Nothing matters any more

We are not a nation of laws, if we ever were. We are a rogue state, a banana republic, and we always have been…we’ve been held together with a tissue of cherished myths about Democracy and the Republic and Service and Citizenship, when the truth is that those values are unenforced, and the real rule is that the rich can get away with anything they want.

We’ve also been watching the gradual replacement of “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with the Libertarian myth of “I got mine, so fuck you.” I can’t even console myself with the old gloss of American idealism anymore when naked capitalism has become the raison d’etre of the state.

So how about them senate hearings on the Trump adminstration, hey? Perfect examples of the failures of our government. We sort of lied to ourselves and said before that maybe the electoral college would save us, that it’s whole purpose was to prevent unqualified demagogues from taking power. We sure fooled ourselves with that one — the purpose of the electoral college is to perpetuate the power of the obscenely wealthy and comfortable elites. And now we have a series of hearings on Trump nominees, all carried out in the vain illusion that they will act to block incompetents and corrupt cronies of the head of state from getting their hands on the tools of state. Do you believe it?

Jeff Sessions is a racist buffoon. The senate will judge him next week. I predict that he will be approved, not because he actually reassured us all that he is a good man, but because the rubber stamp is poised and ready.

Right now we get the spectacle of Betsy DeVos being alternatively praised/massaged by Republican ideologues, and subjected to critical questioning by the powerless minority party.

DeVos is a bigot who profited off the Amway pyramid scheme.

Both the DeVoses and the Princes have been key supporters of Focus on the Family, which was founded by the influential evangelical leader James Dobson. In a 2002 radio broadcast, Dobson called on parents in some states to to pull their kids out of public schools, calling the curriculum “godless and immoral” and suggesting that Christian teachers should also leave public schools: “I couldn’t be in an organization that’s supporting that kind of anti-Christian nonsense.” Dobson also has distributed a set of history lessons that argue that “separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in unthinkable damage to the nation and its people.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $35,760 to the group’s Michigan and DC affiliates from 2001 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2014. (It also gave $6.1 million to the Family Research Council, which has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC used to be a division of Focus on the Family before it became an independent nonprofit, with Dobson serving on its board, in 1992.)

She will demolish public education to promote racial inequities.

Yet, for all of the Obama administration’s education policy failures, the DeVos appointment has the potential to be catastrophic. It represents a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of scores of students of color who have been most heavily impacted by privatization and the gutting of multicultural education. Nationwide, African-American, Latino, and Native-American students continue to have the lowest graduation and college-going rates. They are less likely to be taught by well-qualified teachers and more likely to be in schools where college counselors are either absent or saddled with too many students. Indeed, some urban schools of color have more school police than college counselors. And because many students of color don’t have equitable access to college prep curricula in the humanities and STEM disciplines, they have higher attrition rates when they go to college.

She is criminally incompetent and unsuited to the post.

As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect’s Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you’d pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.

She and her family and the Amway gozillions they control have been a bottomless reservoir for the dark money that is the engine behind a dozen different conservative fetish objects, from right-to-work laws, to gutting campaign finance regulations, to injecting splinter Protestantism into every part of the political commons. So she’s pretty much what you’d expect from any Republican administration. She understands the mission of the Department of Education and truly dislikes it. And, as was graphically demonstrated even in the truncated questioning Tuesday night, she doesn’t know enough about education policy to feed to your guppies.

Do any of you believe for one minute that her nomination will be stopped by anyone in our government? Not I. She has demonstrated her talent for kleptocracy in Michigan already, she is an ill-gained billionaire, she intends to promote ignorance, and she has all the petty bigotries of the capitalist ruling class, so of course she will sail through and get a choice spot in which to loot the educational system and be a cheerleader for theocracy.

All that stuff about separation of church and state and an informed citizenry and responsible representative government from the founding fathers (who are deified by the Republican party) was a smokescreen to cover a wealthy power grab. I can’t believe it any more. Many thanks to the Republicans and Trump for at least stripping the pretense and exposing the naked truth.

I fear my own views on the American government. When a nation works so hard to lose all the confidence of its people, upheaval is not far off.

Another sign of doom: the climate change denial of Rex Tillerson

I’ve seen moderate Democrats actually say that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, seems reasonable, especially compared to the crew of ratfucking incompetents he’s packing into the rest of his administration. It’s not true. He’s as bad as the rest of them, and what we’re seeing is a gradual acclimation to the new politics of corruption and ignorance.

He’s a former ExxonMobil CEO. Do you think he’s going to lead our country’s work to resist climate change? No, he is not.

After more than six hours of testimony, Tillerson backtracked even further, telling senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) that though the evidence of a changing climate was clear, the cause wasn’t. “The science behind the clear connection (to human activity) is not conclusive,” Tillerson said, an assertion as false as the scientific consensus is clear.

He’s just flatly wrong, in defiance of the scientific evidence. That ought to be enough to scuttle his nomination, but you know it won’t be.

He knows what his mission is. It’s to undermine funding and support for initiatives that might hurt the profits of the coal and oil industries.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), who believes government money currently spent fighting climate change could be “better spent” elsewhere, pushed Tillerson to commit to abandoning US funding for anti-climate change initiatives. Specifically, Barrasso opposes support for the Green Climate Fund, an international program set up to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change. The US under Obama has pledged $3 billion.

“In consultation with the president, my expectation is that we are going to look at these things from the bottom up in terms of funds we’ve committed toward this effort,” Tillerson said.

Even in his non-answer, it’s clear Tillerson was open to dropping such funding. Instead, he opined on the power of electricity to lift people out of poverty. A noble aspiration, perhaps, but one that would provide little consolation to communities ravaged by climate change now and in the future. In today’s hearing, Tillerson may not have out-and-out denied the existence of human-caused climate change or the need for the US to help combat it. But his tepidness on global warming betrayed one clear fact: if confirmed, the US will no longer lead on climate change. It will be at the table, sure, but as a difficult guest, not the host.

This is where we’re at. We are the Soviet Union of 70 years ago, when the science of genetics was rejected for ideological reasons. The comparison to Trofim Lysenko’s career is obvious; just substitute climate science for genetics, Tillerson for Lysenko, and the whole damn Republican party for Stalin.

By 1948, scientific dissent from Lysenko’s theories had been outlawed in the Soviet Union, even though the vast majority of Soviet biologists, with increasing (if surreptitious) access to Western publications, knew that those theories were nonsense. The theory that human-induced climate change is not real is likewise nonsense. It is a theory that is only held by those who do not wish to face facts. Those facts, such as record atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and inexorably increasing global temperatures, speak for themselves. We are already in a situation where the 1.5C temperature increase that was the center of the Paris agreement seems to be an absurdly optimistic goal. It is almost sure to be exceeded, although we don’t know where, and we don’t know when.

This uncertainty has been taken as an opportunity by today’s climate change Lysenkoists. Like the cigarette manufacturers who refused to accept the increasingly obvious link between smoking and lung cancer in the 1960s and 1970s, the new Lysenkoists will grab on to any expression of uncertainty to justify their self-interested beliefs. They include, but are not limited to, the representatives of the fossil fuel industry and their political allies. Their pernicious influence is not just confined to the U.S. In my own country of Australia, for example, the Government has been lobbying strongly for more Chinese purchases of coal, and is also about to advance a loan of $Aus 1 billion for the establishment of a giant new coal mine near the already-threatened Great Barrier Reef.

Every person on Trump’s team is a shill for a fraud. Don’t be fooled. Every one of them is purest poison, not just to America’s future, but to the whole of humanity.

They can move quickly when there’s the opportunity to kill people

I’m almost afraid to go to sleep at night any more. The rats are busy, busy, busy, plotting destruction.

Last night, while most of us were unconscious, the Republican senate pulled some procedural games to allow them to act unilaterally. They really are determined to destroy people’s health insurance.

Thursday’s Senate procedural vote will set up special budget rules that will allow the repeal vote to take place with a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to move most legislation.

That means Republicans, who control 52 seats, can push through repeal legislation without Democratic cooperation. They’re also discussing whether there are some elements of a replacement bill that could get through at the same time with a simple majority. But for many elements of a new health care law, Republicans are likely to need 60 votes and Democratic support, and at this point the two parties aren’t even talking.

They also discussed what they don’t like about the Affordable Care Act. Among the things they definitely want to kill are preexisting conditions protections, the ability for young adults to stay on their parents’ plan, and, of course, contraception. Those all sound like wonderful things to me, and I can’t understand how anyone can think we ought to dispose of them, so the logic escapes me — the drumbeat of hatred for all things Obama has led to people voting to demolish even those accomplishments that help them.

Oh, and also, Trump is going to announce his Supreme Court pick within two weeks.

We are so fucked. And by “we”, I mean all of the American people, including those who voted for these Republican scum.

(Important: Even if you stay awake all night, wide-eyed and staring in terror, the Republicans are still going to do everything they can to ruin your life and the lives of your children. You might as well try to get some sleep.)

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem apellant

While it’s true that Obama is going to acquire a glowing halo of sanctity in comparison to the shambling beast that comes after, I would remind you that he was far from perfect. In particular, his foreign policy was rather hawkish and brutal to civilian populations.

In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.

bombsdropped16

Right. We’re kinda sorta at peace, but for some reason we dropped 26,000 bombs on brown people in distant countries.

I’d like to ask the next question: how many people are killed, on average, with every bomb dropped? If it’s a very small number, then we can question the efficiency of a strategy that terrorizes populations and causes destruction but doesn’t, you know, kill that many ‘enemies’. If it’s a middling number, say 10, then the United States killed a quarter of a million people last year.

If it’s a large number, then we are guilty of atrocities to rival the worst despotisms.

Another culprit in the murder of expertise

Charles "Chuck" Johnson

Charles “Chuck” Johnson

This sad, unqualified, pathetic troll is now an advisor to Donald Trump’s team.

He’s got nothin’. He graduated from college a few years ago with a bachelor’s degree, started an overblown blog that he called a news source, and parlayed inventing far-right lies and calling Obama “gay” into a career that endeared him to other liars, racists, and various neo-Nazis.

Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the “alt-right.” Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election.

Mike Cernovich, another pro-Trump troll who is friends with Johnson, said that Johnson often has a hand in behind-the-scenes politics. The media really likes to hate on [Johnson], Cernovich said. But if they knew how influential he has been–in ways they didn’t know–it would be kind of mind blowing.

This is apparently all you need to become influential in the new administration. You can be a guy whose main claim to fame is that people spread scatological rumors about him and his acquaintances find them plausible, and still play a role in shaping American policy.

Is this a great country or what?

True confession: I did not care much for Meryl Streep’s speech

Streep used an award ceremony to slam Trump in a very nice little speech — you can read it online, with all the good points (and there were many) highlighted — and the right-wingers, including our very presidential president-elect, are in a fine high snit over it. However, it left me unenthused, even while agreeing with much of it, for a couple of reasons.

  • This is the least of my concerns, but I’m not a Streep fan. What can I say, that self-indulgent Mamma Mia left me scarred.

  • We are about to inaugurate a nightmare president, a creepy horror whose appointments and policies ought to terrify us, and yet again the media welcomes this speech as the kind of superficial celebrity-on-celebrity spat that they love so well. It is a distraction. Look again at that speech: it’s chewing out a bully for being a bully, which is a fine thing, but it says nothing about the politics or the effects of those politics.

  • What bugged me most, and is probably going to be used by Trump voters to dismiss it, is how vain it was. It was all about how wonderfully diverse actors are, and how many of them are immigrants or from other countries, and it was designed to make all those actors feel damn good about themselves, and also to encourage a little self-pity that Donald Trump is targeting them.

    But all I could think as she praised the diverse backgrounds of these well-known actors was that this was not the best group to highlight. Everything she said is also true of college professors and scientists, and we don’t get pampered and spoiled and paid big bucks to churn out a single project. It is also true of, for instance, farm workers, who are black and brown and white and most definitely do not get paid a wage that allows them to live a Hollywood life style. When the camera panned over her audience of famous people dressed in tuxes and designer gowns that probably cost more than most of us make in a year, what I heard was a woman mourning the threat to her privileges. It somehow resonated less than, for instance, the threats to shut down Planned Parenthood, to deny people health insurance, the sabre-rattling threats to foreign nations, the imminent looting of our country’s wealth by billionaires. Hollywood A-listers will get through the next four years just fine…the rest of us, maybe not.

  • That elitist snipe at football and mixed martial arts was not helpful. It’s one thing to praise the virtues of the patricians, another to disparage the pleasures of the plebs. Someone who starred in Mamma Mia does not get to sniff at low brow popular entertainments and sports.

But I cannot deny that she made legitimate points, and every group, rich or poor, that is going to be damaged by this presidency ought to speak up, including actors. I’m just worried that, once again, the Democrats are going to promote the support of a tiny elite while ignoring the concerns of, say, labor, and are just going to enhance the idea that liberals are out of touch. And, of course, this is all our media have been talking about for the last day.