Welcome To The Proctocracy

by Mark Sumner, Daily Kos

[Mark Sumner summarizes the week in politics and in the process coins a term that I intend to use every day whenever I reference this administration in casual conversation: The Proctocracy. Got a nice ring to it, and pointedly describes the smelly reality that has been infecting our environment since November 9th.]


The latest Friday dump wasn’t just news. It was Reince Priebus, who was literally left on the tarmac with neither a ride nor the keys to get his stuff back from his office. Priebus later tried to claim that he had quit before he was fired, but … it’s kind of unconvincing if you get in the car and ride out to the airport only to be booted. You just know that, in the other vehicle, Anthony Scarammuci was howling with laughter.

Scaramucci spent the week attacking Priebus and making an ass of himself to a truly astonishing degree. In just a couple of days, Mooch …

  • Claimed that Priebus had stolen a public disclosure form and given it to the media.
  • Threatened to fire his entire staff.
  • Threatened to kill his entire staff.
  • Threatened to sic the FBI on Priebus for a nonexistent “leak.”
  • Called up a reporter and delivered a foul-mouthed rant in which he attacked both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.
  • Admitted that he was tweeting threats for the express purpose of making Priebus angry.

At the end of that week. who was punished? Priebus. Because of course he was. This is a Proctocracy after all — government by, for, and of assholes.

There is something to be gained from this. At least Americans are getting a good look at what “business leaders” are like and how businesses are run. For decades, Americans have been fed a line of BS about how government is inefficient and corrupt while businesses are handled by enlightened leaders guided by the invisible-but-wise hand of the market.

Nope. This is what they’re like. Most businesses are Proctocracies in their purest form, run by the guys who bully, backstab, betray, undercut and cheat their way to the top. They’re exactly as wise as Scaramucci’s call to Ryan Lizza. Exactly as fairly run as Trump’s money-laundering casino.

Quiz time: One of these men worked at a young age in the wealth management division of a big investment firm, then went on to found a series of hedge funds before riding his sneer into America’s living rooms. Now, is that Anthony Scaramucci or ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli? It’s a trick. It’s both of them.

You can’t say Trump isn’t running the government like a business. This week full of infighting and failure? That’s exactly what business is like.

The Best Tweetstorm Ever Written

Rick Wilson is a GOP strategist, and he’s had it with Trumpers. Yesterday he unleashed a tweet storm in 22 tweets that I have thoughtfully broken down into a lovely little essay.  It’s rare for me to find a conservative voice that’s articulate and has a vocabulary that reflects someone who has actually thought things through. Wilson is one of my favorite conservative voices, not just because he hates everything Kim Jong Don stands for, but because he expresses himself in something other than grunts and growls. Enjoy.

Fire Mueller. Do it. Fire Mueller.

Do it, because it’s time for the final divorce between the clickservatives and any pretense they believe in the rule of law. Let’s just get it the fuck ON and end this shabby pretense that we still live in a nation of laws.

So clickservatives, Trump fellators, fanboys, grunting MAGA mouthbreathers, SING OUT now. I really want to know. Is there anything he can do that strikes your conscience? Is there any sin, any excess, any affront? No? GOOD. That makes it easy for all of us. Just go ALL IN. Get a TRUMP logo tramp stamp. Name your kids after him. Pledge fealty for you and all the generations of your offspring. Stop pussyfooting around the edges. Come right out and say it; all you care about is that he pisses off people you hate. So come on…pledge loyalty and obedience to Trump, not America or the Constitution. You’re already SO CLOSE. Call for Mueller to be fired, Comey to be imprisoned, Wilson to be eaten by wild dogs. You’re already filled with atavistic lust for the purge, the long knives, the broken glass, the whiff of grapeshot. You excuse EVERYTHING because duh librul media or whatever bullshit fantasy you believe he fulfills. Go all the way!

So, let’s just have the supine, ten-dollar hooker clickservatives write a million “But Comey” gruntpieces for a little fig leaf. So you can pretend there’s a reason for letting Trump’s utterly obvious corruption slide, not just an excuse.

So fire Mueller. Call for it. Be on the record. While you’re at it, call for permanent immunity for Trump for all crimes. Why not? He’ll piss off the media, and that’s worth everything, right? What’s a little authoritarianism in exchange? Ohhhh, I know. You’re SO MAD someone in the media or culture doesn’t agree with Esoteric Trumpism in every detail. Is Trump honest? Is he a conservative? Is he a Constitutionalist? Does he believe in the rule of law? Embrace his utter fucking degeneracy and third-world generalissimo act. It’s the new you! Ride with it!

Trump juche is real conservatism. It’s the real path for the GOP. Forget laws and principles, and just vow eternal loyalty. So fire Mueller. Call for it. Be on the record. Let’s just get it done, because I’m sure you’re tired of all these petty laws and norms and guardrails that stop Kim Jong Don from truly Making the Democratic Peoples Republic of Trumperica Great Again. Teach your kids that the laws are for people other than the President. That’s why Donald Trump got rid of those troublesome priests. Embrace unlimited state power, the end of legal accountability, and the ruthless will to power as the only metric of leadership.

What could possibly go wrong?

–Rick Wilson




Asking For A Friend

So, what do you think? Is health care—access to it, diagnostics, treatment, testing, necessary pharmaceuticals, emergency care—a right in this country or a privilege?

Asking for a friend.

I’ve had my share of health issues in my 74 years, including heart surgeries (stents), a knee replacement and prostate surgery. I have a brother who was helicoptered to a hospital in St. Cloud from his Alexandria lake home last year and they saved his life. Most of my immediate family, brothers and sisters, have needed emergency care at some point.

So I’ve reached my own conclusions on this suddenly hot topic through personal experience. I had another opportunity two days ago to think about this as I was being ambulanced to St. Francis hospital in Shakopee from the clubhouse at the Ridges at Sand Creek, one of my favorite little golf course gems here in the Twin Cities. My emergency responders were all young, earnest, extremely competent professionals, all with fairly advanced senses of humor which allowed them to give back as quick as they were given, since my first reaction in one of these medical emergencies is to crack as many jokes as possible as quickly as possible to let everyone know that I’m all right.

ME: [FROM A PRONE POSITION ON THE FLOOR OF THE CLUBHOUSE] Can you hand me my glasses before you attach those leads to my chest? I want to be able to identify you guys in case there’s a lawsuit.

EMT: Sure, and we’ll give you our names too—I’m Jenny. And that’s Bob. Now I’m going to shave a few of your chest hairs. No shaving cream though, is that OK?

I had just finished playing a round with my usual foursome, dragging myself up the 18th fairway feeling tired, slightly nauseous, and needing to lie down somewhere soon. I’d been joking that my low energy had slowed down my swing and allowed me to play a little better and that maybe I should only play when I felt sick from now on.

We parked the carts, climbed the steps into the clubhouse, and as I sat at the table I began to wonder if any of my symptoms might be cardio-related. Having had a couple of these heart incidents over the years, my first thoughts are always “Am I having a heart attack?” and “How close is the nearest EMT team?” Kelly, my playing partner for many years, said I was looking pale—did I need a ride? I was about to ask him to bring my car around so I could recline the seat and rest in the AC for a few minutes, but I didn’t get that request out—I opened my eyes and looked up at Kelly from the floor as he said “You’re OK, keep breathing. Help is on the way.” Apparently I passed out and slid off my chair right in the middle of the club’s lunch run. Embarrassing. And seeing Kelly’s face as he cushioned my head wouldn’t have been my first choice if I’d been dying.

The EMTs arrived quickly, put an oxygen mask on me, and went to work. The ambulance arrived shortly after that, they slapped some EKG leads on me after I told them my history, and they quickly determined that it didn’t look like a cardio related incident. I woke up that morning with a slightly distressed stomach and lower tract, but I dismissed it as a probable effect of the tacos the night before. The oxygen was helping, I was feeling a little better, still weak, so they gave me a choice: stay there, rest a bit, and go home on my own, or zip off with them in the ambulance to the hospital for a complete check.

My original partner and longtime friend Joe, the original SNOT in our exhaustively long-running comedy show, had a similar choice to make almost nine years ago. Ironically, he had been at a golf course, had experienced chest pains strong enough to make him sit down between holes, and had decided (despite his girl friend’s pleas to go get checked out) that whatever it was he could handle it. He wanted to finish the game, eat with his friends, and go home. All of which he did. He was supposed to meet his regular running group early the next morning for their Monday run, and when he didn’t show up, they went to his house and found him dead on the floor of his living room.

All that ran quickly through my head and I said “Let’s take a ride to the hospital, it’ll be fun. Can we play Scrabble on the way?”

This is a long trip down the page to get to my original question. But here it is. IF I wasn’t on Medicare, IF I wasn’t able to afford a good supplemental health care plan, IF I had to decide whether or not I could afford the (1) bill for the ambulance, (2) the bill for the emergency treatment, (3) the bill for the hospital emergency room treatment, (4) the bill for the tests that determined that it was safe for me to be checked out without having to worry that I’d die before I got home, (5) the miscellaneous additional bills that always result from the most expensive medical treatment we have in this country—emergency room care—IF I had to decide if I could afford all that, I would probably have turned down the ambulance ride and taken my chances.

And that, my friends, is why the CDC can predict with depressing accuracy how many people will die if the Republicans somehow succeed in removing access to health insurance for millions of people.

And that, my friends, is why I maintain, along with most everyone I know who has an ounce of empathy and common sense and the ability to relate to people who don’t have the resources they do, that access to health care—the same level of health care as I got on Tuesday—and the same level of health care that our elected representatives get every day—-should be a RIGHT, not a privilege that the accident of your birth either allows you or denies you.

Every other developed country IN THE WORLD has made that very obvious, very caring decision: that we’re all in this together, that health care is something that everyone needs eventually—like air and water—and that no one should be allowed (or condemned) to die because they couldn’t afford to see a doctor.

Market-based health care in this country is a curse we can lift if we want to. No company should be allowed to exist that grows and profits off denying people health care, and that is exactly how health insurance companies and their obscenely well-compensated executives make their money. We are still a third-world country in this regard, and it’s something that makes me cringe whenever I’m at a sporting event and have to listen to the patriotic songs and cries of “USA, USA!” and “We’re #1!”—-well, we aren’t number one. In SO MANY WAYS. You can look it up. Infant mortality rates, maternal survival during birth, cancer rates, elder care, you name it, we’re WAY down the list.

All because we haven’t had the political will—or heart—to fix this broken system.

Bernie Sanders was and is right. Medicare for all should be our ultimate goal. But it won’t happen till we take the money and bribery out of our political system, get rid of the criminals who take the bribes and vote against the best interests of our citizens, and start saving money by creating the same system that Germans and Canadians and the French and British have been successfully employing for many years.

I got checked out and my bill will be practically nothing. I can’t say the same thing will happen to friends of mine who don’t have my level of protection, and they deserve it just as much as I do. My diagnosis was a simple gastro-intestinal bug that somehow shut me down. But I’m OK and almost back to normal.

Let’s start asking every pol who asks for our vote how he or she will vote on this important, life-saving question, and if it’s the wrong answer, or if it’s a hedged answer, make it clear that not only do they not have our vote, we will actively work against them ever representing us.

It’s the right thing to do.



Is he simply the worst human being we can imagine? Listen to the experts.


by Don Hazen and the ALTERNET Editorial Staff

No doubt, there are historians who are already willing to call Donald Trump the worst president in history. It is hard to imagine how, in such a short time, an elected president could reveal how truly bad he is; how ignorant, insensitive, mendacious, dysfunctional, self-centered, and at times borderline psychotic. But all this may add up to more than just “worst president.” Trump may be the worst human being alive — the most hated person in America and throughout the world today.

How do you decide whether someone is the worst person alive? You probably include in your criteria stupid behavior, lies and cheating, lack of grace and charm, cruelty, obsession with revenge, and constantly putting other people down—the weaker the better. But it’s also important to check in on public opinion, or rather media opinion, to contextualize Trump’s horrific standing.

TV Cheat Sheet likes to keep track of all the truly unpopular people, and it has dubbed Donald Trump the “most hated person in 2017″ so far. Trump was also number one in 2016, which kind of says it all.

Trump’s most serious competition for most hated person alive is Martin Shkreli, who is high on most lists of people the public loathes. Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, earned the ire of millions of Americans by hiking the price for the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent. He was also arrested for fraud.

The two other people who consistently rate high on the TV Cheat Sheet hate-o-meter, perhaps offering Trump some competition, are Kim Jong-un and Justin Beiber. Kim is “North Korea’s supreme leader, a petty dictator who is more concerned with being feared on the international stage than fixing the horrid living conditions of his country’s citizens,” while Bieber has had “a string of bad actions and public controversies in recent years, including vandalism, driving under the influence, resisting arrest and taking prescription drugs.”

Others who find their way onto various most-hated lists are child molester Jared Fogel, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (both as a couple and when measured separately), O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Bernie Madoff, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, and Tiger Woods.

And some of the worst dead people in history consistently show up on these kinds of lists: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Osama bin Laden to name a few.

In the end, Trump triumphs as the most despised man alive today in America, and probably the world.

In order to show all the ways in which Trump earns this top spot, we offer the following colorful, often brilliant and truly depressing descriptions of Trump, composed by a range of experts and writers who have piercingly observed the U.S.’s 45th and very worst president.

We let the experts speak

  1. Joe Conason, AlterNetMost Americans despise the president — a blustering, feckless lout who ignores [the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution] . . . as he undermines freedom of the press and the free exercise of religion. He has appointed a government of plutocrats, mostly mirroring his own unfitness for office, who appear determined to dismantle the institutions that have made this country humane, strong, prosperous, and respected. Along with his political associates and members of his family, he has encouraged and emboldened the very worst elements in American politics, including so-called white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates, all echoing his promise to “Make America Great Again.” They cannot make America great again.
  2. Kali Holloway, AlterNetTrump’s presidency is what happens when you elect a vengeful man-baby with an insatiable lust for power, a desperate need for attention, and endless reserves of contempt for the masses. Instead of accountability or transparency, ideas or innovation, you get a commander-in-chief whose most salient traits are narcissistic self-interest, hypersensitivity to criticism and a knee-jerk tendency toward abuse. Question the job Trump is doing and instead of a vigorous defense of his policies or proposals you’ll get a hastily worded middle finger. Who are you to question me, the president? Trump seems to be saying: You’re nobody.

Roger CohenNew York Times: Donald Trump is a thug. He’s a thug who talks gibberish, and lies, and cheats, and has issues, to put it mildly, with women. He’s lazy and limited and he has an attention span of a nanosecond. He’s a “gene believer” who thinks he has “great genes” and considers the German blood, of which he is proud, “great stuff.” Mexicans and Muslims, by contrast, don’t make the cut.

He’s managed to bring penis size and menstrual cycles and the eating habits of a former Miss Universe into the debate for the highest office in the land. He’s mocked and mimicked the handicapped and the pneumonia-induced malaise of Hillary Clinton. His intellectual interests would not fill a safe-deposit box at Trump Tower. There’s more ingenuity to his hairstyle than any of his rambling pronouncements. His political hero is Vladimir Putin, who has perfected what John le Carré once called the “classic, timeless, all-Russian, bare-faced whopping lie.”

This is a man who likes to strut and gloat. He’s such a great businessman he declared a loss of $916 million on his 1995 tax return, a loss so huge the tax software program used by his accountant choked at the amount, which had to be added manually.

Roger Cohen in a later column, “Trump 2020 is no joke”: Trumpism is a form of collective gaslighting at Twitter speed. It is founded on the principle that velocity trumps veracity — perfect for the president’s manic personality. It reflects the president’s intuitive sense — through his own acute experience — of limited attention spans. It seeks to achieve dominance through a whirlwind of individually meaningless but cumulatively manipulative statements.

  1. Michael Arceneaux, The RootY’all’s president is one vacationing-ass bitch. It hasn’t even been a smooth full month into Tropicana Jong-il’s four-year term (insert laugh track here), and the man has taken every weekend off. To his credit, much like his racism, his xenophobia, his sexism, his narcissism, his creepy obsession with his daughter and his insecurities, 45 has not been shy about sharing his laziness with the world. [. . .] 1) This man is not very interested in being president other than in the title; 2) he is taking advantage of U.S. taxpayers by going to the resort he owns every single weekend; and, most important, 3) he is a lazy piece of shit.
  2. ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann, as described by Bronte Coy at News.com.auABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann didn’t pull any punches when he delivered his wrap-up of Trump’s appearance at the conference, calling him an “uneasy, lonely, awkward figure” who was left “isolated and friendless” with “no desire and no capacity to lead the world.”

“He has a particular skill set: he’s identified an illness in Western democracies, but he has no cure for it and seems intent on exploiting it,” the veteran journalist said.

And according to Uhlmann, we all need to give up on any hope that the speeches written for Trump and delivered by the man himself are any reflection of his true thoughts.

“It’s the unscripted Trump that’s real: a man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions like the judiciary, independent government agencies, and the free press.”

The reporter added: “Mr Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters . . . and there is no value placed on the meaning of words, so what is said one day can be discarded the next.”

  1. Rosa Brooks, Foreign Policy: In his 1973 classic, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, economist Burton Malkiel famously argued that “A blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.” . . . In our new national science experiment, we’re now embarking on a four-year, uncontrolled experiment in whether the same principle applies to governing.Just as child labor laws (for now!) prevent us from placing a 9-year-old in the Oval Office, ethical concerns about the treatment of animals prevent us from literally installing a blindfolded monkey in the White House. With Donald Trump making decisions, however, we’ve got the next best thing
  2. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, in his foreword to Mark Singer’s 2016 book, Trump and MeThis was a gentleman who went on the radio to say of his former wife, “Nice tits, no brains.” His vulgarity was unstoppable and without limit. He didn’t much care if it came off a little crude. He knew you couldn’t resist listening. “You know,” he said, “it doesn’t really matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” Not only was Trump beyond insult or parody, he seemed a distinctly local product, like the smell of a Times Square subway platform in mid-August.
  3. Max Boot, Foreign PolicyMore broadly, Trump has had a lifetime — 71 years — and access to America’s finest educational institutions (he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he never tires of reminding us) to learn things. And yet he doesn’t seem to have acquired even the most basic information that a high school student should possess.

Why does he know so little? Because he doesn’t read books or even long articles. “I never have,” he proudly told a reporter last year. “I’m always busy doing a lot.” As president, Trump’s intelligence briefings have been dumbed down, denuded of nuance, and larded with maps and pictures because he can’t be bothered to read a lot of words. He’d rather play golf.

The surest indication of how not smart Trump is that he thinks his inability or lack of interest in acquiring knowledge doesn’t matter. He said last year that he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

  1. Eve Peyser, ViceTrump’s impulsive recklessness, his pathological need to impress, is his defining characteristic. As New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi remarked on Twitter, “President Trump once read a senator’s cell phone number aloud just to fuck with him. Of course he can’t keep classified info to himself.”

We’re dealing with a man who literally thinks exercising too much is bad because your body has a finite amount of energy. He told the Economist that he invented the very common expression “priming the pump,” which would be sort of funny if he was joking. What does Russia “have” on Donald Trump? The same thing everyone does: Trump is stupid.

  1. Cornell West to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!Now you get someone who’s narcissistic, which is to say out of control psychologically, who is ideologically confused, which is to say in over his head. And who does he choose? The most right-wing, reactionary zealots, which lead toward the arbitrary deployment of law, which is what neofascism is, but to reinforce corporate interest, big bank interest, and to keep track of those of us who are cast as other—peoples of color, women, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Mexicans and so forth and so on. So this is one of the most frightening moments in the history of this very fragile empire and fragile republic.
  2. Jennifer Rubin, Washington PostWhatever the explanation, Trump does not evidence any greater knowledge or sophistication than he possessed when he entered office. You’d think he would have learned somethingin four months. Then again, maybe the rudimentary practices of government are simply beyond him. One need not be a psychiatrist nor an educator to see that he is incapable of performing the functions of his job — executing the laws, keeping the nation’s secrets, following routine security procedures. In short, maybe he is not compromised nor mentally ill, but simply dumb.
  3. Paul Wood, The SpectatorUnflattering stories in the U.S. media portray Trump as behaving like, well, Trump. The President is served Diet Coke at lunch while his guests get only water; the President gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream, his guests one. My sources say the President often fails to attend his daily intelligence briefing; when he does, his attention span is disastrously short; he’ll read only documents a page or two long which “must have pictures.” Some believe Twitter’s time stamps even show him tweeting during these briefings.

A regular visitor to the White House told me that leaks about the President shouting at his senior staff were true. “The White House is not a happy place.” Television images show Trump getting to the lectern in the West Wing to make an announcement, then forgetting to make it and walking out; Trump’s critics paint a picture of the President as rambling, confused, irritable and prone to tantrums: the madness of King Donald.

Some of those critics have an explanation for this: not porphyria — the “blue urine” disease that afflicted George III — but dementia. One of the TV news shows that so infuriates the President, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” devoted a whole segment to this. The host, Joe Scarborough, compared a “mumbling and incoherent” Trump to his aged mother who had dementia — though, he said: “We’re not diagnosing anything.”

  1. Michael Winship, BillMoyers.comA tune was running through my head . . . the opening number from the 1980 musical Barnum, that glorified the master showman . . . . P.T. Barnum . . . . [T]hat show is long overdue for a revival, although it easily can be argued that there’s no need — P.T. Barnum is alive and well and living in the White House.

Donald Trump is the con man huckster of all time, and in his sway are the many descendants of those suckers who back in the day provided a steady livelihood for good old P.T. There are differences . . . . But the similarities are there for sure — each man endeavoring to create sideshows that fool both the public and the media with clever tricks that distract the eye. Barnum did it for fun and profit; Trump out of malice, a desperate need for attention and most important to the country, the desire to divert attention from the fact that in less than six months his administration has flamed out in many spectacular ways, while at the same time effectively wrought havoc with representative democracy and government.

Subverting rules and regulations, upending international agreements and offending other countries while backslapping right-wing nationalists, sending the justice system hurtling back toward the 19th century, enabling the very rich (including himself) to get much, much richer and the poor to fall through the safety net (the Trumpcare debacle) — what we’ve seen in such a short time is a brutish, conscious effort to subvert the inalienable rights both guaranteed and implied by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  1. Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Trump’s autobiography, “The Art of the Deal”, talking to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer last July after Trump announced his run for the presidency: “I put lipstick on a pig,” [Schwartz] said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

The Republican Party has “flat out lost its mind.”


russia loving republican.jpg


I ran into it again this weekend, a Facebook thread where a seemingly “educated” woman argued vehemently that “both parties are at fault equally” for the health care mess we’re in. No. Not even close. Demonstrably false. One political party is not what it used to be; one political party has changed dramatically in my lifetime, and become a party where one of its heroes would no longer be welcome, he would be considered too radical, too “left wing”: Ronald Reagan. As a friend of mine recently wrote, “[The Republican Party], the self-proclaimed party of family values, remains squarely behind a family and a Presidency whose most salient features are amorality, greed, demagoguery, deception, vulgarity, race-baiting, misogyny, and a murky relationship with a hostile foreign government.” Leonard Pitts is an excellent writer and columnist for the Miami Herald, I’ve read his commentary for years, he spells it out. A good short piece.

by Leonard Pitts, MIAMI HERALD

Dear Colleagues:

We’re doing it again.

Remember last year’s campaign? Remember how dogged and relentless we were in covering Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of her emails? Remember the comparatively free ride we gave Donald Trump despite his repeated demonstrations that he was unserious, unsound and unfit? Remember all the hand wringing afterward about how we had embraced a false equivalence?

Apparently, we learned no lesson from that.

I keep reading and seeing all these stories on America’s political polarization, the great divide between left and right. Ted Koppel did a couple such reports for “CBS News Sunday Morning,” Robert Samuelson wrote a column on it for The Washington Post, Andrew Soergel pondered the question in U.S. News and World Report.

We have explored the role of social media, the loss of the Fairness Doctrine and the city/country divide in creating this break. But no one — at least, no one I’ve seen — has explored what seems to me the most glaringly obvious factor. We are not, after all, divided because Americans pulled back from the center and retreated into extremism.

No, we are divided because one party did. And it wasn’t the Democrats.

Our political thinking being as fixedly bipolar as it is, many people will read the foregoing as an endorsement of the Democratic Party. It emphatically is not. Democrats are very often disorderly, disputatious, and downright dumb, not to mention stunningly bad at deciding and conveying what they stand for.

In other words, they are pretty much what they were 30 years ago. The same cannot be said of the GOP. Consider a few recent headlines:

The Republican White House closes press briefings to cameras. The president issues coarse, sexist insults to the hosts of a morning news show. We learn he allegedly threatened them with an unflattering story in The National Enquirer. He tweets a juvenile video of him “wrestling” a cable news network. Oh, and a guest on a “news” program he admires claims America has kidnapped children and used them to establish a secret colony. On Mars.

That’s all in the last few days. And it’s been a pretty average last few days. By next week there will be a new list, equally outrageous. This is reality now.

A party that once provided a sober conservative counterweight to the Democrats’ more liberal impulses has flat out lost its mind, given itself over to rage, fear, schoolyard taunts and bizarre conspiracy theories. Which leaves me impatient with those who frame our political divide as if the issue were that left and right had equally abandoned the center. No fair observer can believe that.

To the contrary, it becomes more obvious every day that we are where we are because something is very wrong with the GOP. To not acknowledge and report that, apparently out of some misguided notion that doing so wouldn’t be “fair and balanced” is, in itself, deeply unfair and unbalanced. In our terror of being called biased, we in media have neutered ourselves, abandoned our watchdog function.

We end up having mannered debates over whether to call the president’s dozens of lies lies. Meantime, America’s international prestige is eroding, its government is paralyzed, its friends are worried, its enemies emboldened.

Enough. You will never find answers where you are scared to ask questions. Here’s what we should be asking:

How did the GOP get this way? And how can the right right itself?

Yes, I know some people will call those questions biased. Fine.

But I call them journalism.


A Jaw-Dropping List of All the Terrible Things Trump Has Done to Mother Earth

—from Mother Jones

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate deal may have followed months of anguished division among his closest advisers, but his administration has proceeded with quiet efficiency in its dismantling of other major environmental policies.

The White House, Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency have dovetailed to engineer a dizzying reversal of clean air and water regulations implemented by Barack Obama’s administration.

Unlike the travel ban or healthcare, Trump has faced few obstacles in sweeping away what he has called “job-killing” environmental rules that address problems such as climate change, water pollution and smoggy air.

“I’ve been very concerned by what I’ve seen—this is about people’s health,” said Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who was the EPA administrator under George W Bush, and also served as governor of New Jersey. “They are undermining science and people’s respect for science. They don’t seem to care.”

Trump’s agenda has been enthusiastically spearheaded by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, who promised in February that he would be rolling back regulations “in a very aggressive way.” Pruitt has repeatedly decried the economic cost of green strictures, especially on the coal industry, which he said was the target of a “war” from the Obama administration.

Pruitt, who previously sued the EPA more than a dozen times as attorney general of Oklahoma, and has had unusually close ties to the fossil fuel industry, has helped withdraw or postpone a raft of regulations and has steered the EPA away from climate change work.

While every new administration reviews or even reshapes inherited regulations – especially those enacted in the dying days of a prior presidency—the scale of the current rollback is unprecedented, according to Whitman.

“We looked at 60 or 70 rules and we upheld them all, whereas this administration seems to think everything done in the last administration was bad,” she said. “This is the president’s agenda. Scott Pruitt absolutely believes in that agenda, but this is coming from the president.”

Pruitt has pointed to improvements in US air quality—ozone levels dropped 17 percent from 2000 to 2015, while sulfur dioxide fell 69 percent over the same period—as evidence that relentless technological improvements in cars and power plants will continue to reduce pollution.

But many former EPA officials have warned against using these improvements as a reason to water down protections. The soon-to-be-rewritten clean power plan, for one, was forecast to prevent 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks nationally once up and running.

“These kind of actions will put a brake on the progress we’ve seen,” said Tom Burke, who was EPA science advisor in the Obama administration and is now director of risk sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Having worked in fence-line communities and places with contaminated water, I don’t think people there are saying ‘we are clean enough, let’s roll things back.’”

“There’s a very obvious shift at the EPA to make it more business-friendly. Maybe that’s not a bad thing for the business community, but I am very concerned this will impact the health of millions of people.

“The EPA’s mission is to protect public health and the environment, not to protect corporate earnings. It’s very concerning to see.”

Timeline of the rollbacks

14 February Trump signs a bill repealing an anti-corruption rule that required energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. The regulation was scrapped under the Congressional Review Act.

16 February The stream protection rule, which prevented mining companies dumping their waste into streams, is axed under the Congressional Review Act. Trump calls it a “terrible job-killing rule.”

28 February Trump instructs the EPA to rewrite the ‘waters of the United States’ rule, which expanded the definition of the Clean Water Act to protect the water supply for around 117 million Americans. Many farmers, real estate developers and golf course owners opposed the rule.

2 March On 1 March, governors and attorneys general from several Republican-led states write to Scott Pruitt to request the EPA stop collecting methane emissions data from around 15,000 oil and gas operations. A day later, Pruitt says he has decided to oblige “after hearing from industry.”

15 March Trump announces a review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that are designed to push down greenhouse gases and other pollutants. More than a dozen car company chief executives asked the president to revisit an Obama-era decision to mandate improved fuel economy by 2025. Pruitt calls the standards “costly for automakers and the American people.”

28 March A sweeping executive order penned by Trump orders a rewrite of the EPA’s clean power plan, which was Obama’s centerpiece climate policy, an end to the moratorium on coal mining on public land and the removal of climate change as a consideration when approving federal projects.

29 March Pruitt denies a bid to halt the use of chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide. The chemical has been linked to damage to the nervous system and last year EPA scientists said a ban was warranted. Household use of the chemical was phased out a decade ago but it is still used in farms across the US.

11 April A court grants an EPA request to delay the implementation of ozone pollution standards that were made stricter in 2015. The EPA intends to review the rules around ozone, which is created when sunlight reacts with pollutants from vehicles exhausts and other sources. Ozone can create smogs and can trigger a raft of health ailments, especially among children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems.

13 April The EPA pauses a regulation that curbs the dumping of toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury by power plants into public waterways. The Obama-era rule, set to commence in 2018, would’ve destroyed jobs, according to Pruitt.

27 April The EPA successfully convinces a US appeals court to halt a challenge by states and industry groups to an Obama administration rule aimed at reducing toxic emissions from power stations. Pruitt, in his previous role as attorney general of Oklahoma, had sued the EPA to stop the rule, which is known as MATS.

23 May A three-month pause is put on landfill methane rules so they EPA can “reconsider certain aspects” of the regulation. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and is emitted from rotting garbage in landfills, as well as other sources such as agriculture.

13 June The EPA announces plans for a two-year pause on regulations that would reduce emissions leaks from oil and gas operators. The regulator acknowledges that pollution from the leaks results in “disproportionate” harm to children but proposes to go ahead with the suspension of the rule anyway.

27 June The EPA, along with the US army, proposes to scrap the clean water rule. This would reverse an Obama-era move that expanded federal government protections to the drinking water of around a third of all Americans. Pruitt said the rollback will provide “regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” The announcement didn’t reference public health.

Hey Libertarians! For the last time…

by Kit Thornton

For the last time, you Libertarian snotlings, THERE IS NO FREE MARKET IN HEALTH CARE! Never was, never will be. Why? Because no morally functioning human being wants to ask themselves whether it is “economically efficient” to get their kid chemotherapy for their bone cancer. Nor would any morally functioning human being ask them to consider it.

When it comes to insurance, the demand is absolute. Very, very few people could ever pay the cost of a serious health crisis out of pocket. Where you HAVE to buy a product, there is no “free” market. 

And sooner or later, you will need it. We are all just temporarily healthy.

“But the government shouldn’t force me to…” Shut up. There’s a word for people who don’t want health coverage. That word is “irresponsible.” When you get sick, you’ll be more than glad for the taxpayer to pick up the price of your care, won’t you? Or maybe you’ll just die with dignity at home, secure in your principles. There’s a word for that, too. The word is “idiot.”

You don’t get this because you think like college freshmen. You think there’s One Big Answer out there that will solve all the puzzles and complexities of life. You shove everything through an ideological filter. You think you’ve found “The Big Answer,” THE FREE MARKET! Liberty means being absolutely free in your economic choices.

There are a lot of reasons why this is wrong. You shouldn’t be free (as you once were) to sell adulterated bread, milk or meat, cars that explode, phony medicine or the like. But the big reason is simpler. It’s not an economic question. It’s a moral one. When people need help, we, as a society should help them.

Everyone needs health care. Everyone should get it. It is demonstrably NOT better to limp along in a hybrid system designed to appeal to people with lobbyists who get rich off other people’s brain tumors. Any system designed to do anything but get the best possible care to the largest possible number of people is a moral failure. We have an obligation to do what we can to improve each other’s lives. That’s what living in a “society” means. Not letting them die because they weren’t efficient enough predators in Von Mieses Circus of Selfish Bullshit would seem like a good baseline.

STUPID Speaks, Listen Up Everybody

Finally. Someone has explained why conservative economics have been failing ever since Ronald Reagan convinced George H. W. Bush to shut up about the voodoo.

The brilliant Texan DOE head, Rick Perry, speaking at a coal plant: “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand. You put the supply out there and the demand will follow.”

Yes. There is an excess supply of coal in the United States. And by the rules of Republican economics, these heaping piles of oxidizing rock will, with a high five from the invisible hand, create demand! Where this demand will come from, without additional plants to burn the coal, and with the only “clean coal” plant in America just deciding that it won’t burn coal after all? No one knows. But it has to happen because … SUPPLY!

In explaining this “supply generates demand” rule, Rick Perry has given joy to every thirty-year old still harboring a box of pogs, every fifty year old still hanging on to those indie comics, my wife and her boxes of Beanie Babies in the basement, and that guy you know who is right now filling up a warehouse with fidget spinners.

Never let it be said that Republicans can’t bring hope. And honestly, it makes far more sense than Trump’s proposed tax policy.

(Thanks to the Daily Kos for this informative update on Republican economics. We should all be sleeping better tonight knowing the “adults” are in charge. Good God Almighty.)

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