Meanwhile, looking across the Atlantic …

… I have given up on understanding the Brexit process.

While the way that the US government functions (or, as is the current situation, does not function) is difficult to understand, the current situation regarding the Brexit process in the UK has gone completely out of my range of understanding. I read this news report that says that prime minister Theresa May has received some major setbacks due to losing key parliamentary votes, but what exactly happened, what it means, and what the next steps are is hard to decipher. Next week is supposed to feature yet another key vote.

The difficulty is compounded by the fact that so many political parties are involved and members of both Labour and Conservative parties are not unanimous on what they want. I assume that there is some orderly way that they can proceed but for the life of me, I don’t think I will understand what the options are without devoting an enormous amount of time delving into the weeds of the deals and the procedures.

But at least their government is open, so there’s that.

The shutdown should be called the Trump-McConnell shutdown

One thing we should be clear about is that senate majority leader Republican Mitch McConnell could open the government at any time if he wanted to and thus should shoulder a large part of the blame for the shutdown. But he seems to have entered the witness protection program being conspicuously absent from the public eye while the shutdown continues. Remember, the senate unanimously passed a government funding bill in December without wall funding when they thought that Trump was on board with it. Then Trump abruptly reversed himself and said that he would veto any bill that did not have wall funding. Now McConnell says that he will not bring up any bill that Trump will veto, even if it is identical to the one that he brought up and voted for in December. But why not? If Republicans liked the bill so much then, then even if Trump vetoed it, there should be more than enough votes to override the veto and thus reopen the government.
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Trump is losing the shutdown battle and he knows it

I did not watch Donald Trump’s speech last night but the reviews of it were so scathing that I decided to see for myself, helped by the fact that it was less that 10 minutes long and I felt I could stomach it. So I did and my reaction was that he looked like a person who knows he is in a bad situation and does not know how to get out. Trump’s strategy in the face of bad news is distraction and deflection. He could always create some new issue by saying something idiotic or making a stupid suggestion that he had no intention of carrying out, and the media would scurry after it. But there can be no deflection from the government shutdown. There is nothing he can do that is going to prevent an ever-increasing crescendo of attention to the fact that the government is grinding to a halt. I thought that he might throw a Hail Mary pass and declare a national emergency as a distraction but he didn’t.
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Oh my, Trump is offended by bad language! Who knew?

Donald Trump is appalled that new congresswoman Rashid Tlaib referred to him as a ‘motherfucker’ and his puppy House minority leader Kevin McCarthy joined in clutching his pearls.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed his anger with Tlaib’s comment Friday, saying, “That action should not stand. Somebody should stand up to her.”

The president also weighed in at a Rose Garden appearance, saying Tlaib “dishonored herself” with the “disgraceful” remark.

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Fighting Trump on all sides

Donald Trump is planning to give an address to the nation tonight at 9:00 pm that will be carried live on all the major TV networks. I will not be watching it because I find it hard to watch him lying in real time. I will choose instead to read later about all the lies and fear-mongering that I expect him to deliver as he gets increasingly desperate to get out of the box he put himself into by tying funding for his wall with keeping the government open. Expect to hear apocalyptic visions of the doom facing the nation if the wall is not built.
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The US health care rip off

According to a new report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that the annual per capita expenditure on health care in the US is $9,892, almost two and a half times the average spent by OECD countries which is $4,033. It is well known that the health outcomes in the US are well below those of those countries so we are spending a whole lot more and getting a whole lot less.
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It is very obvious: ‘No Labels’ = ‘Problem Solvers Caucus’ = Republican

We are seeing a familiar scenario play out now that the Democrats made sweeping gains in the November elections and switched 40 seats to gain control of the House of Republicans. They now have a 235-199 majority with the disputed seat in North Carolina still to be determined. As a result, they can set the legislative agenda and now have sweeping powers to investigate all the abuses of the Trump administration.
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The great cricket scare

No, this post is not about my favorite sport. Thanks to a private communication from Marcus Ranum, I became aware of this article that sheds some light on the mysterious affliction that affected US diplomats at its embassy in Havana, Cuba that I had written about before. This had led to all manner of wild speculations of high-tech sonic warfare being waged against the embassy personnel by Cuba, Russia, or China or some combination of those countries. None of those theories made much sense but when did the lack of evidence ever prevent a lot of breathless media speculation, especially when wrapped up in Cold War fears?
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Religion’s last refuge in the face of scientific progress

As a result of the rapid advances in science, the explanatory claims of religion for natural phenomena have been all but discredited. But that has not stopped religious people from trying to retain some relevance. Some have taken the tack of arguing that religion ‘explains’ things like the meaning of life that science cannot, a fatuous claim since those ‘explanations’ are simply evidence-free assertions. But others take the position that their ancient religious texts actually predicted scientific phenomena.
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First bill in the US Senate is to punish BDS supporters

While the House of Representatives is passing bills to fund the government, the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to bring those bills up for a vote in that body, even identical ones that had been passed at the end of last year when Trump had indicated he would agree to it before he abruptly reversed course and demanded finding for his stupid wall.

But not to worry, the Senate is not doing nothing. While the government grinds slowly to a halt and people undergo hardships as a consequence, Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald write that the very first bill that the Senate is likely to bring up is one that punishes people who criticize Israeli policies and support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that is intended to pressure the government of Israel to end its apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians.
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