Nevertheless, #ShePersisted

Jeff Sessions has just been confirmed as the next Attorney General (along the expected party lines), but the real news today is that Mitch McConnell seems to have just launched Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 campaign by telling her to shut up.  I wonder if the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch will be nicer.  He seems like a much nicer guy to me ever since he called the president’s attacks on the judicial system ‘demoralizing’ and ‘disheartening.’

Morning consult/POLITICO just released the results of a recent poll that they conducted.  Results of interest include the high popularity of Trump’s Muslim ban (haven’t seen much of that in the news).  Results of less interest include Democrats’ desire for their elected officials to block Trump in pretty much everything (Obama Protocol redux, but blue instead of red).  Of course, the poll asks many timely questions.  Why not have a look for yourself, and, for the super geeks, check out the crosstabulation edition?

Finally, because I just can’t take my eyes off this guy, why not learn a little more about #PresidentBannon and his views of the world, including this quote:

“Darkness is good.  Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan–that’s power. It only helps us when (outsiders) get it wrong–when they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”–Steve Bannon (as quoted by Michael Wolff)

Why wasn’t there a confirmation hearing for that guy?  Spooky dude.


Fukushima robots, wild bison, and seized assets

It had to be clear that, at some point, we would hit a slow news day.  That point has come.  I started this activity with the goal of posting every day for a week.  Then, I figured I’d try for a month and take a break.  Unfortunately, I’ve run out of news before I’ve run out of month.  Worse, I’ve not run out of enthusiasm.  So, here we go.

Tepco analysts (the ones motivated to paint the conditions at the former Fukushima nuclear reactors a bit on the rosy side) have recently measured the radiation inside reactor #2 at 530 sieverts of radiation per hour.  For reference, exposure to 10 sieverts will kill you within about a month, and 530 sieverts per hour will kill the robots used to scoot around inside the reactors (to do all the cool robot stuff they do) in about two hours (because they can only absorb 1000 sieverts before they die).  Yes, Fukushima is still so toxic, it even kills robots.  Go nuclear power!

In happier news, the bison are back!  As part of its 150-year anniversary, Canada has decided to bring wild bison (really wild, as in they’re all pregnant with little anchor bison) back to Banff National Park.  And, there they go!  Now, don’t tell me the Canadians don’t know how to party.

Did someone say party?  There’s a new sheriff in town and he invited all his little sheriff buddies to his place to hang out.  So, what do sheriffs talk about when they’re alone and someone is taking a transcript of their conversation?  Seized assets!  See, when cops arrest people, sometimes they take their stuff.  Then, they keep it–even if the people were innocent.  It helps with bonuses.  Anyway, that’s the back story to this exchange that got the media riled up:

PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, on asset forfeiture, we got a state senator in Texas who was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we can receive their forfeiture.

THE PRESIDENT: Can you believe that?

PARTICIPANT: And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation.

THE PRESIDENT: Who is the state senator? Want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career. (Laughter.) Okay, thank you.

Ok, that’s good, but is it anything he wouldn’t say about Rosie O’Donnell?  I read through the transcript, and I want to leave you with this jewel, which I think is even better:

THE PRESIDENT:  So what do you do?  So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs.  So in the old days, you take it.  Now we’re criticized if we take it.  So who gets it?  What happens to it?  Tell them to keep it?

MR. BOENTE:  Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case.  And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

Has anybody checked to see if El Chapo has escaped again?  I think he might be wearing a Trump mask.

#PresidentBannon and Zaphod Beeblebrox

Zaphod Beeblebrox is a character from the Douglas Adams story, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  He was the president of the galaxy and a hedonistic, irresponsible narcissist whose only role was to create confusion and distract attention away from those who were actually in power.  And this is our cue for Steve Bannon.  He’s an interesting guy, who’s recently getting a lot of attention for his behind-the-scenes maneuvering and controversial views.  It does seem that Mr. Bannon has been quite busy lately and Mr. Trump is not at all amused at hints that Bannon is the real power behind the throne.  Still, if one were looking for a narcissistic, controversial figure–one who could attract attention to himself by claiming that the worldwide news media is purposely not reporting terrorist attacks for some undisclosed nefarious purpose (they actually do report these) or that the federal government will stop funding California–it would be hard to find a better Zaphod for President Bannon than our own Mr. Donald.

Mind speech

I probably wouldn’t like Mike Pence if I met him, but, still, I do feel quite sorry for him.  The guy is going to spend a large portion of his adult life making excuses for the silly things his boss says.  I probably wouldn’t like Paul Ryan, either, but this poor guy is going to spend a lot of his time telling the press what the grown ups are really going to do, despite whatever his boss is ranting about that day.  Despite my pathos, I remain concerned that we may have moved into a new era in America–an era in which it’s ok to speak your mind.

On the one hand, there may be nothing so quintessentially American as the right to speak up, to speak out, and to speak without censor.  It is the essence of freedom.  So, when a strong person comes along who ‘tells it like it is,’ there is an understandable visceral instinct of acceptance from those who share (what seem to feel like) his beliefs, but who have felt somehow restricted from speaking their own minds.  Everybody likes a tough guy who looks out for them and talks their language.

The question is, why have these folks felt restricted in their speech?  If the resonating messages are things like “Mexicans are criminals,”  “Muslims are dangerous,”  “The Chinese invented the climate change hoax,” and “The president hates America,” then who–or what–is suppressing these messages?  And, this is the crux of the issue–that sometimes the things that suppress free speech are qualities like intelligence, rationality, compassion, decency, and maturity.  Sometimes, the reason we haven’t felt welcome to say what we’re thinking is because the thing we’re thinking is a bad thing.  We’re not bad people for thinking what we think and feeling what we feel, especially if we restrain ourselves from saying things that are useless, hurtful, mean, selfish, petty, and stupid.  On such occasions, we should all feel proud that we restrained ourselves from speaking our mind.  It’s a mark of maturity.  Unfortunately, there are people, whether due to mistreatment, privilege, deviance, or some combination thereof, who have not developed this sense of sociability.  The ‘ego’ does not check the ‘id.’  The tragedy of this, for me, is not it’s novelty (there have always been sociopaths), but rather the elevation of crassness from the gutter to the shrine.  Some have mistaken ‘mind speech’ for free speech and rudeness for strength.  A swath of the populace has backed a demagogue precisely for his willingness to say things that have long been suppressed in polite society, not for their veracity, danger to the establishment, or subversive nature, but simply because these things lacked thought, benevolence and decorum.  Calling someone “fat” isn’t free speech.  It’s mind speech.

Today in New York City, someone had scrawled anti-Jewish, neo-nazi slogans in the subway.  And why not?  It’s the era of “speak-your-mind” and, obviously, this was on somebody’s mind.  But, hate speech is not the same as free speech.  We should still speak truth to power, we should speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, we should speak up for what is right, and, indeed, we should speak up for our own interests.  However, as mature, dignified, civilized adults, when do speak our minds, we should also take care to mind our speech.



Math is hard

Education Department nominee Betsy DeVos likes online charter schools.  In fact, she has a hard time saying anything bad about them.  When Senator Patty Murray asked her why these schools perform so poorly, DeVos listed several virtual academies that had, she said, “four-year cohort graduation rates” at or above 90 percent.  That sounds pretty impressive, until you find out what “four-year cohort graduation rates” are.  According to K12 Inc., the source of DeVos information, this phrase refers to “the graduation rate of continuously enrolled high school students – those who enrolled in ninth grade and remained enrolled until twelfth grade.”  In other words, it’s the graduation rate for all of the kids who stick around long enough to graduate.  The graduation rate for these virtual school for all of those who enter the system seems to be about half that.  This doesn’t inspire confidence in either the schools or the nominee.

Our Muslim ban is not fairing well.  It seems that the State Department is backing the “so-called judge” in Seattle and the whole thing seems headed for the history books as a flatulent flash-in-the-pan.  Perhaps this will leave more time for the country to focus on other pressing matters, such as the millions of imaginary voters or the new border wall.  On the other hand, it may be that none of Trump’s executive orders are legal anyway since they were signed without proper procedure.  Kind of makes you wish the poor guy could just figure out whom to threaten with a law suit.

Dodd-Frank goes the way of Glass-Steagall

Once upon a time in the United States of America, a bunch of guys figured out that they could take money from people, gamble with it, and, if they won, keep the winnings, and, if they lost, ask the government to bail them out.  It worked pretty well for a while, until, like all such schemes, they pushed it too far, and caused a Great Depression.  At this point, the government said, “Naughty! You can’t do that anymore.” “Drat!” said the men.  “That’s not fair!  We shall overturn this rule!”  And, by and by, they did.  Then, they started gambling with other people’s money again (because it was so much fun).  They liked to blow bubbles.  They blew an internet bubble, but it burst.  Then, they blew a housing bubble, but it burst.  They wanted to blow another bubble, but the last one caused a Great Recession.  The government said, “Naughty! You can’t do that anymore.”  “Hmph,” thought the men, “we’ll just wait.  Someone will come along and take that silly rule away again.”  And, sure enough, someone did–just today!

Now, some say the new rule was too mean.  Some wonder if the second rule had any better chance than the first (or any chance at all of surviving more than a few years).  Others wonder why a president who campaigned on promises of standing up to Wall Street has caved in to its basest desire.  Still others think that this would have happened no matter who became president, because the people who play this game are actually in charge.

By the way, in case you were wondering what the rule that just got shut down was, here it is:

“To promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘‘too big to fail’’, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.”

Well, so much for the American taxpayer.  Now that that’s behind us, guess what’s going to happen next!  (Clue:  what happened the last two times?)

As long as were talking about failed policies, guess whose Muslim ban just got shut down?  That same guy who did the favor for Wall Street!  My, my.

Thanking God and revisiting the axis of evil

Today’s news brings us the president’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast.  While the Secretary of Defense and the Press Secretary made sure that North Korea and Iran knew we still didn’t like them, President Trump took on the new third member of the evil axis triumvirate, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  While the press had its usual fun pointing out the silliest of the silly things that  Trump had to say, he also had some (dare I say it?) eloquent-ish moments.  Here are a few:

” America will thrive, as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.  That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land. It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains and the young people all across America, to chase their dreams. They are chasing their dreams. We are going to bring those dreams back.  As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone. Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch, or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength, and comfort. We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.  For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public, according to his will.”

If he did that without notes (which seems to be true of most of what he says), I think it was pretty good.  The next one is good, too, but with a heavy hand of irony.

“America is a nation of believers. In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.”

And, I’ll leave you with this one, because sometimes even God needs a lesson in self-confidence.

“The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out. OK? That’s what I do. I fix things. We’re going to straighten it out.”

Amen and amen.  Come Lord Donald.