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Does anyone believe…

that the candidate who steadfastly refused to release his tax returns because a.) they were too complex  b.) they were under audit and c.) releasing would hurt his candidacy, is really going to completely divest himself of his companies and all of his holdings in order to eliminate any conflicts of interest? 

Anyone? Anyone?

Bueller?
Didn’t think so. 

Scorecard

I was in a bar a couple of weeks ago with a co-worker who told me she didn’t vote this time around. She drinks considerably more than I do these days and after a few rum and cokes, she said that she couldn’t vote for Hillary because she was pretty sure she was going to drop a nuke on some country.

I was still sober, having only sipped a hot sake and played with some spicy tofu. It was the day after the election. I needed comfort food.

I laughed about the nuke comment. That’s ridiculous, where did you read that? I glanced over to my companion to see her swaying slightly on her stool. She said her husband told her. He was the one who was always searching the news sites. And besides, she believed it.

Damn, I thought, I gotta stop going to the bar with her.

But it wasn’t just there where I heard the most insane stuff about Hillary. I went to a wedding in early October and sat next to a woman who with eyes all wide and fearful told me that Hillary and Bill had killed 80 people. I felt uncomfortable sitting next to her and told my sister what she said. “Don’t be silly”, she said, “Everyone knows it was only 40.” She was kidding but she’s also a staunch Republican and she sat out the election. Couldn’t bring herself to vote for Trump.

So, for what it’s worth, I personally know *one* Republican with a conscience.

During the past year, I talked to many people who seemed to have lost all direction when it came to politics, truth and morality. They didn’t know what to believe. They weren’t getting the truth from their media sources. All cable and newspaper sources let us down this year. They grossly exaggerated the email problem for Clinton and barely touched on Trump’s myriad conflicts of interest.

I suspect that the biggest threat was Facebook. If you’re a social animal and not particularly tech savvy, Facebook is your gateway drug to the internet. It’s also somewhat flattering when people want to be your friend. Back in 2008, I got thousands of friend requests from people on Facebook. I accepted only a handful because A.) I didn’t know most of those people  B.) I don’t like Facebook’s kludgy interface. If feels claustrophobic. C.) I had a suspicion that it was going to be used as a method to spread propaganda. It turns out this was correct.

Bottom line: some of us know what is going on for whatever reason and some of us don’t know what’s going on. At. All. Some of us forgot what we believed in and threw away all semblance of morality and voted for a con man for president because we were discombobulated. We don’t know what the truth is anymore. We don’t know who is good and who is bad. We don’t know what is important and what is trivial. We don’t believe in climate change even when we see satellite images of ice caps melting. We don’t believe that Humans could be responsible for that or making that happen more quickly. We believe that a man who has a history of federal housing discrimination lawsuits, a record of not paying his workers and video tape of him boasting of sexual assaults is more trustworthy than a dedicated, experienced career public server who wants to simplify her email accounts.

At this point, there is almost nothing the two sides can agree on. Ok, maybe gravity. We can agree that gravity holds us to the earth.

And there is maybe one other thing that we can all agree on that everyone playing a long game should be paying attention to. I’m going to call this, the Scorecard. It’s the precise layout of the swamp that Trump claimed he wanted to drain. This is the breakdown of government by the numbers. It’s a short scorecard. We’re only going to be looking at the three branches of the federal government. These are numbers that no statistician can manipulate to make them look like something they are not. They are absolute numbers, prescribed by the Constitution. They represent the checks and balances one branch of government has on another branch of government. Can we all agree that the quantity represented by a number increases as the number gets farther away from zero? In other words 1>0. 45> 3. 238>195, etc. Right? Ok, great. Here’s the scorecard:

2016 2017
R D R D Undetermined
President 0 1 1 0
Vice President* 0 1 1 0
Senate 54 46 51 48 1
House 247 188 239 194 2
Supreme Court 4 4 (1) 4(1) 4

These numbers can be found at the non-partisan site The Green Papers.

The asterisk next to the Vice President means that in the event of a tie in the Senate, the Vice President can cast the tie breaking vote.

More info: There are more Republicans in Congress (House and Senate) than there are Democrats. It has been like this since 2010. If Obama wanted to initiate any changes, they have been able to block him. I am not an Obama fan and have always thought that he was an awful, naive, inexperienced negotiator. But even if he were any good at this, the Republicans would have blocked him and not because he was African American but simply because he was a Democrat. This is why nothing has gotten done since 2010. Since 2010, Congress has had an unsurpassed record of non-accomplishment by design. (You can check the statistics here but only if you feel comfortable with graphs. Otherwise, just stick to the Scorecard which cannot lie according to the Consitution)

The Senate has the power to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Presently, there is a 4-4 tie in the Supreme Court since the very conservative Antonin Scalia died early this year. Scalia is one of the justices who voted for the Citizens United case. In that 5-4 split on the Supreme Court, it was decided that rich people and corporations could dump as much money as they liked into political campaigns. This disadvantages poorer candidates and average citizens. Scalia was also one of the 5 who voted to roll back part of the Voting Rights act. Maybe you don’t think this affects you because you’re white but if you ever decide you need to form a coalition with African Americans to get a candidate elected, you may find there is a structural imbalance due to voting rights restrictions in southern and some northern states that will make this impossible. That is what the current post election audit (aka Recount) is about.

The Republican Senate refused to carry out this Constitutional duty because they were hoping for a Republican president to make a new appointment. There was nothing in the Constitution to compel them to rule on Obama’s appointment within a specific time period. It’s just the norms that we have run the country with for 240 years. So they sat on it.

In summary, the swamp was not drained. The swamp prevented any meaningful legislation from occurring for 6 years. It lost a little volume but it’s still in charge. In fact, the swamp now has allies in the White House and it will soon have allies in the Supreme Court.

Now, if you are the kind of person who sees no useful reason for government to exist except to go to war with other countries, hates Social Security and thinks Medicare should be privatized, then you should be absolutely delighted by the way things turned out. Republicans have been waiting for this moment since the 1930’s to get rid of all the things you rely on. (Of course they will. They don’t care about you.) Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R- Wisconsin), has plans that will make you very, very happy. He can’t wait to get rid of Obamacare. And while I think Obamacare didn’t go far enough, like many of you have told me (“Why can’t we all have Medicare??”), there are some people who rely on it for pre-existing conditions. They’re about to lose their lifeline- literally.

Forget Medicare for All. Paul Ryan and his Republican House members are sharpening their knives to dismantle it. No, I am not kidding. Who’s going to stop them? Go back and look at the scorecard.

If that’s not what you thought you were going to get when you voted to let Trump “Make America Great Again”, then you are going to be sick about what you have done to your retirement benefits. Your vote will affect your children and grandchildren and your great grandchildren. You, voter, know now that when you look at your grandchildren, you are responsible for making their futures significantly harder. Trump is going to appoint the next Supreme Court justices and you can bet he’s going to nominate more Scalias who love the rich and well connected and not so much you and yours. By the way, the Supreme Court had 5 solid votes to overturn Roe v Wade until Scalia died and it didn’t do it. They were never serious about it. They just wanted to keep us all at each other’s throats.

I think we can all agree that this is the current state of affairs in the US Government, right? We are all talking about the same things now.

Cut out this scorecard and stick it to your refrigerator. The next opportunity you will have to drain the swamp is in 2018.

And for God’s sake, get off of Facebook.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016 or Thank Goodness It’s Almost Over

I thought 2014 was the worst year ever but 2016 is giving that one a run for its money. I’m getting a better sense of what we’re in for with Trump. I caught the tail end of All In with Chris Hayes yesterday when he had an Italian journalist describing what happened under Berlusconi. One of these days, we’re going to point at those stunned Trump voters and call them suckers except that they’re going to pull the rest of us under with them. When the transcripts are posted, I’ll excerpt them. Then we can all watch the next four years together to see it all play out unless the media buys a clue. Won’t that be fun?

In the meantime, it looks like we might get a serious recount. Maybe Jill Stein woke up and realized there really was a difference between the two candidates. If there was vote hacking, i’m betting they covered their footprints very well. Do I think it happened? I don’t know. Do I think Trump would do such a thing if he thought he could get away with it? Absolutely.

But enough of that for now. Let’s do the T-Day thing. I’m having some friends over for dinner. And now that I look around this place, I have a lot of picking up to do. What are you cooking today? Got any special recipes? I subscribe to Entertaining with Beth on YouTube and she has some dead simple appetizer ideas that you can do with puff pastry, which I just happen to have in my freezer. How conveeeenient. Check out her video below and tell me which one you think I’m going to make:

See, Greg, no hot peppers. And no beets.

Next year, I hope to have a lot more friends for parties. I met a lot of new people this year while I was staging for GOTV and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the coming years. I hadn’t realized until the GOTV how much I missed being around other people who shared my point of view, sense of humor and their own generosity of spirit. So, to those of you new friends, drop in any time. Thanks to all of the Ground Gamers especially:

Barb, Greg, Matt A., Kyp, Reverend Beverly, Darlene, Carolyn, Suzanne, Daria, Alex, Chris, The Three Marys, Beth, Jeff, Larry, Pete, Sandra, Andria, Nadene, Michael and Raja (our organizers).  There were so many more people who I met this year and I wish Michael had left the sign in sheets so I could find all of you. But I hope to run into you all again in the Giant Eagle.

Thanks as well to all you Conflucians who kept me company this year and are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Thanks to Ivory Bill Woodpecker, Lady V, Sweet Sue, Quixote, TDraicer, William, SeaGrl, GA6thDem, MsMass, CB, MDMDStork, Ownaa, Bellecat and Katiebird, who took a hiatus but I hope returns someday. And to all of you commenters who I’m so glad to read everyday including some new faces and return visitors. (Well, not some of you but you know who you are because we haven’t heard from you in awhile. Hehehe.)

And finally, Many Thanks to Hillary who set a beautiful example of intelligence, perseverance, grace under pressure and presidential leadership. She is MY President and having bested Trump by 2 million votes and counting, should be THE President. I will always be proud of my support for her. She exceeded my expectations in every way.

Happy Thanksgiving, Madame President.

Bannon, Cromwell and Aristocrats

Update: It didn’t take long for Kellyanne Conway to state what Trump plans to do with Medicare. He’s going to save it for everyone *currently* using it. (See post below) The rest of us?  What do you think?  I think the bulk of the fabulous tax cuts we’re going to get are going to come from social security and Medicare phaseout. Make Americans Destitute Again! yay 

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s “senior advisor”, refers to himself as a modern day Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell, as you may recall, was one of the first true English statesmen. His goal was to pull England out of the Middle Ages with respect to banking, commerce and the modernization of the state itself where a bunch of 16th century technocrats would run the joint while the aristocrats idylled in their game preserves. 

One of Cromwell’s ideas was if you kept the restless poor masses fed and busy, you could calm insurrection, allowing business to bloom. He tried to get parliament to pay attention, as illustrated in this passage from Hilary Mantel’s brilliant book, Bring Up The Bodies:

“In March [1536], Parliament knocks back his [Thomas Cromwell’s] new poor law. It was too much for the Commons to digest that rich men might have some duty to the poor. If you get fat, as some men do who profit from the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off their land, the laborers without labor, the sowers without a field. England needs roads, forts, harbors, bridges. Men need work. It’s a shame seeing them begging their bread, when honest labor could keep the realm secure. Can we not put them together, the hands and the tasks?

But Parliament cannot see how it is the State’s job to create work. Are not these matters in God’s hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order? To everything there is a season- a time to starve and a time to thieve. If rain falls six months solid and rots the grain in the fields, there must be Providence in it. God knows his trade. It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising to suggest that they should pay an income tax only to put bread in the mouths of the work shy. And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality, well, are there not hangmen enough?

The King himself comes to the Commons to argue for the law. He wants to be Henry the Beloved, a father to his people, a shepherd to his flock. But the Commons sit stoney faced on their benches and stare him out. The wreckage of the measure is comprehensive. “It is ended up as an Act for the Whipping of Beggars”, Richard Rich says. “It is more against the poor than for them.”

Soooo, that went well. 

The problem with the last election is that the people who voted for Trump, and the rest of us who didn’t but are stuck with him, is that the voters what chose to “drain the swamp” ended up with a swamp only slightly less full. The Republicans are in charge of the House and Senate just like they were before the election. The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan’s nickname is “granny starver” because he’s intent on dismantling Medicare and slashing social security. Oh, yes, oh best beloveds, he’s got binders full of plans and now that Obama is out of the way, he and his wealthy aristocratic friends will not be afraid to whip those babies out and ram them down our throats whether we’ve worked all our lives for those benefits or not. 

I think he’ll be clever about it. He’ll grandfather in your grandfather who is already receiveing SS and Medicare. That will be the generational divide he’s been waiting for. It will be the Republican version of the ACA’s pre-existing conditions manuever. Of course, you will be expected to sacrifice so granny can eat. 

And who could argue with that? 

Ryan will flatter King Henry VIII, er, Donald, and Donald will come home to his wealthy and well connected roots. Eventually, he’ll turn on Bannon. So easy to do, just continue to play up his white nationalist roots. 

Oh, I’m not feeling sorry for Bannon and his “ends justifies the means” repugnant version of white nationalism. He’s no Thomas Cromwell, who, if history is correct, really did have a social conscience, even if he did have to play the King’s game as he raped and pillaged the Church. That whole ordeal with Anne Boleyn was self preservation. The palace wasn’t big enuf for the two of them. 

But sooner or later, Bannon will have to go. Whatever secret plans he had to make sure the wild and angry mob stayed pacified will be scrapped by the aristocrats we still left in Congress. 

His king will turn on him and he’ll lose his head and we’ll be deprived of our safety net. The Ryans and Pences will look down upon us and ridicule us for not saving more of our meager earnings. They will judge us for daring to change God’s plans for us. 

Wait and see. 

Today is my birthday. I hereby declare The Confluence a beet free zone!

To audit or not to audit OR what did you do for GOTV?

I saw a lot of tweets last night from people who were desperate for Hillary’s campaign to do something before it was too late and get voters to ask for a recount in WI, MI, PA. I don’t know how many people urged me to demand a recount in PA. And I would be glad to except that I live in Allegheny County and Hillary won Allegheny County rather decisively. It wasn’t a California blowout but there is no question that the tech savvy, educated, diverse population that Pittsburgh is now attracting gave her a substantial win. 

That doesn’t mean I’m happy that she lost PA or that we couldn’t have eked out more votes in the Pittsburgh area. But PA mirrors the country as a whole. We have two “coastal” areas, some large college towns and then a sea of red in between where time runs backwards, science is ridiculed and people are glued to Fox News. That’s going to get you a whole lotta Trump voters. They didn’t like Hillary. It doesn’t matter that many of us did. They didn’t and there wasn’t anything you could say or any evidence you could point to in order to change their minds. 

It didn’t matter that she was the target of a 22 year smear campaign specifically designed to make her look shifty and Unlikeable. 

It didn’t matter that the media wrote more negative stories about her, more than any other candidate. 

It doesn’t matter if Comey doomed her campaign 11 days out from the election. 

You could dissect all of the reasons why Hillary was treated badly, unfairly and her reputation smeared. People who react emotionally to news are very difficult to reason with. They can’t overcome the visceral reaction they’ve been conditioned to have. 

That’s not to say we in PA couldn’t have pushed her over the edge with GOTV activities. My house was used as a staging location for the last 4 weeks of the campaign. We called in as many volunteers as we could. But it’s a large territory where I live. We knocked on as many doors as we could. I walked many streets, some of them on curvy roads without a sidewalk at dusk looking for addresses, one house behind the planned parenthood canvasser. I don’t see well after dark but I was knocking on doors in the dark until I couldn’t see the house numbers anymore and it made me feel guilty that I couldn’t do anymore. 

The last weekend, we had volunteers from all over Pittsburgh canvassing from my house. We had volunteers from NY and CA. It got so busy that we had trouble keeping the turfs organized and my downstairs toilet overflowed and while I was assigning canvassers and answering calls from my organizers and training volunteers, I was mopping up the bathroom floor. 

In one way or another, I had phone banked, registered voters and canvassed since July. Almost every weekend I was out there doing something. 

So, all I have to ask of the people who are frantic for a recount is, what did YOU do for this most consequential election of our lifetimes?  

I was afraid that the Democrats had used fear once too often in 2006, 2008, 2012 to motivate constituents. 

Maybe they cried wolf once too often. Maybe Democratic voters thought she was just so obviously better that voters would see the light at the end of the campaign. Maybe they thought they could be passive or cynical and go along with their friends condemning Hillary for being too much something or not enough something else. 

That was the complacency that we were trying to overcome in our GOTV efforts and we could have used your help. 

So she lost PA, MI and WI. It’s not like we didn’t try to tell you PA was going to be close. You all knew. And if the Clinton campaign is not pulling out all of the stops now to get recounts it’s because they know that there’s probably no point. Where they lost, they lost decisively. It’s where they won but not in a blowout like here in Allegheny County, where an extra 200 canvassers might have made the difference. 

We all need to save ourselves now. 

Pinpointing where it went wrong: Donna Brazile vs Paul Begala, May 6, 2008

On the evening of May 6, 2008 on CNN, Donna Brazile took a knife to the Democratic party and deftly excised the parts that were no longer needed:

You can read the whole exchange here. Here’s the money quote from Donna:

BRAZILE: Well, Lou, I have worked on a lot of Democratic campaigns, and I respect Paul. But, Paul, you’re looking at the old coalition. A new Democratic coalition is younger. It is more urban, as well as suburban, and we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics. We need to look at the Democratic Party, expand the party, expand the base and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Paul Begala had a “Are you MAD, woman??” response but the Obama contingent was so giddily orgasmic, no one was paying attention.

Then the crash happened and the Great Recession when a lot of the old coalition lost their jobs. The ACA was not the panacea we were told it was. The policies are very expensive still, not everyone gets a subsidy, the deductibles are too high and the networks too stingy.

But the new coalition told us to suck it up because the pre-existing conditions were covered. And who could argue with that? It was a neat guilt trip that was played on us.

In the subsequent years, there have been a lot of things that have happened to the working class and the people who are in the middle class but just one devastating layoff from sliding out of their socio-economic group. Oh sure, there are jobs now. But there are also a lot of contingent workers, part time workers, full time contractors without benefits. Ooo! But now you can buy one of those expensive new ACA policies on the exchanges.

There are now two classes of employees out there, the ones that are covered by an employee health plan and the suckers who aren’t. When you are in the second class, you really feel the difference and it can cause resentment and anger. I have *been* there, people. I have had snooty, lucky liberals look down on me and tell me that if I don’t maintain an expensive health insurance policy on my low contractor worker’s salary, then I was being irresponsible, the equivalent of a dead beat. This after years of paying the equivalent in taxes to what I was then making in salary for one year. Yes, the fortunate were telling me I was irresponsible after all the money I paid year after year before Pharmageddon and we all lost our jobs. It’s hard to forget that. I was =><= close to feeling the Bern.

Let’s not even start on who retires with a full pension today and who doesn’t and who is forced to put their retirement savings on the global craps table controlled by the finance industry when not even one banker went to jail. Dodd Frank means nothing if there’s no punishment in sight and the malefactors of great wealth get off with a tidy payment of weregild.

Meanwhile, the old coalition shambles by on $10/hour jobs with Medicaid for their kids.

And for the last eight years, they’ve been told that if they complain about their shitty lot in life, they’re racists. I don’t know how many times I have read Paul Krugman or Digby or some former Obama campaign troll tell me this. I think the last straw was when Digby accused the Republicans of being racists for not approving Merrick Garland’s appointment to the USSC. The reason they weren’t going to approve Garland is because they are Republicans and they didn’t want to tip the balance of the court in a progressive direction. It had nothing to do with racism or at least not directly. Witness the approval of Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor. They didn’t have a problem with those two new justices for Obama. And Garland is a white guy. He’s Jewish but so are Kagan and Ginsburg. So, it wasn’t a race issue or a religious issue. It was purely a power issue.

And yet, Digby told us over and over and over again that it was racist for the Republicans to not approve him. It was the last straw that made the out of touch voices on the left lose all credibility.

I think the Democrats took us for suckers for many many years. I am a Democrat and I worked almost every weekend since July to get my party’s representatives elected. I truly believe that Clinton was the best presidential candidate that we have ever had. I have no regrets working to get her elected. She made me proud to be a Democrat.

But I will not miss the Obama years and the tone deaf assholes who wrote off the “old coalition” and dismissed the anxiety of the Bernie Sanders middle class voters I met. Clinton did her best to reach out to them and wisely adopted much of the Sanders’ platform. That is to her credit and many Sanders volunteers recognized that.

But she could not overcome the insults to the intelligence and the invalidation of the feelings of so many working class people of all races and ethnicities. When Obama wrote off Appalachia and the rust belt and Donna praised the new coalition and put the old coalition on an ice floe, it was only a matter of time before the old coalition’s future looked dire enough to strike back.

They were wrong, of course. They didn’t drain the swamp. They just got more swamp monsters and these are going to eat them. But if I learned anything from Hillary and Bill it’s that you can’t afford to alienate anyone in politics.

It’s a lesson the Obama contingent is only now starting to understand.

More on The Rage, misogyny and the media’s shameful part in this catastrophe from Todd Gitlin at Moyers.

The Time Is Out of Joint

Hamlet:

Let us go in together,

And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.

The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,

That ever I was born to set it right!

Nay, come, let’s go together.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 186–190