The Purges Begin

Posted December 9, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Trump Crime Syndicate, Uncategorized, Why Do They Hate America So?

Tags:

the-destruction-of-the-temple-at-jerusalem-1637

This is how would-be dictators work after they achieve office w. the veneer of democratic respectability:

Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are developing plans to reshape Energy Department programs, help keep aging nuclear plants online and identify staff who played a role in promoting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda.

The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. [h/t TPM]

Step 1: identify expertise and any possible source of civil-service resistance to the illegitimate power grab.

Step 2: harass the key figures into resignation, or, failing that, post them to sheep-flatulance monitoring posts in the Dakotas.

Step 3:  replace with loyalists.  Consolidate long term holds over policy in the agencies.  Capture government statistical reporting and the representation of reality.

Step 4:  Rince. Repeat.

ETA: The Washington Post has more detail on the probe/purge-in-waiting at DOE:

The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.

The memo provides the clearest indication yet of how Trump’s administration would begin to dismantle specific aspects of President Obama’s ambitious climate policies. …

One question zeroed in on the issue of the “social cost of carbon,” a way of calculating the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. The transition team asked for a list of department employees or contractors who attended inter-agency meetings, the dates of the meetings, and emails and other materials associated with them.

The social cost of carbon is a metric that calculates the cost to society of emitting a ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The Obama administration has used this tool to try to calculate the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“My guess is that they’re trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford climate and energy researcher, in response to the question about the Integrated Assessment Models.

There’s lots more at the link. None of it good. These are f**king dangerous people.

Meanwhile, public protest too is under pressure from the Trump junta:

For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations….

The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

The National Park Service applied for the blocking permit on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee — i.e., Trump’s donors and apparatus.

Again: this is how would-be dictators work, taking control of the bureaucracy and squeezing civil space.

We’ve a long road ahead.  My small act of resistance today is to call my representatives (Warren, Markey, Kennedy) to urge them to publicly condemn the emerging civil service witch hunt.  Whatever y’all can do, please have at it.

Image: Nicholas Poussin, The Destruction of Jerusalem1637.

Moral Action in Trump’s America

Posted December 7, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, RICO Trump, The End of the American Century, The Good Fight, The Way We Live Now, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

I’m way deep in a big project, and rather significantly behind on it too, so my blogging for the next few months is going to be quick-hit stuff rather than anything thought through.  I’ll try to make up for that by making it as regular a practice as I can to toss good reads your way.

Todays comes from Masha Gessen, someone y’all know I greatly admire.  About a week ago she posted a piece on The New York Review of Books site.  In it, she asks if the realist stance in politics can function in the context of Trump.  To find out, she looks to her own family history — including choices she made — to answer no.  She takes no prisoners:

In Bialystok ghetto, my great-grandfather’s responsibility in the Judenrat was to ensure that the ghetto was supplied with food. He ran the trucks that brought food in and took garbage out, he ran the canteen and supervised the community gardens that a group of young socialists planted. He also discouraged the young socialists from trying to organize a resistance movement: it would be of no use and would only jeopardize the ghetto’s inhabitants. It took him almost two years to change his mind about the resistance efforts, as he slowly lost hope that the Judenrat, by generally following the rules and keeping the ghetto inhabitants in line, would be able to save at least some of them.

As in other ghettos, the Judenrat was ultimately given the task of compiling the lists of Jews to be “liquidated.” The Bialystok Judenrat accepted the job, and there is every indication that my great-grandfather took part in the process. The arguments in defense of producing the list, in Bialystok and elsewhere, were pragmatic: the killing was going to occur anyway; by cooperating, the Judenrat could try to reduce the number of people the Nazis were planning to kill (in Bialystok, this worked, though in the end the ghetto, like all other ghettos, was “liquidated”); by compiling the lists, the Judenrat could prevent random killing, instead choosing to sacrifice those who were already near death from disease or starvation. These were strong arguments. There is always a strong argument.

But what if the Jews had refused to cooperate?

640px-le_brun_charles_-_horatius_cocles_defending_the_bridge_-_google_art_project

Was Arendt right that fewer people might have died? Was Trunk right that Judenrat activities had no effect on the final outcome? Or would mass murder of Jews have occurred earlier if Jews had refused to manage their own existence in the ghetto? We cannot know for certain, any more than we can know now whether a scorched-earth strategy or the strategy of compromise would more effectively mitigate Trumpism. But that does not mean that a choice—the right choice—is impossible. It only means that we are asking the wrong question.

The right question…or better, the right stance, the right scale on which to weigh any choice of action?

We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge….

Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.

I’m convinced Gessen is correct.  More, I believe her demand that we make the moral choice first, and then pursue whatever particular tactic seems most likely to embody that choice while advancing (or at least defending) the cause will be the most effective, as well as the right thing to do.  A Democratic response to Trump that says we can make this work a little better enshrines Trumpism, and all the vicious GOP assumptions as the ground on which such matters get decided.  One that says “No. This is wrong.  Democrats will oppose, not mitigate…” is the one that creates a real choice going forward on the ground on which we want to fight.

Read the whole thing.

Image: Charles Le Brun, Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridgec. 1642/3 (I know it’s not dead on point, but it’s close, and I always loved the story, so there.)

Because Every Now And Then It’s Good To Stop And Look At Something Amazing

Posted December 5, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Art, Awesomeness, Cool Video

Tags:

Yo Yo Ma and Lil Buck would be draw enough, I’d say.  But manohmanohman — check out what Lil Buck does as he draws his performance to a close:

My every joint and ligament screams in mute sympathy.  Human bodies shouldn’t be able to do that.  An extraordinarily gifted human has done I have no idea how much constant, brutal, consuming work to make it look…well, not effortless, but graceful.  Beautiful.

Enjoy, for just a moment, before resuming our regular coverage of the Trumpocalypse.

If You Don’t Know Who The Patsy At The Table Is, It’s You Part [n+1]

Posted December 3, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Republican knavery, RICO Trump, Uncategorized

Tags:

Just a quick update for the “who has Trump f**ked today” file.

AT&T is reportedly feeling confident about its ability to buy Time Warner after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team—even though Trump himself vowed to block the merger during his campaign.

“Donald Trump’s transition team has reassured AT&T that its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner will be scrutinized without prejudice,” the Financial Timesreported yesterday. “After talking with the president-elect’s team, AT&T executives are confident that their deal has a good chance of passing regulatory scrutiny, people informed about the conversation said.” [Ars Technica]

This is a couple of days old, actually. It’s tough to keep up.

To be sure, relative to little things like blowing up the world’s system of states, agreements, and understandings…

hans_holbein_the_younger_-_the_ambassadors_-_google_art_project

…letting a mega-corp misbehave exactly as any Republican president would (and some Democrats, alas) is hardly the top of either my terror or rage list.  But still, I do love seeing Trumpkins slowly wake up to the degree to which they’ve been conned/are complicit in the ongoing shit show.

Sorry, folks.  You really do need watering twice a day if you trusted the cheeto-faced, ferret-heedit shitgibbon.

That’s about the limit of the fun to be had these days — a respectful nod in the direction of the late, great Molly Ivins.  I wish I could enjoy the tears of betrayed Trumpkins a bit more, but there’s too much damage they’ve done to the rest of us to take much satisfaction.

Image: Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors1533.

Lou Knew

Posted November 29, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Music, The Way We Live Now, The Way We Lived Then, Trump Crime Syndicate, Uncategorized

Contemplating the pain Trump’s going to lay on the most vulnerable among us (and yeah, some of them voted for him, but hurt is hurt), I found this song, imagined as being addressed directly to the Shitgibbon, a perfect expression of my mood:

Buried deep in the lyrics Reed talks of the Trumps being ordained.  But the real tell is when he sings “They say the President’s dead/But no one can find his head.” That last line is truer than he ever knew.  Man was a prophet.

Do Not Be Distracted By What The Shitgibbon Says. Pay Attention To What His People Do

Posted November 28, 2016 by Tom
Categories: climate, Science Policy, Trump Crime Syndicate

One of the signal failures of the media throughout the Trump dumpster fire of a campaign was to focus on his words — parsing, shifts in terminology, trying to distinguish between lies and hyperbole, or simply providing theater criticism on his performances, connections to audience and so on.  All the while, the critical information: what the combination of his ample history, the (few) clear positions he staked, and the people he hired revealed about what Trump would actually do as President.

That basic error is still with us, nicely diagnosed in this post by Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic:

It works like this: Donald Trump, the president-elect himself, says something that sounds like he might be moderating on the issue. Then, his staff takes a radical action in the other direction.

Last week, Trump told the staff of The New York Times that he was keeping an open mind about the existence of climate change.

This was, as Meyer notes, treated as a major shift, given Trump’s earlier claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax.  As a result, many slow learners touted this story (Meyer self-indicts here.) But, of course, Trump’s almost certainly intentionally vague statement —

“I think there is some connectivity” between human activity and the warming climate, Trump said. “There is some, something. It depends on how much.”…

both grants him almost unlimited freedom of maneuver and was almost immediately belied by what his transition team is actually doing:

A day after Trump talked to the Times, The Guardian reported that the Trump administration plans could cut all of NASA’s Earth science research….

…which, as many have already noted, is vital for ongoing climate monitoring and ongoing attempts to study the implications of human – driven global warming with the resolution needed to inform action.

hieronymus_bosch_versuchung_des_hl-_antonius

Then there’s this:

Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, Steven Groves, has been added to Trump’s State Department transition team. Just last week, Groves called for the United States to leave the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the overarching treaty that governs how the world organizes itself to address global warming. Groves also said the U.S. should move to “dismantle” domestic climate regulations.

Thus, a picture of a Trump administration policy on climate change: destroy the research infrastructure needed to study climate, and wreck both national and international prospects for action to address what a true existential crisis.

The moral, to use Meyer’s phrase, is that Trump is a master of the two-step, baffling the unwary (aka, seemingly, the entire New York Times staff) while proceeding behind that verbal smokescreen towards the worst possible choices.  We need a much more vigilant press, and a brave one.

Image: Hieronymous Bosch, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (left panel detail), 1495-1515.  Not an exact match to the post, but I’m kinda just looking for apocalyptic images these days, and this certainly works for that.

If You Don’t Know Who The Patsy At The Table Is, Dear Trumpkins…

Posted November 28, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Republican knavery, Things that actually matter, Two Parties -- Not the Same, Who thought that was a good idea?

...it’s you:

Again and again, President-elect Donald Trump presented himself as the coal miners’ candidate. During the campaign, he promised to bring coal back into the economy, and jobs back into struggling Appalachian towns.

But now some in coal country are worried that instead of helping, Trump’s first actions will deprive miners — and their widows and children — of the compensation they can receive if they are disabled by respiratory problems linked to breathing coal mine dust.

That’s because buried in the Affordable Care Act are three sentences that made it much easier to access these benefits. If Trump repeals Obamacare — as he vowed to do before the election — and does not keep that section on the books, the miners will be back to where they were in 2009, when it was exceedingly difficult to be awarded compensation for “black lung” disease.

coal_mining_18th_c

This is by no means a done deal, given that at least some coal-country legislators (Joe Manchin, for one) have declared their support for retaining this in whatever comes out of the health care catastrophe the GOP is determined to commit.  But McConnell is, as usual, mum on the matter, and if I were a coal mining family depending on the pittance they do get (top payment for a miner with three dependents: $1,289/month), I’d be getting ready not for hard times — they’re already here — but worse.

update — obligatory post soundtrack:

The key change the ACA implemented in black lung cases was to shift the burden of proof: instead of a miner having to prove that the work caused the disease, under the new rules,

If a miner has spent 15 years or more underground and can prove respiratory disability, then it is presumed to be black lung related to mine work, unless the company can prove otherwise.

This wasn’t a case of free money all around. As reporter Eric Boodman writes,  “In 2009, 19 percent of claims for black lung benefits were successful; in 2015, that percentage had jumped to 28.” That’s a big jump — but hardly evidence that the black lung compensation process is a wild government grab of beleaguered coal company assets.

Those companies hate the rule, with a spokesman telling Boodman that it’s created “a supplemental pension program” rather than the compensation for occupational disease, which is as fine a bit of high priced turd polishing as I’ve seen in a while.

TL:DR?  Think of this as Mencken’s rule in action:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Trump voters in coal country — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky — were promised their country back.

What will they receive?

The shaft, deeper and darker than any hole miners have dug in the hunt for what will continue to kill them where they stand.

Image: Léonard Defrance, Coal Mining, before 1805.