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Thursday, February 7, 2019

“I'm not going to have time to go play golf,” Trump said on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. In 2015 he insisted that he “would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” “I would not be a president who took vacations,” he said. “I would not be a president that takes time off.”

The Guardian, today:

Axios reported: “The president sometimes has meetings during executive time that he doesn’t want most West Wing staff to know about for fear of leaks. And his mornings sometimes include calls with heads of state, political meetings and meetings with counsel in the residence, which aren’t captured on these schedules.”

The calls and meetings are understood to include the Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, longtime friends such as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the New York businessman Richard LeFrak, the conservative media entrepreneur Chris Ruddy and the former bodyguard Keith Schiller, and members of Congress including senator Lindsey Graham and the US representative Mark Meadows. He also phones journalists at the New York Times and elsewhere to complain about their coverage.

Yet the interactions do not appear on the daily schedules. Chris Whipple, the author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, said: “It tells you these calls have nothing to do with governing. He’s just clowning around, talking to his pals, tweeting and watching TV. If the calls had any governmental purpose, it would be on the schedule.”

Below, Page 1 of President Ford's schedule, today in 1975. It goes on for five pages, with appendices.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Trump's Ten-Year AIDS Plan: just more bait-and-switch

In his State of the Union Address for 2019, the president read this paragraph:
No force in history has done more to advance the human condition than American freedom.  In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach.  My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.  Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.
I thought it would be interesting to collect the record of the president and his administration on HIV/Aids issues, to give his call some context.

The first thing to surprise me was that in all the tens of thousands of tweets gathered at the Trump Twitter Archive, out of the thousands of issues the president has bloviated on, AIDS got his attention exactly once:

Since he became president, his administration has veered between inaction, indifference, tone-deaf insults, and flurries of makework around World AIDS Day. Here's the record:

Scott A. Schoetes, "TRUMP DOESN’T CARE ABOUT HIV. WE’RE OUTTA HERE," Newsweek, June 6, 2017:
Five of my colleagues and I resigned this week from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).
As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care.
The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.
White House press release, October 2, 2017:  President Trump Continues PACHA
NBC News: "Trump's World AIDS Day proclamation leaves out LGBTQ people," December 1, 2017

"With American Leadership, We Are on the Brink of Controlling AIDS," December 1, 2017 press release on the PEPFAR program in Africa.

Press release, Department of Health and Human Services, "HHS Seeks Nominees for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS," December 1, 2017

Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Stoking Fears, Trump Defied Bureaucracy to Advance Immigration Agenda," The New York Times, December 23, 2017:
According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.
More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.
Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there...While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time. 
Ben Guarino, "Trump administration fires all members of HIV/AIDS advisory council,"  The Washington Post, December 29, 2017:
The remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS were fired en masse this week.
Months after a half-dozen members resigned in protest of the Trump administration's position on health policies, the White House dismissed the rest through a form letter.
The notice “thanked me for my past service and said that my appointment was terminated, effective immediately,” said Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who works on HIV testing programs. He was appointed to a four-year term in May 2016.
The council, known by the acronym PACHA, has advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policies since its founding in 1995. Members, who are not paid, offer recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a five-year plan responding to the epidemic.
The group is designed to include “doctors, members of industry, members of the community and, very importantly, people living with HIV,” said Scott Schoettes, a lawyer with the LGBT rights organization Lambda Legal. “Without it, you lose the community voice in policymaking.”
Schoettes was among those who quit in June, and he went out with a fiery commentary in Newsweek. “The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and — most concerning — pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” he wrote in the column.
“We tried to stick it out,” Schoettes told The Washington Post on Friday. “The fact is you’re dealing with a public health issue. It’s not partisan at all.”
But the “writing was on the wall,” he continued. The Office of National AIDS Policy, established in 1993 during the Clinton administration, has not had a director since Donald Trump took office. “The tipping point for me was the president's approach to the Affordable Care Act,” Schoettes said. “It is of great importance for people living with HIV like myself.”
The council's executive director, Kaye Hayes, confirmed in a statement that all remaining 10 council members had received letters Wednesday “informing them that the administration was terminating their appointments.”
She did not address when the administration might begin to make new appointments to the council, which can number up to 25 members. Its most recent meeting took place in August, Sullivan said, and by November, an archived version of PACHA’s website shows the group was down to 10 members and two staffers.
The website, which says it was updated Thursday, showed two staffers and no council members Friday...
David Smith, "Bill Gates: Trump twice asked me the difference between HIV and HPV," The Guardian, May 18, 2018

Jesse Milan, Jr, "Trump To Reallocate HIV Funds To Pay for Family Separation," Plus Magazine, July 11, 2018

President Trump, Proclamation of World Aids Day, November 30, 2018: still no mention of LGBT Americans.

Chris Johnson,  "For World AIDS Day, Pence praises HIV programs Trump sought to cut," LA Blade, December 4, 2018:
With World AIDS Day approaching, the White House recognized the occasion on Thursday with an event hosted by Vice President Mike Pence, who during his remarks praised HIV/AIDS programs Trump sought to cut during his administration.
Crediting President Trump with bringing a “renewed energy and focus” against HIV/AIDS, Pence made faith-based organizations’ work a cornerstone of his remarks, saying those efforts have made the United States “closer today than ever before to ending the AIDS crisis in our time.”
“Now, the credit for this achievement is widely shared, but faith-based organizations and faith communities like those represented here have played a preeminent role,” Pence added. “And the leaders in this room have inspired countless others to put hands and feet on their faith and bring hope and healing to literally millions of people around the world suffering with HIV/AIDS.”
Pence said the Trump administration will invest $100 million in new resources to expand our engagement with faith-based organizations and communities of faith “on the frontlines of the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
“This new investment of $100 million in faith-based organizations will increase the funding to those organizations by a full third,” Pence said. “And this will make a world of difference, we believe, in countless lives affected by this disease.”
Pence acknowledged HIV/AIDS has infected more than 77 million people worldwide and claimed no less than 35 million lives, devastating countless families and communities around the world.
“In response to this health crisis, the American people did as we always do: We mobilized the resources of the nation to fight this epidemic, not just in our own nation, in our communities, but ultimately in every corner of the world,” Pence said.
But no where during his speech did Pence mention the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on LGBT people, even though the LGBT community has endured the brunt of the epidemic. In 2016, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of the 40,324 new HIV diagnoses in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Pence’s omission is similar to the lack of mention of LGBT people in Trump’s World AIDS Day statement last year.
Pence also touted the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program that provides health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS, asserting the program “continues to provide vital medical services to more than 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV.”
The vice president also praised PEPFAR, a U.S. initiative that seeks to distribute antiviral drugs globally, primarily in Africa. Pence recalled his support in 2003 as U.S. House member for the program when then-President George W. Bush created the initiative.
“Thanks to the generosity of the American people and the efforts of the organizations that are so well represented here today, it’s humbling to think, in just 15 years, this American effort has helped save more than 17 million lives and prevented millions more from contracting HIV/AIDS to begin with,” Pence said. “And AIDS-related deaths have been cut in half since their peak in 2004.”
Touting the work of the Trump administration, Pence pointed out the State Department last year developed a PEPFAR Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control and said Trump would soon sign a bill reauthorizing the program in the aftermath of congressional approval this week.
“We’ve made great progress, but our work is far from over,” Pence said. “And as evidenced by the Congress’s action and the president’s renewed leadership, that work will continue until we end the scourge of HIV/AIDS once and for all.”
It should be noted Trump’s most recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 called for a drastic reduction of PEPFAR, down from $4.65 billion in FY-17 to $3.85 billion. That would have been a 17 percent reduction compared to existing funding levels. The budget request also sought a decrease of $2.26 billion in funds for the Ryan White Care Act, which is a 2 percent reduction compared to existing funding levels.
Federal Register, "Meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS," December 7, 2018:
The Council meeting is scheduled to convene on March 14-15, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 14 and from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (ET) on March 15. Please note that on March 14, the meeting will include a closed session from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This portion of the meeting will be closed for administrative briefings to be presented to the new Council members. The meeting will be open to the public from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on March 14 and from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (ET) on March 15. page, PACHA Members & Staff, January 28, 2019, lists the commission's two new co-chairs but no commission members.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Monday Minute

“There are some people you like immediately, some whom you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick.”

-Douglas Adams (1952-2001), British author

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Memo to the President: please don't dictate tweets before you put your teeth in.

Having proclaimed Trump the anointed of God, evangelicals now point to his first miracle: the burger buns and fish sandwiches

By most accounts, it's the last sort of erection he can manage.

Dana Millbank, in The Washington Post:

Curiously, a certain type of work came up more than once when I searched for a shutdown vocation for Trump. For people who, like Trump, score very low in two attributes — “job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings” and “job requires being honest and ethical” — the database returned a common result: “fence erector.”

What's striking is how much the GOP hasn't objected to over his fifteen years in Congress.

Iowa Congressman Steve King has finally gotten a smidgen of punishment for crawling out of the US House's GOP caucus room to expose what so many of his colleagues also think:
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The #2 GOP House leader, Steve Scalise, says this is news to him. The New York Times has a 16-year list of King's racist comments. 

And it doesn't even include his gay-bashing.

"To be a modern conservative is to spend your life inside what amounts to a cult, barely exposed to outside ideas or even ways of speaking."

Hardly has the grave of President George H.W. Bush settled before one of his most respected lieutenants, William P. Barr, has signed on as a leader of an administration peopled by such zanies and mountebanks as Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Sebastian Gorka, Omarosa, seller-of-toilets-for-well-hung-men acting AG Matthew Whitaker, ex-Peter Rabbit turned press secretary Sean Spicer, and blink-and-you-missed-him comms director The Mooch:

Paul Krugman has the reason:
"Then there’s the Trump effect. Normally working for the president of the United States is a career booster, something that looks good on your résumé. Trump’s presidency, however, is so chaotic, corrupt and potentially compromised by his foreign entanglements that anyone associated with him gets tainted — which is why after only two years he has already left a trail of broken men and wrecked reputations in his wake.
"So who is willing to serve him at this point? Only those with no reputation to lose, generally because they’re pretty bad at what they do. There are, no doubt, conservatives smart and self-controlled enough to lie plausibly, or at least preserve some deniability, and defend Trump’s policies without making fools of themselves. But those people have gone into hiding.
"A year ago I pointed out that the Trump administration was turning into government by the worst and the dumbest. Since then, however, things have gotten even worse and even dumber. And we haven’t hit bottom yet."

If they still had Western Civ classes, kids would know this, eh?

New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks has a unique influence in Big Media, all the more so because, in an age of populism, he is such a mandarin snob.

Only such a right-wing silo dweller could come up with blaming Communism for bullying and counter-bullying among America's young:
I’m older, so all sorts of historical alarm bells were going off — the way students denounced and effectively murdered their elders for incorrect thought during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and in Stalin’s Russia.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

When it comes to walls, Robert Frost might find Donald Trump a bit vulgar

It should come as no surprise that the man who lies at least fifteen times a day makes things up when he is feeling short of attention:
The Washington Post has a nice reality check:
“There’s a fence that goes along the front of the house, but it’s the same as the other neighbors have,” the neighbor said. “It’s tastefully done.” 
Meanwhile, the fence around The White House is being replaced by a taller one: thirteen feet. You could look it up.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mr McGregor declares trade war with Peter Rabbit

Having blown right through Christmas baring his ass to Jesus, God's Anointed President is back to Secular Mode:

Maybe Individual 1 has finally started to realize his weeks of anti-immigrant campaign rallies cost him control of the US House- bigly. So now he's trying to graft trade onto immigrant rapists.

Close the border to trade because NAFTA doesn't work?

Really? The Saudis' bitch just renegotiated NAFTA and bellowed, "Problem solved!"

And if we do as he says, how long will it take to bring home the businesses? Will they include his?

Will there be a bailout to the auto industry for the 25% extra tariff on steel that has it shedding jobs- at home? Can that bribe be relied on? After all, the Stable Genius killed American soybean exports, announced billions in donatives to farmers- and now has shut them off in his government shutdown.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Waldo's Top 5 Christmas Movies

Days of rattling about the house- yours or someone else's- loom, stuck with people you may or may not like, or who may or may not like you. Football will be on TV all the time.

Happily, we all have extra "devices" now so we can escape the day-long college and NFL couchfests with the guys.

If you need to slink of away for some bracing holiday fare- with just the right notes of black humor and schadenfreude- start looking for these classics in Netflix. You can watch them on your phone, under the covers, like you read with a flashlight in your old room.

The Family Stone (2005)

Roger Ebert wrote,
The oldest son, Everett (Dermot Mulroney) is bringing home his fiancee Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet the family. Meredith is not going to be an easy fit. She's aggressive, uptight, hyper-sensitive and dresses like someone who has never been undressed.
Waiting in the hometown are Everett's family: His mom Sybil (Diane Keaton), his dad Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), his brother Ben (Luke Wilson), his gay and deaf brother Thad (Ty Giordano), and his kid sister Amy (Rachel McAdams). We will also meet Thad's African-American partner, Patrick (Brian White), and their adopted son.
So, OK, if the Stones are OK with Patrick, they're strong on empathy and acceptance. Therefore, if they don't like Meredith, it is because she is not to be liked. And that does seem to be the case, because (1) it is instantly obvious to her mother Sybil that this is the wrong woman for her son Everett, and (2) poor Meredith is one of those perfectionists who in their rigid compulsion to do the right thing always succeed in doing the wrong one.
Sir Michael Tippett, who wrote operas, said, "There is only one comic plot: the unexpected hindrances to an eventual marriage." While this definition does not encompass "A Night at the Opera" or "Babe: Pig in the City," there is much truth in it. In Meredith's case, she is her own greatest hindrance to marriage, and the more she realizes that, the deeper the hole she digs.
The screenplay by director Thomas Bezucha establishes subplots around this central fact. We learn that Everett is drawn to Meredith partly because he believes that to be successful in business, he should be more like her and less like he really is. We learn that Ben, the Luke Wilson character, thinks of himself as a wild and crazy guy. We meet Meredith's sister Julie (Claire Danes), who flies in to rescue her sister and turns into a second fly in the same ointment. Julie is as relaxed and natural as Meredith is emotionally constipated.
And then, in ways I will not reveal, it turns out there is another truth Sir Michael might have observed: Opposites attract.
"The Family Stone" is silly at times, leaning toward the screwball tradition of everyone racing around the house at the same time in a panic fueled by serial misunderstandings. There is also a thoughtful side, involving the long and loving marriage of Sybil and Kelly. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson create touching characters in the middle of comic chaos. They have a scene together as true and intimate in its way as a scene involving a long-married couple can be. It doesn't involve a lot of dialogue, and doesn't need to, because it obviously draws on a lot of history.
There is an emerging genre of movies about family reunions at holiday time. It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that most reunions at Christmas end happily, while most reunions at Thanksgiving end sadly. That's odd, because the way things shake down in the world of fragmented families, we tend to spend Thanksgiving with those we choose, and Christmas with those we must. If those two lists are identical in your life, your holidays must all be joyous, or all not.
What is always true is that the holiday itself imposes Aristotle's unities of time and place upon the plot. Most of the action takes place in the house or on the way and from it, and whatever happens will have to happen before everybody heads back to the airport. That creates an artificial deadline that makes everything seem more urgent and requires that the truth be told or love declared right here and now, or not at all...
Scrooged (1988)

A reimagination of the Dickens tale, set in a Manhattan television network preparing for a live broadcast of the story in all its modern TV excess, from dancing girls to John Houseman as the host hawking his accent for another paycheck, and Buddy Hackett as Scrooge.

But that is as nothing compared to Frank Cross, the soulless network president, who gets it from the three spirits, and gets it but good. A brilliant supporting cast rounds out the carnage.

Brazil (1985)

One of the fever dreams of Monty Pythonist Terry Gilliam, Brazil did poorly when it came out. Roger Ebert was baffled:
While Orwell's lean prose was translated last year into an equally lean and dour film, "Brazil" seems almost like a throwback to the psychedelic 1960s, to an anarchic vision in which the best way to improve things is to blow them up.
The other difference between the two worlds - Orwell's and the one created here by director and co-writer Terry Gilliam - is that Gilliam apparently has had no financial restraints. Although "Brazil" has had a checkered history since it was made (for a long time, Universal Pictures seemed unwilling to release it), there was a lot of money available to make it. The movie is awash in elaborate special effects, sensational sets, apocalyptic scenes of destruction and a general lack of discipline. It's as if Gilliam sat down and wrote out all of his fantasies, heedless of production difficulties, and then they were filmed - this time, heedless of sense.
The movie is very hard to follow. I have seen it twice, and am still not sure exactly who all the characters are, or how they fit.
Perhaps it is not supposed to be clear; perhaps the movie's air of confusion is part of its paranoid vision. There are individual moments that create sharp images (shock troops drilling through a ceiling, De Niro wrestling with the almost obscene wiring and tubing inside a wall, the movie's obsession with bizarre duct work), but there seems to be no sure hand at the controls.
The best scene in the movie is one of the simplest, as Sam moves into half an office and finds himself engaged in a tug-of-war over his desk with the man through the wall. I was reminded of a Chaplin film, "Modern Times," and reminded, too, that in Chaplin economy and simplicity were virtues, not the enemy.
Now, it runs like the CBS Evening News, only with music. The government constantly demands, "WHO CAN YOU TRUST?" The 1% are only occasionally bothered by the terrorists, and one matron has so many facelifts she finally dissolves into an overripe fruit salad. It is the perfect Trump holiday film.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Yes, there are versions for every taste, and some will cling to the ancient Alastair Sim version till the last acetate cel crumbles, but for my money George C. Scott nailed Ebenezer Scrooge in Clive Donner's elegant period production.

Scott's movie persona was bluff and bluster and, often, meanness. He pulls out the stops here, a man used to being in control who finds himself utterly losing it. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge shown his future is an anguished wail by a man at the abyss. His conversion is all the more real for it.

Christmas in Connecticut (1944)

Everything about Elizabeth Lane- the Martha Stewart of the golden age of magazines- is a fake. For a lifestyle goddess with a beautiful farm, cow, child, and husband, she lives in a New York City walk-up, can't cook, and is single. And she's played by Barbara Stanwyck.

That's enough plot to launch a classic B movie slamming-door farce: the sort that, once in a while, emerged a classic. The studio system's binders full of character actors is rarely seen to work so well, with turns by Una O'Connor, Sidney Greenstreet, S.Z. Sakall, Reginald Gardner, and more.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

But Jesus' self-appointed arbiter said, Suffer the big evangelical donors, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of Trump


FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL TOUR INCLUDES TRUMP HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS: The Family Research Council’s “Washington D.C. Christian Heritage Tour & Summit” in March is the latest conservative confab scheduled to take place at the Trump International Hotel. The three-night jaunt includes accommodations at the hotel and the possibility of a briefing at the White House, plus a day at the Museum of the Bible and a private tour of Capitol Hill, POLITICO’s Lorraine Woellert reports. Tickets start at $2,498 for a double-occupancy room. Evangelical conservatives helped propel President Donald Trump into office and Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council’s president, has been a staunch defender of the administration. Trump, in turn, has delivered on promises to nominate conservative judges and this week endorsed a prison-reform plan backed by religious groups.

— Perkins didn’t respond to requests for more information about the trip, nor did the White House. But government watchdogs had plenty to say. “It stinks,” said Norm Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a frequent critic of the president’s. “It’s bad enough when there’s a tacit quid-pro-quo and people using the Trump hotel or other Trump properties to curry favor with the president,” Eisen continued. “Here you have something that breaks new ground because it at least raises the question of whether there’s a direct sale of access.”

— The junket is another example of why Trump should have divested from his businesses, said Delaney Marsco, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center. “We shouldn’t have to wonder if the president might give special treatment or consideration of policy ideas to folks who frequent his hotels,” Marsco said.

As US Attorney, he longed to get one

The acting attorney general of the United States was previously a concrete salesman, a daycare operator, and a con man:
World Patent Marketing promoted a “masculine toilet” meant for men who are so well endowed their junk dangles in the water. 

Straight, and narrow

Thomas Edsall, writing in The New York Times:

"Christopher Hooks, a freelance journalist based in Austin who often writes for the Texas Observer, has produced two nuanced analyses of the state of play in Texas politics, one in the Observer, the other in the Atlantic.

"In the Nov. 7 Observer, Hooks wrote:
"Something happened this year that has not happened before — Republican-leaning voters studied specific down-ballot races and broke ranks. That’s a terrible omen for Republicans, who spent the month before the election begging voters to vote straight-ticket R. Once voters get in the habit of splitting their ballot, they’re more likely to do so in the future."

"I am honored to represent my country, and grateful that sourcing trips will be so much easier!"

The president has named a handbag designer ambassador to the Republic of South Africa:
Marks is known for luxury handbags in exotic animal skins, such as ostrich and alligator, with prices that can hover above $19,000.

Edith Wilson would be impressed

Here is a question for Trump supporters.

Accepting, for the sake of argument, that all the things you admire about him are true: that he is a very stable genius; he has all the best words; he hires all the best people; he knows more about war than the generals and has a natural instinct for science; he has the best memory in the world; he did more than any other president in his first 100 days and passed the biggest, best laws ever (“I’ve passed a lot of legislative bills that people don’t even know about"); his biggest-ever inauguration crowd; his bigger rally audiences than Elton John, and all the rest- including evangelical claims that God chose him to be president despite being a walk, bellowing affront to the Ten Commandments- are you really OK with a fashion model directing personnel changes in the National Security Advisor's team?

"What is was, wasn't football"

Nothing is more badly reported by the media than a lawsuit, and no lawsuits are more badly reported than Florida elections lawsuits.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio- more a water boy than a coach on the best of days- played Sidelines Expert the other day as he tweeted from the partisan gutter:

The twitterverse promptly dispatched Little Marco to the locker room:

A Florida federal judge was not impressed:

Consider the game of football. Football fans may quibble about the substance of the rules, but no one quibbles that rules are necessary to play the game. See generally Nat’l Football League, 2018 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League (2018).

And no one quibbles that football referees make certain calls, under the rules, that deserve review. Indeed, not every call is going to be clear—the ultimate decision may hinge on highly subjective factors. Hence, a call will be overturned only when there is “clear and obvious visual evidence available that warrants the change.”

Among other things, the 2018 NFL Rules allow video review for plays involving possession, boundary lines, the line of scrimmage, and the goal line. See id. The NFL likewise provides review for disqualification of players. Id. Coaches may challenge calls themselves by throwing a red flag, or, in certain circumstances, the referees may initiate review on their own.

All that process. Just for a game.

In this case, the Plaintiffs have thrown a red flag. But this is not football. Rather, this is a case about the precious and fundamental right to vote—the right preservative of all other rights. And it is about the right of a voter to have his or her vote counted.

There is no doubt there must be election laws. There is no doubt that to run an election, the state must impose deadlines and rules to govern an efficient and transparent election process. There is no doubt that election officials must make certain calls, under the rules, that deserve review. And there is no doubt some of those calls may hinge on highly subjective factors. 

The precise issue in this case is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures—with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection— passes constitutional muster. The answer is simple. It does not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A grossly overweight man who cannot walk very far and fears rain, building a 2000-mile wall? Well of course! God willed it.

Some awful company is out with a LEGO knockoff called “MAGA” where you can build a wall to keep out toy Mexicans, clad in sombreros, and wielding maracas. Fox & Friends covered the toy set repeatedly on Wednesday.

“They may look like LEGOs, but these building blocks are a little different,” Steve Doocy announced. “The toy company that’s making the holidays great again? Wait until you hear about this.”

The box of the toy set features Trump, in a suit, standing on one side of the wall. Behind the structure, a mustachioed figurine wearing a sombrero and a poncho is armed with maracas. He stands between cactuses at the foot of a Mexican-style pyramid.

Later on Fox & Friends, newsreader Jillian Mele covered the toy set during headlines: “Take a look at this, a conservative company introducing a new line of toys encouraging kids to build a wall with MAGA building blocks. The set comes with a President Trump figurine and a ‘Make America Great Again’ hard hat.”

The Trump toy is also shown handing an “emails” file to a Hillary Clinton figurine, who is naturally clad in an orange jumpsuit.

“If you like toys…” Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade reacted.

“A gift for the kids or for like, the Trump voter?” asked Ainsley Earhardt.

“Both!” Mele replied.

And yet, somehow, liberals keep not winning secular power

The yob Liberty University funded a movie by claiming God chose Donald Trump to be president, is at it again.

“He changed his Twitter background to you see him standing there with his arms crossed in front of JFK’s gravesite and he’s got his hands together with his two fingers, like he is giving a code. People aren’t stupid. It looks like there is something being given off in the spirit by what he is doing. These guys have code words, they have symbolism, they don’t have to come right out and say something to activate these people. These guys are totally demonic when it comes to this stuff. They’re using the mind control, they are using the activation codes to activate these guys.” – Self-proclaimed prophet Mark Taylor, about whom Liberty University just released a movie.

PREVIOUSLY ON JMG: Mark Taylor claims Democrats created Hurricane Michael to help “communist” Andrew Gillum suppress votes in Florida’s panhandle. Mark Taylor claims liberals created Hurricane Michael as retaliation for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Mark Taylor claims liberals created Hurricane Florence to wash away evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina. Mark Taylor claims that John McCain was secretly executed for treason by a military tribunal on Trump’s orders. Mark Taylor predicts that liberals will create hurricanes during the midterms to suppress pro-Trump voters. Mark Taylor predicts that God will have former presidents executed for daring to criticize Trump. Mark Taylor declares that Trump will release the secret cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s during his second term. Mark Taylor reveals that Freemasons are using a secret frequency to make people hate Trump. Mark Taylor reveals that God personally gave him a secret prayer that “jams the radar” of Democrats.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Daddy, can I have better sales for Christmas? It's me, Eric...your son?"

Another "Baltic/Balkans" moment

The president denounced Europe for not contributing enough to its own defense.

So the president of France called for a European Army. Trump denounced that, too.

Oh, well, Walmart will need another warehouse somewhere.

More like a merry-go-round, really

We also have a bit of an odd situation where two members who haven’t even been sworn in are already doomed to leave the House in 2018. Both Democrat Brenda Jones and Republican Marty Nothstein appear to have won special elections to serve out the remainders of congressional terms previously held by Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Michigan 13th) and Republican Rep. Charlie Dent (the pre-redistricting Pennsylvania 15th). Nothstein only leads by 58 votes in his special election, so it’s still possible that he will not be elected at all, but assuming he holds on to win, it is unclear if either Nothstein or Jones will actually take their seats in Congress for the next two months because they may have to give up their local office positions to do so.

-Geoffrey Skelley, "There Was A Lot Of Turnover In The House In The 2018 Cycle,", November 13, 2018

"We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."

On balance, a better statesman than a seer:

The discovery and control of such sources of power would cause changes in human affairs incomparably greater than those produced by the steam-engine four generations ago. Schemes of cosmic magnitude would become feasible. Geography and climate would obey our orders. Fifty thousand tons of water, the amount displaced by the Berengaria, would, if exploited as described, suffice to shift Ireland to the middle of the Atlantic. The amount of rain falling yearly upon the Epsom racecourse would be enough to thaw all the ice at the Arctic and Antarctic poles. The changing of one element into another by means of temperatures and pressures would be far beyond our present reach, would transform beyond all description our standards of values. Materials thirty times stronger than the best steel would create engines fit to bridle the new forms of power. Communications and transport by land, water and air would take unimaginable forms, if, as is in principle possible, we could make an engine of 600 horsepower, weighing 20 lb and carrying fuel for a thousand hours in a tank the size of a fountain-pen. Wireless telephones and television, following naturally upon their present path of development, would enable their owner to connect up with any room similarly installed, and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window. The congregation of men in cities would become superfluous. It would rarely be necessary to call in person on any but the most intimate friends, but if so, excessively rapid means of communication would be at hand. 

-Winston S. Churchill, "Fifty Years Hence," The Strand Magazine, December 1931

Masters of their domains? Only up to a point

Proud Boys founder Gavin MacInnes

The altercation between the Proud Boys members and anti-fascist protesters, or antifa, broke out about a block away when six people dressed in black and wearing masks confronted Proud Boys members, NYPD's Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Oct 15. One of those dressed in black threw a bottle at the Proud Boys group and a fight ensued for about 38 seconds until uniformed officers intervened.

-Peter Martinez, "3 more Proud Boys members arrested for violent NYC brawl,", October 22, 2018.

Further outside the mainstream, the far-right Proud Boys group has a “no wanks” policy, which prohibits masturbating more than once a month. The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, who also co-founded Vice Media, has said that pornography and masturbation are making Millennials “not even want to pursue relationships.”

-Kate Julian, "Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?", The Atlantic, December 2018.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

With celebs running the gamut of Lists- A to Z List- the GOP has turned its back on their increasingly dim starpower

In 2012, the Republican National Committee created the Growth & Opportunity project to analyze why the party lost the presidential election.

Among its report's scores of recommendations was this one:

Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry
to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events
as a way to attract younger voters.

Now- after decades of trying to make inroads into La-La-Land, the GOP has turned its back on its ability to produce nominating convention events like "Night of A Few Stars":
 At a pre-election rally, [Vice Pfresident Pence] taunted Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and her supporters in entertainment: “This ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”
Celebrity political activism apparently wasn’t enough to snag Abrams the victory on Tuesday in Georgia, where she was weighed down by the state’s Republican lean and intense voter suppression efforts. But Pence’s scorn for Hollywood, now a set piece in Republican politics, is a relatively recent development. There was a time when Republicans welcomed Hollywood and used its glamour to win over voters. But today, the GOP has settled on a narrow electoral strategy — appealing to a minority of voters — in which Hollywood is better as a foil than as an ally.
Bad news for these idols of today's youth:

Tim Allen, 65
Scott Baio, 58
Stephen Baldwin, 52
Pat Boone, 84
Morgan Brittany, 47
Jerry Bruckheimer, 75
James Caan, 78
Adam Carolla, 54
Michael Damian, 56
Stacey Dash, 51
Robert Duvall, 87
Clint Eastwood, 88
Sarah Michelle Gellar, 41
Jim Fitzpatrick, 59
Kelsey Grammer, 63
Patricia Heaton, 60
Dwayne Johnson, 46
John O'Hurley, 64
Donny Osmond, 61
Marie Osmond, 59
David Lee Roth, 64
Antonio Sabato, Jr., 46
Arnold Schwarzenegger, 71
Tom Selleck, 73
Gene Simmons, 69
Gary Sinise, 63
Janine Turner, 55
Jean-Claude Van Damme, 58
Jon Voight, 79
Bruce Willis, 63
James Woods, 71
Yeezy, 41

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Stuff I read today, 11/1/18

"When reporters asked President Trump last week if he bore any responsibility for the pipe bombs sent to many of his critics and adversaries, he declared his innocence: “Not at all, no. There is no blame. There is no anything.”

-Thomas B. Edsall, "The Trump Legions," The New York Times

The Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist considered studies analyzing the bases for the president's sometimes inexplicable bases of support. Bottom line: they are outraged by growing income inequality- which has left them out- and the feeling they are losing their culture war upper hand to force others out of their communities and worldviews.

"In the Kavanaugh hearing, I thought, this girl is lying. Then I talked with my sisters, who helped me see that I was looking at it through the lens of a Republican, not the lens of a Christian. She deserved just as much grace as Kavanaugh did."

-Elizabeth Dias, "‘God Is Going to Have to Forgive Me’: Young Evangelicals Speak Out," The New York Times

Making their way down the spiritual cafeteria line, evangelicals in their 20s and 30s cherish pretty much the same bigotries their parents do. They just don't think a little arugula or kale on the side makes them Communists.

"President Trump defended his proclivity to spread misleading statements and falsehoods, saying in a television interview Wednesday that he tells the truth when he can.

“Well, I try. I do try . . . and I always want to tell the truth,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News. “When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.”

-John Wagner, ‘When I can, I tell the truth’: Trump pushes back against his peddling of falsehoods,", The Washington Post

The president's daily lie meter is ticking at 8.3.

"Elizabeth’s 1584 patent charged Raleigh “to discover, search, find out, and view such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, countries, and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian prince, not inhabited by Christian people… to have, hold, occupy & enjoy..."

Ed Simon, "Reading Walter Raleigh’s Poetry of Blood," Berfrois

A truly exceptional writer, Simon considers the buccaneer backer of North Carolina settlement through many lenses, including Good Queen Bess sending him out with a rough draft of the Star Trek charter. Among Simon's most interesting points is that while the Spanish and Portuguese explored and wrote about the real New World, Raleigh saw it as a state of mind, where, once arrived, people could make their own realities.

"We spoke – of course – about Classics. I wanted her to sell me our subject: “Classics is a particularly privileged discipline,” she responds, “because of the way the subject has been defined as not simply Latin and Greek literature but a wide swath of cultural and intellectual studies – it’s going to continue to think hard.”

"Beard concedes – rightly – that there’s something Victorian about the oft-repeated claim that studying the classics teaches you how to think – what does knowing ‘how to think’ mean? “It’s about learning to not just think,” she clarifies, “it’s about learning to make a plausible, convincing, analytical argument. It introduces you to how people research, find out, analyze, structure and argue.”

"Of course, this is the great virtue of studying a humanities degree, where you are taught not just how to work the answer out but how to persuade your interlocutor that your stance is correct.

"I ask Beard about that perennial concern of humanities graduates – the jobs market. She laughs: “It would be a sad day for the planet if employers did not value skills of argument, research and analysis, and I don’t see any signs of that being seriously challenged. We’re not in a position where there are these poor old classicists who are not getting jobs, whereas people who’ve done astrophysics are slipping effortlessly into employment.”

"So, if it’s the training in careful analysis and thoughtful debate which marks out the humanities, then what similarly distinguishes Beard is her almost total willingness to thoughtfully engage with people who disagree with her. Famously, she once took a Twitter troll out for lunch, and after an online fracas concerning the fall of the Roman Empire, she met with arch-Brexiteer Arron Banks, which was recorded by the Guardian. In a world where it seems impossible for people with differing political views to hold a conversation that doesn’t turn into a flame war, the description of their mostly genial conversation made cheering reading."

-Barney Pite, "Mary Beard interview – “The ancient world is a safe space for arguing”, Cherwell

There is no one in America like Cambridge prof Mary Beard. In this interview with my old grad school days journalism hangout, she explores why a liberal arts view is absolutely necessary and yet incredibly frustrating in the age of alternate facts.

"Hundreds of books have been donated to the northwest Iowa library where a man checked out — and then burned — several LGBTQ children’s books weeks ago.

"The Orange City Public Library said Wednesday it has received more than 200 books since religious activist Paul Dorr engaged in a book burning Oct. 19.

"Together, several GoFundMe pages and Facebook fundraisers have raised thousands of dollars for the library — much more than the roughly $50 needed to replace the burned books.

"In protest of the city’s second annual OC Pride, Dorr threw four library books into a burning trash can while streaming live on Facebook."

-Shelby Fleig, "After man burns LGBTQ children's books, donations to Orange City library skyrocket," Des Moines (IA) Register

As Mark Noll opened his 1993 book, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,"  "The scandal of the evangelical mind is there is not much of an evangelical mind." 

"On October 17, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), an intergovernmental organization that sets the rules and rates for international mail delivery."

-Eliot Kim, "Withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union: A Guide for the Perplexed," Lawfare

Apparently, writing letters to people overseas is contra#MAGA.

"Nigel Richards, 51 and from New Zealand, beat Californian Jesse Day in the final at the Westfield center in west London on Sunday.

"Groutier - which means more cross, sulky or sullen - scored 68 points.

"Mr Richards, who also won the French-language title this year, said: "It was a closely fought championship and Jesse was a very impressive opponent."

"Mr Richards' other high-scoring words in the final included zonular, which means like a zone and earned 100 points, and phenolic, a synthetic resin, which earned 84 points.

-BBC News, "Sulky word wins Scrabble championship"

Zut Alors! A Kiwi who can't speak French won A French Scrabble title.

"If it matters enough to be careful, it matters enough to build a system around it."

Seth Godin's last word for today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hurricane Pat petered out in the Pacific in 1982, but the landlocked blowhard wheezes on

God’s weatherman, Pat Robertson, is at it again.

The 88-year-old has commanded Hurricane Florence to stand down. The Hill reports that yesterday, he tottered into a TV studio to admonish the storm:

“In the name of Jesus, you Hurricane Florence, we speak to you in the name of Jesus, and we command the storm to cease its forward motion and go harmlessly into the Atlantic,” Robertson said.

“Go up north away from land and veer off in the name of Jesus. We declare in the name of the lord that you shall go no farther, you shall do no damage in this area,” the evangelical leader continued.

“He went on to declare a “shield of protection” over parts where “innocent people” are bracing for the hurricane, which is already reportedly packing winds of up to 140 mph, according to CNN.

“In Jesus’ holy name, be out to sea!” Robertson continued.

“He also said that the “shield” has worked in the against previous hurricanes.

“It’s almost hilarious to see them try,” he said. “They try to get in and they can’t, and then they go north and they turn around, try to come back in. They can’t do it.”

Robertson’s announcement is the latest example of vainglory and decline (at 76, he claimed a God-inspired protein shake enabled him to leg-press one ton of weight) in the failed GOP presidential candidate.

On the June 8, 1998, edition of his show, he denounced Orlando, Florida and Disney World for allowing a privately sponsored "Gay Days" weekend, declaring that the acceptance of homosexuality could result in hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombings and "possibly a meteor.”

The resulting outcry prompted Robertson to return to the topic on June 24, where he quoted the Book of Revelation to support his claims.

The first hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Bonnie, actually turned away from Florida and instead damaged the rest of the East Coast. The area hardest hit by the hurricane was the Hampton Roads region, which includes Virginia Beach, home of Robertson’s TV empire and christianist recreation of a madrasa, Regent University (Robertson, with health-food evangelist Jerry Falwell, also blamed gays, lesbians, pro-choice activists, and “perversity” for the 6.7 magnitude earth that hit the San Fernando Valley in 1994, causing around $25 billion in damage and 72 deaths, and the 9/11 attacks on The Gays, too).

TV preachers pretty much agree LGBT Americans have a connection to severe weather but tend to fall out over the details. Last year, death-to-gays Pastor Kevin Swanson said the path of Hurricane Irma would be altered by God if the Supreme Court quickly made abortion and gay marriage illegal, "before Irma does her damage," as Right Wing Watch noted (he also claimed Harvey was due to Houston electing an out lesbian, Annise Parker, as mayor; the fact that Parker had already left office last year didn’t seem to matter. God has a long memory).

He also blamed Harvey on Texas’ failure to pass a bathroom bill, saying “Jesus sends the message home, unless Americans repent, unless Houston repents…they will all likewise perish.”.

Radio preacher Rick Wiles, likewise, said Houston is underwater because it "boasted of its LGBT devotion."

Pat Robertson had nothing to say about last fall’s one-two punch from the cloud-whispering gays.

The Carolinas have been punished before over their flaccid response to the presence of The Gays. Hurricane Matthew plastered the east coast from Florida up, causing widespread damage in North and South Carolina. Andrew Bieszad, a contributor to, a popular anti-gay, Christian extremist website, explained that God is sent the hurricane as “a sign of His anger” against America for tolerating homosexuality (curiously, no one used God’s wrath as a reason not to repeal North Carolina’s spiteful antigay law, HB2, passed just a few months before the 2016 hurricane season began).

Family Research Council honcho and Louisiana Baptist minister Tony Perkins struck out in the 2015 hurricane season. He pinpointed the devastation that occurred in Hawaii after Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 as an example, saying it was punishment for marriage equality and abortion. He got the same warning from Messianic Jewish pastor Jonathan Cahn who told him that Hurricane Joaquin, which devastated Hawaii, was a "sign of God's wrath".

During the interview, Mr Cahn stated that the storm was a sign God was angry about the legalization of gay marriage and abortion and the relationship between the United Nations and Israel.

He's quoted as agreeing, adding "God is trying to send us a message".

Ironically, Perkins’ Louisiana home was destroyed by a flood in 2016. Perkins downplayed the significance of the smiting:

“This is a flood of near-biblical proportions," he said in an interview with the Family Research Council.
"We had to escape from our home Saturday by canoe. We had about 10 feet of water at the end of our driveway. Our house flooded, a few of our cars flooded."

Robertson hedged his bets explaining Katrina, suggesting that God withdrew some kind of special protection from the U.S. “Have we,” he asked at one point, “found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster?”

Dateline Hollywood promptly ran a satirical piece claiming that the evangelical leader had said that “Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of expressing [His] anger at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its selection of Ellen Degeneres to host this year’s Emmy Awards,” many took the story as gospel and cited it, rather than Robertson’s actual statements, as indicative of evangelical Christianity’s response to the disaster.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern seaboard in 2012, prompting British preacher John McTernan to say President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage was to blame. He also claimed both Obama and opponent Mitt Romney “are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda” and that “America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!”

In New York, where lower Manhattan was flooded out, one minister of a Black Protestant congregation in hard-hit Far Rockaway claimed that the storm was God’s way of demonstrating his power to the “rich” and “gay” elites of Manhattan. In another example, the pastor of a predominantly black Seventh-Day Adventist Church said that our increasingly erratic weather was a sign of “the last days,” urging his congregants that they should turn quickly to Jesus to help them endure the difficult times ahead.

American Family Association’s Buster Wilson, the general manager of their radio network, blamed Hurricane Isaac on the city of New Orleans for hosting Southern Decadence, the annual LGBT festival in 2012.

Pam Olsen, the founder of the Florida Prayer Network, believed that marriage equality and ordination of gay priests could lead to floods, fires, and tornadoes.

In 2005, Rev. Franklin Graham blamed Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’ “orgies”; and Catholic priest Gerhard Wagner called Katrina “divine retribution” for New Orleans’ tolerance of homosexuality. Rev. John Hagee waddled out of his San Antonio megachurch to bleat the same message: Mr. Hagee said that the storm was God’s punishment for its sinful ways, a common trope among conservative evangelists. Those sins included a gay pride parade that was scheduled for the same day that Katrina made landfall.

“New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that,” Mr. Hagee said in an interview on NPR in 2006. “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the City of New Orleans.”

Robertson’s witchcrafty spell to protect his property holdings has prompted one skeptic to tweet, “So if Florence pounds the Eastern Seaboard it’ll be the LGBTQs’ fault, I assume. So are they more powerful than Jesus, Pat Robertson?”

The comment underlines one of the more vexing challenges of being one of God’s self-appointed press secretaries: more often than not, they make God out to be a right bungler whose misses more than he hits when smitings are called for in the modern world.

Equally curiously, no in the GOP wondered about God’s mood when He sent a hurricane to Tampa, causing the foreshortening of their 2012 presidential nominating convention.