Why is Chris Christie still governor of New Jersey?

The US seems to lack a way to promptly oust corrupt politicians, and Christie highlights the defects in the system. He’s still at the top of the New Jersey hierarchy despite the bridge closure scandal. And now this: there is a state government shutdown which has closed New Jersey state parks (you can’t go downashore on the 4th of July weekend? This is culture shock for that area), except that Christie has used executive privilege to get his family a beach weekend. It’s got to be great — I’ve been to Jersey beaches, and they tend to be a tightly packed mass of milling humanity, except now the budget incompetence of the governor allows him to clear the masses and have the whole beach to himself.

Because this is a Republican administration, though, they have to lie about it. Christie is using a helicopter to shuttle himself from the shore to work (another expense), and he was asked if he was taking advantage of the beach closures.

At a Sunday news conference on the shutdown, Christie was asked if he got any sun today.

“I didn’t,” he said. “… I didn’t get any sun today.”

Unfortunately for him, a photo had been taken that morning.

Oops.

When later told of the photo, Brian Murray, the governor’s spokesman, said:

“Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office. He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”

He’s in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals, on a beach chair, on the beach, but he wasn’t getting any sun. Right. Got it.

What lessons have we learned, boys and girls?

  • Republicans will use their own administrative bungles to their own advantage, and no one else’s.

  • Republicans will lie flagrantly about it.

  • Even when caught, there’s nothing anyone can do about it, and the Republican will continue in office.

This should throw a bucket of shockingly cold water on anyone who thinks Donald Trump can be easily kicked out of office by rule of law. I’m beginning to believe that Trump could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and we’d spend a couple of years dithering about what to do.

The Republicans know it, too. Let’s not ignore Christie’s let-them-eat-cake moment.

Asked if this is fair, Christie said Saturday: “Run for governor, and you can have a residence there.”

This is just too meta

The latest tweet from our President of the United States:

That’s Donald Trump complaining about fake news with a clip of him pretending to beat up Vince McMahon of the WWE, the fake sport, with the CNN logo pasted over McMahon’s face.

Trump is a known World Wrestling Entertainment fan and friend of WWE owner Vince McMahon.

Is this politics now?

Bianca Roberson and the tragedy of the NRA

I hated driving in Philadelphia — the drivers there are the worst in my experience. It wasn’t just the vigorous honking and the aggressive tailgating, either, I personally witnessed a driver pull out a pistol and pop off a series of shots at a truck that passed him. Every day that I made that awful commute from King of Prussia to North Philly I was convinced that I was going to die (we got smart and moved to Jenkintown, finally, where I could take mass transit to work, in part because I was pretty sure I was going to have a nervous breakdown).

The story of Bianca Roberson brings back ugly memories. Any place along the highway were you were forced to merge two lanes together was going to provoke some people to fury, needlessly. All I had to worry about generally were the obnoxious drivers who’d flip you off and pound on their horn and drive recklessly to insist that they get to merge ahead of you. Bianca Roberson met a fellow driver who pulled out a gun and shot her in the head.

This is rank madness. You do not need a gun to drive on a highway, no, not even the Schuylkill Expressway. A gun does not help in any way. It makes everything worse, to no good purpose. You do not need to be armed at all times. You do not need a gun at a movie theater. You do not need a gun at school. You do not need a gun on your daily commute.

You need a gun when you go deer hunting, or if you’re going to a range to practice marksmanship. If you happen to have one with you on the way to the gun range or the hunting grounds, it should be unloaded and safely stowed someplace safe, like in the trunk. This is why we need more gun control and a culture of healthy respect for dangerous tools, not strident fanaticism and recklessness like we get from that criminal organization of evil assholes, the NRA. Actually, guns don’t deserve respect, people do…something the NRA and gun-fondlers everywhere do not understand.

The USA is a dangerous place to live or visit. Although, I can at least say I got out of a danger zone and moved to rural Minnesota, where people still have guns, but when you’re on the road you mainly have to worry about the constant expectation that you will wave to everyone.

In space, no one can hear your word salad

Trump has sort of revived the National Space Council — oddly, because no one from NASA attended the announcement, Trump hasn’t even appointed any NASA administrators, and we still don’t have a staffed Office of Science and Technology Policy, but hey, Mike Pence is now in charge of “space”. Pence? Why?

The only good thing about this event was Buzz Aldrin’s facial expressions as Trump bumbled through the speech.

The transcript is something else.

So, I just want to tell you that we are now going to sign an executive order, and this is going to launch a whole new chapter for our great country. And people are very excited about it and I can tell you, I’m very excited about it. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

(The order is signed.)

COLONEL ALDRIN: Infinity and beyond. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: This is infinity here. It could be infinity. We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right?

Okay. (Applause.)

Dear god, we’re doomed.

They don’t understand insurance, and they don’t understand biology

So why do these guys think they can figure out health care policy? Here’s Pete Olson, Republican from Texas, objecting to some simple provisions in health care. He thinks he shouldn’t have to pay for prenatal and maternity care.

I have some concerns because, one thing, they still guarantee coverage for ten essential conditions, Olson said, and one of those conditions—this is care for all,includes you and me—it’s prenatal care. …I think we all have what we call an X chromosome. You, me, JP, Tom and Chuck have those, which means we can’t have a baby. Why do we have to pay for that coverage that we can’t use?

That is absurdly idiotic.

May I point out that Olson wouldn’t be here without a mother, and that he directly benefited from the care given to his mother at his birth? He may not give birth, but jesus fuck, he was born. Also, does he think males have nothing to do with pregnancy?

The whole point of insurance is to spread the risk around a larger pool, so of course you pay for conditions you don’t have or may never have. I don’t have cancer, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t chip in to the pool to help those who do. I also don’t have an appendix, so can I ask to have my insurance payments reduced since I’ll never get appendicitis?

That may be a bad example. These morons probably would think that way.

That X chromosome comment…christ, that’s such low-hanging fruit. He just flunked high school biology. We all have X chromosomes. About half of us have Y chromosomes, which are a triggering component for a cascade of developmental changes that render males incapable of becoming pregnant, OK?

I find myself exasperated at these ignorant incompetents in government. There is no knowledge standard to get elected, and once they’re in, they aren’t assigned to committee based on their abilities.

That’s some ego the guy has

I was going to point and laugh at Donald Trump for hanging a fake Time magazine cover in his golf clubs, but then I realized — we all fake this stuff to inflate our egos. Right? Perfectly normal. Entirely natural.

I mean, I’ve got photos of my 3 kids hanging on my wall at home. Two of them are totally fake (I won’t reveal which). I’ve been inflating the number of children I have just to make myself seem more virile. But then, you all claim to have more kids than you really do, I’m sure. It’s ordinary human behavior.

I’m supposedly able to drive, but — true confession — I actually don’t have a driver’s license. I posted a photo of Tom Selleck that I downloaded off the internet onto my library card. We all do it. My wife has a photo of Jennifer Aniston taped to her credit card, it fools all the police who’ve stopped her for her autograph.

My degree? It came out of a Cracker Jack box (not the regular size, though, you have to invest in the super-duper economy sized box, obviously), but it’s good enough. Impressed everyone who gave me this job, after all.

Having pathologically engorged narcissistic tendencies is simply part of the human condition, as I’m sure you all agree. It’s normal. You can’t condemn Trump for lying, you know, or being an egomaniacal buffoon, especially since Obama faked being president for a whole eight years, and nobody complained about that.

Who should you fear?

Everyone talks about radical Islamists, and they definitely are terrible awful violent people (but remember, please: radical Islamist ≠ Muslim). But there are other ideologies to fear, like far right white nationalists and animal rights extremists. Acknowledging that they’re all bad, and that murdering people in the name of your cult belief is always wrong, which one is worse? David Neiwert has done the research.

  • From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, meaning incidents motivated by a theocratic political ideology espoused by such groups as the Islamic State. The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots, meaning no attack took place.
  • During the same period, we found that right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents: 115. Just over a third of these incidents (35 percent) were foiled plots. The majority were acts of terrorist violence that involved deaths, injuries or damaged property.
  • Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly: Nearly a third of incidents involved fatalities, for a total of 79 deaths, while 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. (The total deaths associated with Islamist incidents were higher, however, reaching 90, largely due to the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.)
  • Incidents related to left-wing ideologies, including ecoterrorism and animal rights, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents causing seven fatalities – making the shooting attack on Republican members of Congress earlier this month somewhat of an anomaly.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Islamist incidents in our database were sting operations, more than four times the rate for far-right (12 percent) or far-left (10.5 percent) incidents.

Lotta words and numbers there. Maybe a graph will help.

As I would have expected, the greater danger to the public is homegrown blue-eyed narrowly patriotic nativist assholes, of the kind who get normalized and treated relatively gently by the internet and media. You can kneel at the feet of alt-right idols and worship them, and everyone looks the other way; try to do that with the local imam, and you’ll find yourself in an FBI file and with tabloids breathing down your neck.

Take a look at who gets labeled as terrorists.

That’s striking. The bigger threat largely gets a pass from law enforcement, possibly because so many LEOs tend to be terroristic right wing ideologues themselves, if recent murders of citizens are any testimony. Maybe that will change, though, as it begins to sink in that far-right patriot movements are out to kill anyone who defends the government.

By now, the steady drumbeat of terror plots and attacks from the far right has begun to attract renewed attention, among them incidents involving the “sovereign citizens” movement, white supremacists, Patriot and militia movements, and anti-abortion fanatics, including some radical Christians. Their targets are police and military, Sikhs and Muslims, African Americans and Jews, power grids and transit hubs, abortion clinics and black churches and immigrant communities.

It’s a long read, but substantive and evidence-based. Read it and worry.

Krugman looks at Trumpcare

Krugman calculates who should favor this bill.

So, is this bill good for you? Yes, if you meet the following criteria:

1.Your income is more than $200,000 a year
2.You have a job that comes with good health insurance
3.You can’t imagine any circumstances under which you lose that job or income
4.You don’t have any family members or friends who don’t meet those criteria
5.You have zero empathy for anyone else

Let’s see. Do I qualify?

  1. Nope. Not even close.

  2. Yes! Except, of course, that I work in education, which the Trump administration wants to destroy.

  3. Nope. I’ll definitely lose this job inside a decade, when I retire. Or, to look on the bright side, when I die.

  4. Nope. Three kids who are just starting early adulthood.

  5. No, although I suppose I could work on it. I’ve already lost all empathy for Trump voters.

I guess I should be 80% against the bill by those criteria. It’s more like 800%, though.

But we do know the script the Republicans are following.

The set of people who can check all these boxes is not a winning political coalition. But Republican leaders believe that their voters are tribal enough, sufficiently walled off from information, that they’ll ignore the attack on their lives and keep voting R – indeed, that as they lose health care, get hit with crushing out-of-pocket bills, see their friends and neighbors face ruin, they’ll blame it on Democrats.

I wish I were sure that this belief was false.