Monday, October 8, 2018

State of the Union, October 2016

We are currently governed by a Congress where the party in power won a bare majority in the House by 1.1% of the popular vote, and lost the popular vote in the Senate. The President lost the popular vote, and may have been involved in foreign efforts to influence the election in his favor. That's ignoring the party's ongoing campaign of voter suppression in key states.

This party, which came to power without a popular mandate, has now installed a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, including 4 Justices appointed by a President who lost the popular vote and 2 with credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault against them.

The open cruelty of this party has been on display since January 2017, as they've pursued a policy of non-violent ethnic cleansing that has sundered families, and seen asylum seekers and their children indefinitely detained in tent camps. They've insisted that massive cuts need to be made to programs that support the poor, even as they force through massive cuts to taxes for the rich. They've insisted on destroying the Affordable Care Act without any meaningful plan to replace it.

The party has openly worked to sabotage the proper functioning of our government at every turn. They have insulted our allies and sought the support of our enemies, even as those same enemies commit crimes with impunity, confident no response is coming from the United States. They have allowed the President and his cronies to openly flout ethics laws and profit massively from their positions, without lifting a finger to investigate.

And most recently, they listed to a survivor of sexual assault, denigrated her, ignored her, ignored anyone who would speak in support of her, ignored any evidence that backed her up, and made yet another naked grab for power. Brett Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court tomorrow. Dr. Blasey Ford remains in hiding.

And now, this weekend, we are seeing a report that describes a climate crisis that could hit us as soon as 2040. The report describes worsening food shortages, increased wildfires, massive coral die-off, and a rise in temperatures of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit worldwide. Steps could have been taken to avoid this decades ago. They weren't. Steps need to be taken immediately to prevent this now. They won't be. We are trapped under absolute minority rule by a party that still insists that climate change is a hoax, and will do anything necessary to prevent meaningful action against the coming crisis.

Our children - my children - will grow up in the hell we leave behind.

So as this party goes on the news and bemoans the lack of civility in our politics - as they complain they can't go to dinner without being harassed, as they attempt to paint the opposition as somehow radical and dangerous: remember that this party has been working for decades to destroy our government, our balance of powers, and our ability to simply live on our own planet.

Remember that, and fucking vote.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Doom Coming To Trumpland

So shit happened today, as it does every day since the election of 2016. But this shit may be significant. It may mark the End Times in Trumpland, the time when the red moon plunges from the sky and the ground trembles with the fearful shaking of the dreaming MAGAts. A rent has been torn in the throne of the Fool's Gold God, and the tweeting of a thousand thousand pundits drowns the air as the blue-winged flock takes flight...

Fuck. Sorry. Let me begin again.

(Black Library, would you like a haunted house story?)

Today Donald Trump tweeted this:

In essence: Donald Trump admitted the meeting his son had with a Russian attorney during the campaign was to get dirt on his opponent, Hillary Clinton; claimed the whole thing was legal and went nowhere; and denies knowing anything about it.

Take a moment to let the idiocy of denying knowing about a "totally legal" meeting sink in. Took me all day. Good? Okay, let's move on.

Donald Trump is admitting that his son met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with close ties to the Russian government, to get information on Hillary Clinton. This is, to my knowledge, the first time he's acknowledged that, although it's been known for months that the original stated purpose of the meeting was false. (Said purpose being to discuss adoption in Russia, a story apparently concocted personally by Donald Trump on behalf of his son.)

This alone is problematic, since it's illegal for a campaign to accept "anything of value" from a foreign national. The Trumps claim nothing of value came from this meeting, which might be believable except for a few things:

1. the Democratic National Committee's servers were hacked,

2. those servers contained damaging material in email that was subsequently released to the public, influencing the election,

3. those servers also contained election analytics data, which was not released to the public, but which the Trump campaign appears to have acted on during the election,

4. Donald Trump has subsequently done everything feasible to end any investigation into these points, and

5. Donald Trump has lied to the American people around 4,500 times just since he took office.

So it's possible Trump's tweet is an admission that his campaign was seeking information of value from a foreign national. Collusion is not a technical crime, but that is collusion. It is also a crime, if anything of value was provided.

And Trumpland continues to shake, because what sparked Trump's admission were rumors that he was concerned his son, Donald Jr., is in legal jeopardy. Because Donald Trump Jr. testified to Congress, under oath, that his father had no knowledge of this meeting. Which, to be clear, took place in Trump Tower, which Donald Trump was in at the time.

So the statement was already hard to believe, but now it appears that Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, is ready to state that Donald Trump was aware of the meeting in advance and approved it. Which means Donald Trump Jr. may have lied under oath to Congress. Which is a felony. That also means Donald Trump was fully aware his campaign was reaching out to a foreign national for information of value.

And now the doom becomes clear: Trump may have committed a felony during his campaign by colluding with a Russian national.* If so, his defense hinges of denying any knowledge of it. But that defense hinges on 1. Michael Cohen not having any evidence to the contrary, and 2. every other party with knowledge of the meeting backing Trump.

One of those parties is Trump Jr., but he may have committed a felony of his own in lying to Congress, if Trump did have knowledge of the meeting. And so the Trumps find themselves under a pile of horrors:

1. If Trump Jr. is found to have lied under oath, he faces felony charges.

2. If Trump Jr. is prosecuted, Trump can pardon him - but accepting the pardon means Trump Jr. must admit guilt, which means he has to state affirmatively that his father had advance knowledge of the meeting in Trump Tower.

Which puts Donald Trump in the position of potentially having to convince his own son to go to prison for a felony in order to save his own skin.

And this is one of the better scenarios Trump is facing. If Michael Cohen produces evidence, or evidence is obtained elsewhere, that Trump knew about the meeting, he ends up in significantly greater legal jeopardy, and his son still faces prosecution for lying plus whatever charges Trump gets hit with.

This is not necessarily the end game for Trump, mind. He's unlikely to be prosecuted in office, and a compliant GOP Congress might be willing to accept a President who's committed felony election fraud. But it might be less likely to let that same President pardon his son for the same crime.

*I'm ignoring the potential felony payoffs of multiple sex workers. And the potential host of felonies laundering Russian money. And the potential violations of the emoluments clause. And the child rape accusation. And the spousal rape accusation. Just like the Republican Party.

Image courtesy of BoingBoing.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

On Andrew McCabe

So, Andrew McCabe.

As best I can work out from the news, Andrew McCabe authorized the release of some information about the investigation into Hillary Clinton during the election. This was, apparently, something he had authority to do. He then reportedly showed "lack of candor" during the subsequent investigation by the Inspector General, which was what led to his firing yesterday.

The firing might have been justified, it might not have been. It's impossible to say without seeing the IG's report, which hasn't been released.

What can be said is that Donald Trump has had a hard-on for McCabe for months now, 1. because McCabe corroborated James Comey's damaging statements on Donald Trump in the obstruction investigation in front of the House Intel Committee, and 2. because Trump apparently believes McCabe is a pro-Clinton plant, due to his wife running for office as a Democrat.

What can also be said is that Andrew McCabe was fired for lack of honesty, by an Attorney General who perjured himself in front of Congress, under the apparent direction of a President who lies to the American people on average four times a day. He has been denied his pension while Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI while he was part of the Trump administration, continues to draw his.

McCabe's firing came on the same day that House Democrats revealed letters from a whistleblower alleging an effort by Trump administration officials to purge the State Department of career employees out of fear that they were secret Obama loyalists.

And it has been followed by statements from Trump which just about confirm that McCabe's firing was retaliation for his statements supporting Comey's testimony.

And that has been followed by Trump's lawyer, on behalf of the White House (until it wasn't), calling for an end to Robert Mueller's probe into Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, and God knows what other crimes.

Regardless of whether McCabe deserved to be fired fast enough to deny a 21 year FBI veteran his pension, after what by all accounts were years of distinguished service, is almost beside the point when the sitting President is so grossly, obviously attacking a witness in a case that puts that same President in legal jeopardy.

Donald Trump is unfit for office. And I hope yesterday's naked cruelty is part of what finally brings him down.

Below: Andrew McCabe's statement on his firing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

After Ragnarok (Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok)

Hela awoke in pain.

The right side of her body was in agony, every nerve and muscle screaming in torment. She gritted her teeth and forced herself to sit up. That simple movement nearly caused her to lose consciousness, but she was Hela, and her will was strong.

She looked down, and a hiss escaped her teeth at what she saw. The half of her had been burned to the bone, and what was left of her flesh and muscle looked like cooked meat. She raised her right arm, forcing near-skeletal fingers to flex and form a closed fist. Satisfied, she called a sword and used it to prop herself up onto her feet.

She looked around for the first time, taking stock of her surroundings. The landscape was blasted and filled with a sulfurous reek. A poor showing for Asgard, she thought.

She remembered Surtur driving his blade down, the last attempt to dodge the enormous flaming sword as it bit home. Obviously less than successful, but that was of no consequence. She lived, and she was Hela, and she stood on Asgardian soil. That would be enough.

Hela closed her eyes and drew upon Asgard's power, willing herself whole again.

Her eyes flew open when nothing happened.

This was not Asgard!

She sought around herself, and now the landscape became clearer. A blasted wasteland, yes, and a very familiar one.

She was back. Back in the hell that Allfather Odin had banished her to, so many millennia ago.

She reached out instinctively, her senses questing for the weak point that she had found, that had granted her her freedom, her kingdom, her empire, everything that was rightfully hers... and found nothing.

Was she too weak? Or was that door simply gone, as if it had never been? Impossible to tell.

Hela raged. She screamed, cursing all the gods, her family most of all. She struck the ground, splintered sword after sword. And when she had nothing left she fell to her knees.

All of her rage was futile. Nothing she did had the slightest effect.

Of course not.

She was Hela, but she did not live.

And this was no Valhalla.

For the first time in her long existence, Hela suffered a single tear to fall from her eye.

Behind her, something chuffed.

Hela turned her head and felt a hot breath on her healthy skin as Fenris Wolf licked her face. She reached up and stroked the great wolf's muzzle, joy and astonishment lightening the weight of her despair. It looked at her with its old eyes, the glint of the Eternal Flame no longer present.

She rose to her feet again, and looked behind Fenris. Ranks of soldiers stood there, soldiers she recognized. The Einharjar of her youth, the warriors who had pledged to her above all others and followed her in defiance of the Allfather. They were dead, as she was dead, but their swords were sharp and their armor was strong.

As one, they put their fists to their breasts, and bowed to her.

Hela stood in the reeking waste and she smiled.

This was no Valhalla.

But perhaps it could be better.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Excuse Me While I Rage The Fuck Out

I'm angry this morning, ladies and gentlemen, and I'm angry because after two of his White House staff were forced to resign their positions for beating their wives, Donald Trump, who is President of the United States, posted this:

Ignore Assange's bullshit please.
If you don't know why I'm pissed let me recap real quick:

- Donald Trump's first wife testified under oath that he raped her.

- Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault by over a dozen women.

- Multiple witnesses confirm Donald Trump made a habit of walking in on underage girls in their changing rooms when he ran beauty pageants.

- A woman sued Donald Trump for raping her at the age of 13. And this lawsuit was brought during Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

It's bad enough that Donald Trump is taking the side of men who abused their wives, one of which there is photographic evidence of. But for this festering orange shitgibbon to complain about due process and ruined careers after he's not only avoided any culpability for his own crimes, but managed to get elected to the highest office in the land, makes me so Goddamn mad that I don't have the words to process it.

And to anyone who voted for him: don't pretend you didn't know. Everyone knew this fucker is a sexual predator. And you decided you were okay with that as long as he got rid of the immigrants and pissed off the Democrats. So fuck you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Read the news this morning, gotta blog.

So a government shutdown is pending. No one wants it. Republicans know they'll get blamed for it, regardless of their bluster, and Democrats just generally don't like shutting the government down.

Maybe Trump wants it, but who can trust what he says?

So there's a deal the Republican leadership has in place to kick the can down the road again for a month. The deal includes funding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 6 years, and delays some taxes in ACA that aren't particularly popular.

Now normally this would not be a terrible deal. It cuts taxes for awhile and funds a key, popular program past the point where Trump can possibly fuck it up. But we do not live in normal times.

There are a lot of Republican factions that hate the deal. Defense hawks are adamant that Congress can't keep the military on continuing resolution (CR) spending (read: month to month) and are opposed to any short-term deal. The Freedom Caucus is demanding more tax cuts and are being dicks as usual. So there's a fair chance that Paul Ryan might not be able to pass a bill without Democratic support.

On the Democrat side, there's a lot of pressure to address DREAMers in a spending bill. Right now, they have a lot of leverage to get that done, but that might not be the case in February. And it's tricky for them to oppose a CR that funds CHIP.

So the first hurdle is if the House Republicans can pass the CR on their own. If they can't, it's not clear Pelosi will be able to hold her caucus to oppose it - it'll probably depend on the margin Ryan needs to push it through.

Either way, Democrats will have to help pass the CR through the Senate with 9 votes. And there are enough Democrats in red states to make shutting the government down over DREAMers a dicey proposition.

And Trump could blow the whole thing up, of course.

So, my take:

Most likely the CR will pass with both sides declaring a small win and lambasting the other for playing politics. CHIP is a big sweetener.

But, that assumes Ryan can get his team together. House Republican politics are ugly and averse to compromise, and Ryan knows he'll get shitcanned out of the Speaker slot in short order if he starts going to the minority for help. If he doesn't, I give 50/50 odds Pelosi refuses to bail him out without significant payment, and Ryan definitely won't go that route.

If the CR makes it to the Senate, I have no doubt it will pass. And if it goes to Trump's desk for signature I don't doubt he'll sign it; or if he doesn't, the Democrats might vote to override him out of sheer pique.

All of this of course overlooks the fact nothing being debated here should be controversial in a sane and rational society. But we've got what we've got. God knows what February (or the debt ceiling!) will bring.