Wednesday, July 26, 2017

JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN TRUMP'S GUTTER

This isn't Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Have you ever wondered what a being "unpresidential" looks liked? I know, I know ... that's too easy. We all know it looks like Donald Trump.

Seriously. What else can you say about a syphilitic-addled mind that blurts out, with the exception of "the late, great Abraham Lincoln," that he could easily act "more presidential than any other president in history."

This is a sick man.

William H. Harrison was far more presidential than Trump, and he died 32 days after his inauguration (even dead, Harrison is more presidential).

But wait, it gets worse.

At his "make America great" [**Bavarian beer hall**] rally Donald Trump compared the United States to a nation under wartime occupation. Feeding the political vultures that thrive on the fear and division Trump so easily dishes out, Trump claimed that illegal immigrant gangs (read: people of color) are now going after young beautiful girls - as if it were a daily occurrence - and cutting them up because the gangs want them to experience more pain.

This was followed up with Trump going back on a campaign promise (surprise there, right). He just announced he was going to reinstate the transgender military ban so that transgender Americans can no longer serve, in any capacity, in the United States military (which brought this transgender Navy SEAL response).

Sigh ...

None of this should be a surprise to anyone. Trump's been on (another) very unpresidential roll this week.
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As the LA Times' David Horsey pointed out, when Donald Trump addressed thousands of Boy Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree on Monday, he turned it into a "mean-spirited, boastful, bullying speech that failed to live up to the values to which Boy Scouts aspire."

Apart from mocking President Obama (who was a Boy Scout), and making it clear that he wanted to repeal Obamacare, Trump effectively turned a values reaffirming Jamboree into a mini political rally filled with a spirit of ridicule and division. Closing out his Times article Horsey didn't mince words:
Trump has no idea how to be presidential. He treats the White House like a branch of the family business. In the style of a Mafia don, he expects Cabinet officials and lawmakers to put loyalty to him above respect for the law and the Constitution. His tweets and most of his unscripted public statements are undignified, untutored and frequently unhinged.
So, yeah, rather than appealing to the values of the Boy Scouts Trump dragged the entire event through his dark mind, and into his political gutter. Unfortunately, Trump's Jamboree comments are par for the course since, you know, this is exactly what Trump's been doing with America since he became president.



The real scary part here is that more and more Americans are getting accustomed to the gutter background noise, and the Bavarian Beer Hall-like rallies, that come with Trump.

- Mark

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

WHAT YOU NEED TO EARN TO BUY A HOME IN AMERICA

Via Visual Capitalist we get "The Salary Needed to Buy a Home in 27 Cities in America" ...
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- Mark

Monday, July 24, 2017

SIX WAYS DONALD TRUMP IS DESTROYING AMERICA ... WITH REPUBLICAN SUPPORT



The Guardian has a nice overview of how the Trump administration - in spite of colossal incompetence when it comes to health care, tax reform, and foreign affairs - is still accomplishing  something. Unfortunately that "something" is the gradual dismantling of safeguards and protections we don't see but nonetheless have made a significant difference in our every day lives.

How do these safeguards and protections work, you ask? Think of the hypothetical below, and you should understand what we're talking about.

Imagine you have the option of being in a skyscraper in Seattle or Thailand. If you knew there was going to be an 8.5 earthquake, and you had the option of being on the 30th floor of a building in Seattle or Thailand, which would you choose? You would choose Seattle, of course. Apart from the building codes and inspections that many contractors and building owners might complain about, standards make a difference. Then we have the tax supported and publicly managed emergency response teams (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) that provide another level of protection and security.

Protocols, rules and regulations are all there for a reason. They provide safeguards and protections we don't think about, but are there to make our lives better, and safer (think vaccines).

President Trump, as this Guardian piece points out, isn't much concerned about these safeguards. The primary reason he's not concerned is because - in spite of his wide use of government bankruptcy courts, his abuse of government tax codes (for the write-offs), and his team of government sanctioned lawyers - he believes government only gets in the way of people like him making money.

Below is a synopsis, with my commentary, of the Guardian's six ways Donald Trump is 'dismantling' the United States.
1. ECONOMY / BUSINESS: Apart from freeing up firms to pollute our rivers and streams, the Trump administration has "scrapped a rule" that prevented companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history violating worker wage, labor, and safety laws. Worse, almost ten years after the market started its downward spiral into a mega-collapse, the Trump administration is working to dismantle the rules designed to guard against another 2008-like market collapse. 

2. THE ENVIRONMENT: From going after emission standards to dismantling the EPA, to opening public lands to coal mining, to dismissing the scientific consensus on climate change, the Trump administration has made it clear if science and health get in the way of the bottom line they will be questioned, and then ignored when possible. And let's not forget our exit from the Paris Accord. These people are Flat-Earthers.

3. IMMIGRATION: By going after Muslims and undocumented migrant families, Donald Trump is both feeding, and feeding off of, the paranoid and bigoted fears of America. Citing non-existent terrorist fears (you're more likely to win the lottery and get hit by lightening than get wrapped up in a terrorist related activity), Trump is going after the weakest and most vulnerable communities. This might keep his base motivated, but it also pits those who understand the spirit of America against those who are driven by fear and hate. 

4. DIPLOMACY: While Trump hasn't started a war, yet (a definite plus), there's no doubt that the global community think he's either a lunatic, a joke, or both. He embarrasses America daily on the world stage, which undermines our prestige and capacity to lead. Then we have this: The Mother of All Diplomatic Giveaways. Donald Trump is doing Russia's bidding on the global stage, and has become Vladimir Putin's stooge.

5. GENDER: Whether it's ignoring sexual assault on our nation's college campuses, going after Planned Parenthood, eliminating Obamacare's birth control mandate, or defunding the Legal Services Corporation (the main source for women attempting to escape domestic violence) the Trump administration has made it clear issues tied to gender are not a priority; unless rules need to be rolled back.

6. CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Campaigning on a non-existent "rising crime" theme, Donald Trump has commissioned a task force to make policy recommendations about a rising threat that even Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledges doesn't exist. Then we have AG Session's agenda, which includes upping the use of "civil forfeiture" which allows law enforcement to confiscate assets of anyone accused of making money criminally, even if they haven't been convicted of a crime. AG Sessions has also made it clear that he's not really interested in going after, or even investigating, rogue and corrupt law enforcement agencies.

Critical to all of this is how the Republican Party is enabling Trump's slow dismantling of America. For them, it doesn't matter what our nation's intelligence agencies say about Russia meddling in our elections, and what is slowly being leaked about collusion between Trump's inner circle and the Russians. It also doesn't matter that Trump's inciting division and fear, and how he does nothing to appeal to our better angels.

The GOP is putting party above country. Period.


You can read the entire Guardian article by clicking here.

- Mark

Friday, July 21, 2017

OK, PRESIDENT TRUMP IS OFFICIALLY A RUSSIAN STOOGE ... BUT, WAIT, IT GETS BETTER





So the United States is pulling up its covert (CIA) stakes, and leaving Syria. What this means is that there is no longer "official" U.S. support for the rebels fighting the autocratic Bashar al-Assad, or the radical Islamic State in Eastern Syria, which the U.S. has been doing since 2013.

Russian leaders, as you can imagine, responded immediately, praising the move, and then vowing to cut ties to moderate rebels in Syria.

If this is part of Donald Trump's secret plan to rid the region of ISIS - because he has a secret plan built around the fact that he knows so much more about ISIS than the generals - I'm not impressed. The Free Syrian Army is not only upset, but they're making sure everyone knows they were blindsided by the move.

In their view, the jihadists and al Qaeda just got stronger.

But wait, it gets better (worse?).

On a broader geo-strategic level President Trump is effectively saying, "Let's leave Syria to the Russians ... and the Iranians" (who support al-Bashar). Acknowledging this, one Trump surrogate even went so far as to comment, "Putin won in Syria."

So, yeah, in one move, we just created a vacuum in the Middle East, and made Russia (and Iran) stronger in the region.

If you needed more evidence that Donald Trump is doing Russia's bidding around the world, walking away from Syria, just one week after meeting Putin in Europe, has to be the last piece you need.
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It fits with a longer Trump policy train (wreck) that I pointed out would happen at this time last year (more than once too).

Specifically, the United States is now ceding it's foreign policy positions around the world, both tactically and strategically. And all for what? Because Trump got into bed with Russian oligarchs, and owes them money. Throw in the fact that it looks like Vladimir Putin has some incriminating evidence on our president, and it's easier to understand why America's leadership positions around the world are being had for a song and a dance ... an American song, combined with a Russian dance, to be sure.





But, wait, it gets better (worse?). 

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson took a look at President Trump's superpower giveaway today, asked why, and came up with this:

There is nothing normal about an American president’s subservience to Russia’s interests and worldview. It is not the result of some bold, secret, Nixonian foreign policy stratagem — the most laughable possible explanation. Does it come from Trump’s bad case of authoritarianism envy? A fundamental sympathy with European right-wing, anti-democratic populism? An exposure to pressure from his checkered financial history? There are no benign explanations, and the worst ones seem the most plausible.

What we end up with is a Trump "strategery" that weakens NATO, dismisses Europe, abandons the mess in Syria, treads lightly around China, blusters in North Korea, and, quite frankly, hands the keys to the kingdom to Putin.


How we got here is a mystery to many. But make no mistake. Vladimir Putin has been putting his global chess pieces in order for the better part of the last decade. Michael Gerson writes:

Russia has employed a sophisticated mix of conventional operations and cyber-operations to annex territory and destabilize governments. It has systematically encouraged far-right, nationalist leaders and supported pro-Russian, anti-democratic parties across Europe. It is trying to delegitimize democratic processes on the theory that turbulence in the West is good for a rising East. This is a strategy that allows Russia to punch above its strategic weight, especially since Trump has chosen to abdicate the United States’ natural role in opposition.

But wait. It gets better (worse?).

President Trump is now the head of a Republican Party that has decided that they can put their twisted Ayan Rand inspired interests of their party ahead of the long term interests of our nation.

Even after being told by our nation's top intelligence agencies that the Russians intervened in our presidential elections, the GOP have chosen to sit on their hands, and say nothing. Indeed, 49 percent of Republicans now believe Russia is an ally or friend, for no other reason than because they've been told to believe it by their leader, Donald Trump.

To hell with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. They knew nothing about Russia, compared to Trump.



My Republican friends are telling me, "Don't judge Trump today. Only time will tell."

Yeah, he could still hand over Alaska.

That is better, for the Russians.



Sigh ...

- Mark

TREVOR NOAH EXPLAINS FOX NEWS

Trevor Noah points out, once again, why Fox News is pretty much useless when it comes to reporting the news and evaluating President Trump ...

In a few words, Noah takes a look at the Doncathlon "events" that Fox News engages in to promote and protect Donald Trump. The events include the Hillary Leap (diverting attention from Trump to Hillary Clinton), the Giant Leap (inventing conspiracies), and Semantic Judo (using the weight of the truth against itself).

Enjoy.



- Mark

Thursday, July 20, 2017

KGET 17 NEWS HEALTH CARE DEBATE / GOP FAILS, AGAIN


Two days ago I made another appearance with Republican Cathy Abernathy on KGET 17 News' 5:30 pm segment. The topic was the Republican-led effort to kill Obamacare, and replace it with the health care equivalent of, well, nothing.

Out of the gate I made it clear that the GOP's plan really isn't about health care. What they're calling a health care plan - by first repealing and then replacing Obamacare, some time down the road - is really a tax cuts for the rich Trojan Horse (which I explain 1:20 into the clip). It's a promise of a fabulous health care system, but only after the Republicans get their tax cuts for the rich, and then get rid of something that's actually working, Obamacare.

How do we know that Obamacare is working? Because it has opened up access to health care, and slowed down projected pre-Obamacare health care costs.

What people forget is that health care costs had been rising at an unsustainable pace when President Obama was elected in 2008. Think about this. In 1970 for every dollar we earned as a nation we spent 7.2 cents of it on health care. In 2009, when Obamacare was introduced, for every national dollar we earned we spent 17.6 cents on health care!

This is simply not sustainable.
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During President Obama's first term, the Congressional Budget Office even projected that our nation would spend 20 cents of every dollar earned on health by 2018, and 25 cents by 2025.

This has not happened.

Today, not only are we spending about 17.8 cents of every national dollar on health care but, as Forbes reported, health care costs during the Obama administration rose at its slowest rate since 1960. As well, between 2010 and 2016 Obamacare helped lower personal (medical) bankruptcies by nearly 50 percent. What this means is that Obamacare is a stunning success when it comes to creating access and reducing health care related costs in America.
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This also means that when Cathy Abernathy said - 25 seconds into the clip - "We don't need Obamacare ... It's hurting the economy ..." she was flat out wrong (OK, she was "lying"). Let me repeat: Obamacare has slowed the costs of medical care in our nation's economy to rates not seen since 1960.

More importantly, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Obamacare has added years to the life of Medicare.

The other point I made in the clip - and what I want to emphasize here - was that the Republicans aren't serious about replacing Obamacare. Their "plan" to repeal and then replace Obamacare with something better (that only they know about) down the road is really a Trojan Horse.


I closed my comments by pointing out that the GOP's assumptions are based on wishful thinking (2.6% growth rates when the CBO projects it to hit 1.9%), and by reemphasizing that the Republicans current health care efforts are really just another round of tax cuts for the rich.

Cathy ended with some nonsense about "the government," which left us all looking at each other.

- Mark

You can access the KGET 17 News segment by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

IGNORANCE AND STUPIDITY NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE


- Mark

Hat tip to Leonel for the John Cole-San Jose Mercury News comic.

CALIFORNIA HATERS WON'T LIKE THIS ... "CALIFORNIA LEADS THE U.S. ECONOMY, AWAY FROM TRUMP"


Six years ago pundits were writing California off, complaining about its migrant population, its business environment, and its politics. Today, all of that's changed.

With a democratic legislature and governor, a tech-based economy that's in tune with its Asian-Pacific partner nations, and a political culture that's embracing its migrant communities, California - according to Bloomberg News - is leading the U.S. economy, and the world away from Trump.
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California's secret? Whatever Trump does, it does the opposite. And it's working.



To be sure, it's a little more complex than running away from everything that our national embarrassment does from the White House, but the point is made. The United States under President Trump is going in the wrong direction. States that buck Trump's initiatives, like California, are doing well.

Specifically, Bloomberg notes:

* California has one-eighth of the U.S. population (39 million) and one-seventh of the nation's gross domestic product of $2.3 trillion.

* Far from being a mess, California's economy is bigger than ever, rivaling the U.K. as No. 5 in the world.

* California is the chief reason America is the only developed economy to achieve record GDP growth since the financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing global recession

As Bloomberg notes, Governor Jerry Brown is making the point that much of the U.S. growth can be traced to California laws promoting clean energy, government accountability and protections for undocumented people. Indeed, rather than treating its migrant populations as pariahs, criminals and terrorists as President Trump and much of the Republican Party is doing, California's leaders are embracing its newcomers. Governor Brown, now in his fourth term, considers immigrants a major reason for the state's success.

And contrary to what President Trump and his Flat Earth society of climate deniers are saying about climate regulations hurting business, California is becoming the poster child for the right mix of smart regulations and a viable clean energy policy.

Bloomberg writes:

No state or country has created as many laws discouraging fossil fuels and carbon while promoting clean energy. That convergence of policy and voter preference is paying off in the stock market.

California is home to 20 of the 130 companies in North America and South America that meet the standard classification of clean energy. These 20 companies produced a total return of 45 percent during the past 12 months, beating the clean energy benchmark's 13 percent, the S&P 500's 19 percent and the S&P 500 Energy Index's 6 percent.

As evidence of California's power to attract and maintain tech talent, take a look at Apple's new $5 billion "Space Ship" Campus, which they're building in Cupertino, California ... Ground Zero for what Republicans claim is a tax and regulatory hell hole.

 


There's more, much more, about California's new successes - away from Trump, and Washington - which you can access here.

- Mark

Monday, July 17, 2017

MIGRATION INTO THE AMERICAS ... IT'S A LONG STORY



An interesting look at how people from around the world arrived in the United States, beginning about 50 years after the Declaration of Independence ...



Another interesting look at migration patterns, into the Americas, from about 70,000 years ago ...
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- Mark

TRAVEL BAN HUMOR, COURTESY OF SNL


I missed this one a few months back. During the height of the "travel ban" discussion, Alec Baldwin plays President Donald Trump on SNL's skit on The People's Court.


- Mark