for that matter, Betsy DeVos’ refusal to directly answer questions about educational accountability. Such an unwillingness to take public ownership of their own positions tells you, I think, quite a good deal about modern Republicans.

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