Because They Can

There’s an old joke:

Q: Why do dogs lick their own genitals?
A: Because they can.

The modern Republicans function on the same principle. It sees no cost to hypocrisy, it says that it can do whatever it wants, and if you try to stop it, there’s always a 2nd Amendment Solution threat to toss around like a grenade with the pin removed.

Under Barack Obama, the deficit was a major threat to our future. It was stealing bread from future generations to prop up silly programs (like roads and bridges!) today. And then, the clock struck midnight, Trump entered, and lo! cutting taxes to create a massive deficit is what all the cool kids do.

What would happen if they defied illogic and stood up to dumbassery?

  1. They would be primaried, losing 30-60% of the challenges
  2. The alt-right boneheads that replaced them would also lose 30-60% of their races

So, the GOP would be in a temporary setback, until the voters realized that getting creamed in the legislative races doesn’t do them any good and would inevitably moderate.

What does happen, instead?

  1. They adopt alt-right dumbassery
  2. They remain viable enough to slip farther into the pit of doom they will soon call home (and if we’re not careful, we all will as well)

Even now, before the Democrats take the gavel in the House, parts of the news media are back to treating Trump as a normal president. They think, wrongly, that being bested at the polls might make him face the music. There are takes along these lines:

  • Dems should prioritize legislation over investigation
  • Trump seeks to cut deals with the Democrats

To the first, it’s a false dichotomy. There will be investigations. There will be legislation. Those are both jobs of the Congress when it’s operating properly. Moreover, they go hand-in-hand. You have to investigate in order to legislate properly.

As to making deals, that’s part of the job, too. Not just with the president, but with other legislators, with the minority. There are a thousand deals done in Washington per day (including Xmas!), but almost no good (and only a little evil) comes of most of them.

Why does the news media fall back to the same worn narratives at each stage of the disaster of Trump? Because that’s their reflex, their muscle memory. They are working off a parametric equation that says something like:

  Republican president
+ Republican Senate
+ Democratic House
——————————————————————
  Democratic cooperation

It’s the same reflex that was at work when they did a wholly-inadequate job questioning the intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. It’s the same reflex that couldn’t properly deal with Trump in 2015-6. This is an industry that had tape ready to roll as soon as President George Bush’s death was announced. It’s not the investigative journalists that are the failure in media, it’s the rank-and-file paper-pushers that are merely providing a nice Muzak-esque environment for advertisers.

Which is the same God damned thing that the rank-and-file Republicans (and plenty of Democrats, to be sure) are doing for all sorts of dubious organizations and industries.


There’s a reason that the odds of Paul Ryan coming out in favor of doing something about climate change jump from 0% to at least 50% as soon as he is out of office. It’s the same one, over again. He can’t say that in the House, he has to wait until he’s a civilian. It takes time to sober up from the years-long binge on campaign adrenaline. The scent of lobbyist cologne and perfume does wash off, but it lingers awhile.

Accusations in a Vacuum

Update: a back-room agreement seems to have been made by Jeff Flake to see at least some investigation done by the FBI. We’ll see if that happens, but it would be a step in the right direction even if it is not definitive.

The failure of the White House to have the FBI to investigate the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, alongside his own failure to publicly call for said investigation, and the failure of the GOP to call for an investigation, means I have no choice but to believe the accusations. They are credible based on the available evidence, and any evidence that could have impugned them is left ungathered.

There is sufficient evidence that Judge Kavanaugh lacks credibility:

  1. Unexplained discrepancies between earlier testimony and the limited documents released on his record from his time working in the government under the Starr investigation, in the Bush administration, and regarding his correspondence or other knowledge of Judge Alex Kozinski’s abuses.
  2. A lack of specificity regarding his debts.
  3. His lack of candor in the Fox News interview regarding his high school behavior.
  4. His failure to call for an investigation that could plausibly clear his name.
  5. His lack of candor in the hearings on Thursday.
  6. His indulgence in right-wing conspiracies regarding the process.

Meanwhile, the only accuser given the chance to testify, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has had a consistent recollection of the incident going on some six years. She called for the FBI to investigate. There is no offered evidence that impeaches her telling.

Given the gravity of the alleged behavior, high school or not, it is damning if true. But we don’t have the luxury of deciding truth. We have to choose who we believe. In a natural vacuum, you might believe Ford or Kavanaugh. But we have here an artificial vacuum, created by the reluctance of the GOP, including Kavanaugh himself and the man who nominated him, Mr. Trump, to have the matter professionally investigated by the FBI. That artifice must weigh heavily against Kavanaugh.

The GOP in the Senate is now on trial. If they vote to consent to his appointment with the bad process, they will thereby sign a statement of their own incompetence at governing. They will disqualify themselves from the claim to legitimacy that is vital to the functioning of a democratic republic. All of this is a result not of Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged crimes, but of the very real process failures at the hands of the Trump administration and the Senate GOP.

There are sufficient leads for an FBI investigation to be conducted, even at this late date. They might find exculpatory evidence. They might find corroborating witnesses or facts. They might decide to have Mark Judge testify. The GOP’s failure to have the matter investigated requires a jaded eye fall on Kavanaugh’s rebuttal testimony. He is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court purely due to the process failures here.

If the president chooses, withdraw and renominate him with an FBI background check that encompasses these allegations. But, where we are today, any Senator worth eir salt will vote against Kavanaugh unless and until the public facts are improved. The damage of doing otherwise is a major blow to the integrity of our institutions.

2018 midterms are in five weeks.

Earth Matters

Economists don’t bother to calculate the value of a habitable planet when they model the economy. That’s because an uninhabitable planet makes all production and other economic values drop to zero, and the value of habitability is therefore invaluable, like the laws of physics, or the existence of mathematics.

With every passing year, we see the consequences of climate change. We still have not taken the necessary steps to deal with it. As November’s midterms approach, one wonders how an augmented reality election would work. One could see the future that they are voting for displayed in the voting booth. In places like Miami, Florida, certain candidates’ realities might be a city abandoned to the ocean.

But we don’t have future-vision technology. We have to rely on public reports of the science and the meaning and what candidates say and whom they align with. There is guesswork. But the Republican Party has made it clear that they do not stand for or with the planet. They do not take the question of habitability seriously. They take earth for granted. They believe it will always be habitable and that people will just have to suck it up and die if their area is flooded or poisoned.

They certainly don’t believe that people whose homes are uninhabitable have a right to cross imaginary lines in violation of laws. If your crops wither and your soil turns to dust, that’s your problem (unless you’re their constituent, in which case, welfare).


The risk of all of earth becoming uninhabitable is low. The risk for parts of earth, currently inhabited, becoming lost, is a certainty. The longer that Republican policies remain in effect, that we do not take real action on climate change, the worse the consequences will be.

The Republican Party is free to abandon their broken thinking any time they want. They can choose to support the planet we need to survive. They should take the chance to do it before the public opinion climate changes on them, permanently.

Trends in GOP Policy (or the Lack Thereof)

On healthcare: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On the environment: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On taxes and IRS funding. On immigration. On trade. On housing. On transportation.

The Party of No is alive and unwell. And in power.

It’s hard to understand how folks support a policy vacuum. It wouldn’t be hard to understand if they simply had an alternative, but they have no policy on areas that matter to everyone.

Healthcare

Their work to-date has been to undermine the ACA (failed repeals ad nauseum, cutting advertising, cutting the enrollment period, cutting navigator funding, zeroing the individual mandate penalty), block Medicaid expansion, add work requirements, and expand scam insurance.

While they have put out policy papers in the past, outlining plans for market-driven healthcare, they’ve never made any real effort to enact them.

Take two doses of stupid policy, then elect Democrats when you realize the Republicans screwed it all up.

Environment

Their work to-date has been rolling back regulations that make the air and water cleaner. They want to undo the already-late update to vehicle fuel efficiency (and one is sure that they’ll not take increased traffic accidents into account when they approve oil leases and seek to keep gas prices low). They have no plans for enacting carbon taxes. They have no plans for what to do when the oceans rise, the aquifers dry up, the storms grow, the crops die.

Best I can tell, they don’t even bother with policy papers here.

Taxes

Cut, cut cut, cut cut cut, cut × 4, × 5, …

Their revenue policy is something out of a drug den. “Just need one more tax cut to clear my head, then I’ll actually accomplish something,” says the drooling, stupified Republican congressional caucus.

Again, no real policy papers. Just enough wishful thinking to fill a thousand fountains with pennies.

Immigration

Get rid of it. Under Trump, this apparently includes trade and tourism, too.

Some Republicans still support some types of immigration, but they don’t agree on which, and the end result is complete paralysis.


Once upon a time, there was a conservative party that shared policy goals with the country. They differed in the way to get there, but that was okay. We can all agree that we want pizza, but disagree on toppings.

Over time, they splintered until some in their caucus outright denied that eating was even necessary. They denied that pizza was a food.

At some point, the people are hungry. They’ll vote for Democrats that will serve them pizza with anchovies and pineapple and gummi bears if it means they get fed. The GOP really needs to stop simply criticizing every Democratic policy goal as impractical and too expensive. They need to get back to arguing about toppings.

How the Republican Healthcare Mess Makes Sense

Edit: As of Friday afternoon, Sens. McCain (hard no) and Collins (somewhere shy of hard no) have announced opposition, stalling the measure. Let’s hope it stays that way, and that both parties can work on a real plan to improve the healthcare system.

The blade is not yet to the throat, nor the gun to the temple, but by next Friday (or maybe Saturday) America may be in the middle of its biggest hostage crisis of the modern age. The Republicans, in a greedlust for victory on healthcare, are sneaking up behind the country, ready to strike.

The bill, a stinker in a long line of stinkers, will be not a millstone around the GOP’s neck, but a tombstone at its feet, if it ever activates. But that’s not what it’s meant to be at all. This timebomb is DACA 2.0: meant to bend Democrats to the Republicans’ will. Under the president’s DACA order, the hostages are the dreamers. Under Graham-Cassidy, the hostages are the millions who will lose coverage obtained under the ACA.

The notion that the American people are subject to political violence is hardly new or surprising, but it is a heartless and despicable fact. The Republicans want massive wealthcare, but they also want to undo all the things in the ACA they cannot touch under reconciliation rules. This is not serious legislation at all, by any measure. It has not benefited from study or debate, or even from a full CBO score. Governors oppose it, all the medical associations and nonpartisan nonprofits say no.

The only thing that’s left is a hostage play. For the low, low price of 50 votes, the Senate Republicans can shove this mess back to the House, where if the Republicans there can decide to wax their mustaches, they will hold the threat of death over enough Americans that the Democrats will have to cave in. That will, they believe, let them pass a 60-vote bill in the Senate, which will be less insane than Graham-Cassidy, will let them do a victory lap for repealing Obamacare, and will still let them shove a bunch of money in the rich peoples’ pockets.

This sort of abuse is irredeemable. There are millions of people who are stressed and anxious, as hostages to the GOP. This is nothing short of protection racketeering by a major political party on behalf of the wealthy. This is organized crime.

And sadly, that’s the only way this mess of a bill makes sense. All civic-minded Republicans should reject any attempt to hold their countrymen as hostages for legislative ends. A vote for Graham-Cassidy is a vote for tyranny.