100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

WAXING DYSTOPIC

Urs Fischer, “Yes!” (PHOTO: Brian Forrest)
When you were a kid, did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grow up?

Stupid question: of course they did. Adults asking kids what they want to be when they grow up is a fundamental part of the human experience. If it wasn’t your parents, it was your relatives. If it wasn’t your relatives, it was your teachers. Or maybe it was the checkout girl at the supermarket when you were six; I don’t know. It doesn’t matter who it was. The point is, somebody asked you at least once, if not a whole bunch people, a whole bunch of times.

And I bet every time someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you always had a real good answer for them. Maybe you wanted to be a doctor, or an astronaut. A rock n’ roll star. All of the above, even. Whatever it was – even if it was never the same thing twice, which it probably never was, because kids are mercurial as fuck – didn’t matter, because it was more than just what you wanted to be; it was who you wanted to be, a perfect being in a perfect world that no one had the heart to tell you doesn’t exist.

Despite the inevitable setbacks reality provides, this idea never really goes away. We just keeping moving the goalpost nearer or farther afield as necessary to keep things interesting. Or maybe it’s more like going to the eye doctor, and having your vision periodically adjusted to make sure that whatever your future self looks like, you can always see it with just the right amount of clarity. But no matter what, it’s always there, watching, waiting, a block of clay whose exact shape is limited only by the scope of your imagination.

At some point along the way, my goalpost became too heavy to move, and strange as it sounds, I think I actually managed to clear it. I suppose I should be proud of that. Were it not for my having done so revealing just how ill-formed and dystopic my idea of a future self was, I think I would be. It’s difficult to picture a future that isn’t a portrait of instability, deprivation, and turmoil, centered around a misshapen, incomplete, rendition of my future self, a wax sculpture abandoned under a desert sun. And I’m still not even sure how I got here. But I’m beginning to figure it out.

There were a lot of things I wanted to be when I grew up. First, it was an astronaut. No surprise there. Every little boy who grew up in the Space Age wants to be an astronaut, if only for a minute. Calligraphy was next. My grandparents used to jibe me all the way through my twenties about wanting to be a “Chinese artist” when I was six or seven, after learning how to draw a few hànzì in grade school school one afternoon. That turned into a penchant for art and design in middle school, primarily of the comic book variety. But as much as I tried, I could never rise above the level of glorified tracing. When high school came along, I eventually abandoned art for writing, then theatre and finally music, where I remained until just a few years ago, when I found myself firmly camped behind a word processor once again.

My parents were good people; they supported me in everything I wanted to do. They couldn’t afford to send me to Space Camp, but they bought me chemistry sets and Star Wars toys let me make many spectacular messes before I had a clue what the hell I was doing with any of it. I can’t count how many calligraphy sets they bought me, or how long they sat in that deflated stack on the bottom of my bookshelf after my southpaw ass gave up when I couldn’t stop smearing ink all over the page. Lord knows how much they spent on that drafting table and all the equipment for when I was in the seventh grade, only to have me move on after a year when there were no more drafting classes to be had beyond the seventh grade. At least it made for a good writing desk, if I wasn’t typing up my homework on my computer. But you don’t need a desk to write in a journal, or to play the bass guitar, which made it easy to give the thing up when my father sold our house to rent a smaller one after my mom left us.

Never once did they complain when I would give up on something because it was too hard, or lose interest if and when I got bored with it. Never once did they push back on my frustrations, even for banal reasons like money or space. Frankly, they rarely ever noticed when I gave up on anything. As a hyperactive, sensitive kid, my parents always valued structure over discipline as a guiding principle for raising me. “We just want you to be happy,” they always told me. “Just keep your grades up.”

In other words: school is the only success we’re interested in the responsibility for managing.

Believe me, it’s not like they didn’t care about me, or didn’t try to relate. They came to the opening night of every show I did in high school, and after graduating from WWF wrestling and Top Ramen on Saturday mornings when I was a kid, my father and I never missed an episode of Ren & Stimpy or Liquid Television or Beavis & Butthead together. Really, it was the only time we ever hung out, and I cherished it. Meanwhile, my mother and I went on about a gazillion hiking and biking trips all over California together, practically from the moment I learned to walk; along the way, we would always sing along to every goddamned song on the radio we heard no matter what it was, regardless of whether we knew the words.

But outside of subversive teevee shows, there was little else my dad and I could really relate over; even today, he’s still as much as mystery to me as he ever was. And my mom? Well, it turns out that all of those trips and all of those sing-alongs were just as much about having her escapist cake in an increasingly loveless relationship and eating it, too. As her pretext for seeing the world I learned a great deal, including how to maintain pretense where none exists. It didn’t serve her then, and it doesn’t serve me now. But that hasn’t stopped either of us from practicing it, with each other as much as with everyone else.

It’s difficult at this point for me to not acknowledge exactly how pathetic this all might sound. My formative years were ones of relative privilege, and I know there are many in this world who would love to have the luxury of flitting around from hobby to hobby on someone else’s dime without the slightest trace of remorse or regret. My parents were incredibly generous, and their ability to provide me with so many different means of expressing myself is something I’ve always appreciated. But in truth, that’s more or less where their support ended. When it came to this idea of exploring my future self – the person I wanted to be when I grew up – I was essentially left to my own devices.

It never seemed to matter how weird or queer or outspoken I got; as long as I didn’t invite any disciplinary problems into our household, nothing was off the table. I didn’t know what they wanted me to be any more than I knew what I wanted to be. And with a ton of ambition but no real direction, I just wanted to make art and be happy. By doing so, I believed everything would sort itself out, and I would lead, if not a wealthy life, at least a fulfilling one.

Much of that began to come crashing down around me when my parents divorced, and my parents either lost or relinquished what little remaining authority they had over me. My mother soon discovered that, having absconded from her family leaving nothing more than a note on my father’s bedstand, I could no longer serve as both her punching bag and a civics experiment. It’s worth mentioning that the increasing contention in her relationship with my father was reflected in her relationship with me, especially as I began to approach puberty. By the time I was eleven, our disputes had reached Crawfordian proportions, with her shoving me over my bed or into the closet, face contorted and snarling, yanking my pants around my ankles and mercilessly beating me wire coat hangers as I screamed for help that would not come.

I don’t remember how long this went on for, or how many times it happened. All I have is a story that my father tells me of the night he found my mother’s letter, of coming home from the night shift at the ceramics plant and finding me curled up on the couch under my mother’s favorite blanket – the white one with the red and yellow sneakers on it, and the red satin trim – wide-eyed, shaking, ghostly pale, clutching a baseball bat and swearing that she was going to sneak into the house and kill me. I do not remember any of this, but not in that way like it didn’t happen; more like a scene clipped from the film reel of my memory. I roll the tape in my head and I know it’s supposed to be there, but the footage is gone, and I’m the one who cut it out.

My father tried to bridge the parenting gap, Lord knows he did. That first year that we were on our own together, I genuinely thought we were going to be all right. I don’t know how it ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t start dating again, or that his doing so might prove disastrous for our budding new relationship.

I was sixteen when his new girlfriend moved in with us. My father was used to my mother playing Bad Cop, and it wasn’t long before he slipped into his old role once again, essentially leaving me to my own devices as long as I didn’t get out of line. Only this time, the Bad Cop wasn’t my mother, who I can see now meant well even in her worst moments; it was a vile, mendacious, awful woman who hated me with a fiery passion for reasons I could never begin to understand.

She drove a titanic wedge between my father and I, who had become something of a recluse in our new home. He rarely left his bedroom other than to go to work, and when we would occasionally cross paths, the only emotion I seemed to be able to evoke in him was ire, usually over some trivial thing I had either done or not done to throw his succubus into conniptions. Even getting kicked out of high school on drug charges did little to inspire any real sense of disciplinary duty in my father, either with academia or my burgeoning meth addiction. Every time I watched him disappear behind that bedroom door after some awkward, stilted interaction, I could feel her empty, piercing eyes glaring malevolently at me from within its darkened confines, it felt as if it was the last time I would ever see him again.

After getting kicked out of high school, I would often disappear from home for weeks at a time, only stopping in during the hours when no one was home to shower, eat, and grab clothes. I followed my bliss with no resistance, and with no one to advise me differently. It’s a miracle that I managed to get a diploma through that alternative schooling program, and that smoking crystal meth turned out to just be a phase. But for quite a long time – years, I think – I seriously don’t believe my father noticed that I was a ghost in my own house. And when he finally did, pounding on the door of that house on Cherry Lane one early Sunday morning, it was hard not to laugh in his face when he demanded I come “home.” It wasn’t until she withdrew her feeding tubes from his heart and cerebral cortex and crawled off into a hole somewhere in the American Southwest nearly two decades later that we were able to have something approaching a “normal” relationship again.

Things got better when I met my future ex-wife; there’s nothing like a good woman to straighten a young man out. My future self started to get a little clearer, especially after eight months in a twelve-step program. But it didn’t take long after a failed stint in vocational school for me to start following my bliss again, this time diving deep into music and art after we moved to the Silicon Valley. And for a while, it was enough to tow the line, and tow it well. Be happy; just keep your grades up. Everything will work out all right. And so it did, for a long time.

But along came irreconcilable differences, a love affair (mine), a nervous breakdown (also mine), job loss (yeah…mine, too), and divorce. That was one hell of a six months.

That belief carried me through several painful, empty post-divorce years, lonely night after agonizingly lonely night; it carried me through the most abusive and traumatic relationship I’ve ever had in my life, one fraught with emotional abuse, flashbacks of childhood sexual assault, multiple near-overdoses, even a robbery; it carried me through the most ambitious musical experiences I’ve ever undertaken, and my rebirth into wordsmithing, a craft which has taken more me places than I’ve ever dreamed in less time than I ever would have thought was possible.

I guess there’s a certain freedom in knowing that I’ve “succeeded” in living up to my future self, even with as low as that bar was to clear. Most people haven’t by the time they approach their forties. It frees up my goalpost again, leaving me secure in the knowledge that there’s still time to sculpt something magnificent out of so much melted wax. There’s nothing I’ve ever wanted to take responsibility for managing more. I just wish I knew what that something was.

Is it too late to go to Space Camp?

Monday, August 14, 2017

PAPER TIGER POLITICS, CON'T.


Recent criticism of Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Deval Patrick for having spottier records than advertised has been greeted by accusations of a desire to erase people of color from the Democratic Party, an assault which their defenders seem to be claiming is on a scale of reprehensibility comparable with what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend: namely, an angry, racist, torch-wielding, social media mob. 

Admittedly, the optics in taking on three rising Democratic stars at once who all happen to be African-American aren't good. And I won't deny that they have plenty of detractors out there who are saying some seriously ignorant shit, either. The scale and the immediacy of their threat seems grossly inflated, if not largely manufactured to provoke sufficient outrage in exchange for mindshare. In other words, there seem to be far more people on the left defending Harris, Booker, and Patrick from criticism than there are people actually criticizing them.

Meanwhile, the DNC literally barred a contingent of the progressive caucus headed by a woman of color - Nina Turner's Our Revolution - from their headquarters last month when they tried to submit their manifesto for consideration in selecting 2018 candidates. Last time I checked, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Deval Patrick haven't been denied a platform, well...anywhere in quite some time. Oh, but DNC staffers did leave donuts out for Our Revolution. Are they not generous?

This whole situation reminds me in many respects of the antagonism against so-called "Bernie Bros" during the 2016 primary. At the time, I wasn't interested in wading too deeply into the electoral muck; the electoral season was breaking precedent after precedent with unthinkable speed, and it struck me very early on that staking a claim on any one Democratic candidate too soon would prove to be exceptionally unwise. So I mostly sat on the sidelines and watch the family food fight with a mixture of amusement and horror.

Like with Harris et al, I did see plenty of Bernie supporters/Hillary detractors out there who were saying some seriously ignorant shit, but again, nowhere near the scale or the immediacy that what was being described. To hear #TeamHillary describe it at the time, a "Bernie Bro" essentially amounted to any Bernie supporter who happened to say something racist/sexist/et cetera, an argument which, if you believe no one is exempt from participating in white supremacy, creates a bar low enough to discount nearly the entire Sanders movement.

But to what end? Obviously, many "Bernie Bro" detractors were genuine Hillary supporters for whatever reason, and many others were just people who didn't like seeing other people talk ignorant shit about women/people of color. But if the primary defense of Hillary amounted to "her opponent's supporters say ignorant shit on the Internet sometimes," just what where her supporters defending? Her policies? Her rhetoric? The fact that they wanted to see the first woman elected president in their lifetime? These are all laudable reasons, but they were lost in the din of "just look how shitty the other guys and their fans are!"

You're only as good as your last argument, and that turned out to be a terrible one. What's worse, the same argument is at play in this debate over the electoral merits of Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Deval Patrick, which also strikes me as yet another opportunity for Hillary supporters to relitigate the primary. And With greater impunity because of the shitty optics, no less. 

Why the progressive movement choose to take on all three senators at once, I'll never know. Why either wing of the party is even talking about 2020 candidates at all when a super-important mid-term is coming up in less than eighteen months, I'll also never know. What I do know is this: all candidates need to be properly and publicly vetted no matter the color of their skin, and their vetting needs to be conducted tactfully, respectfully, and with a concern for public opinion. Failing to do both will prevent the Democratic Party from mustering up the necessary energy required to win the political war of attrition against the Republicans they've only just begun to realize they're involved in.

Monday, August 7, 2017

BANANA REPUBLICANISM

(PHOTO: New York Magazine)
My web traffic has been flagging a bit as of late, a fact easily attributed to the fact that I haven’t been posting as much lately. I’ll not apologize for it; my life as of late has been, if not a total mess, then a Force 5 clusterfuck. Bandwidth is limited; spoons are in short supply. Yet he persisted, enough to realize that the occasional peaks on a flattened EKG mean something, especially when they correspond to posts about the same subject.

I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my thinking that there’s every possibility of President* Trump declaring as an independent in 2020, and building a voting coalition large enough that could finally, formally split the Republican Party in two. It’s unprecedented, but not illegal; and since when has The Donald ever given a shit about protocol?

Whatever you may think about the extinction-level dumbfuckery taking place in the White House at the moment, one thing is for certain: Trump is giving the people exactly what they want, with the “people” being the roughly 63 million paranoid, racist meatheads and theocratic zealots who voted for him.

And what do they want, he asks rhetorically?

Legitimacy. Validation. Redemption. A chance to stick it to a “gubmint” they feel took away everything they ever loved, and gave it to undeserving black and brown poor people. And boy, have they ever done just that.

I know it’s too soon to tell, even though it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. But there’s no way Trump is going to quit, and there’s no way the Republicans will either impeach or 25A the guy, short of him diddling Ivanka in the Rose Garden on a YouTube live stream. Like it or not, he’s here to stay, and he may not be “your” president*, but he sure is theirs. And they’re ready, willing, and able to follow him right down the slippery slope into authoritarian, fascist rule with hardly a second thought.

In fact, it’s all they’ve ever wanted. And this is the way it’s always gone, with the only difference the United States doing it to everyone else, and not the other way around. Time and investigation will undoubtedly reveal what every instinct screamingly points to: the president* is a puppet of Russian oil and real estate interests, with Vladimir Putin pulling the strings. If Milton Friedman were alive, you wouldn’t be able to pull his dick out of his hand over the whole thing.

We’re transforming into a banana republic in real time, and the only people who have any real chance of stopping it – the Democratic Party – still can’t seem to agree over how to settle the check from the 2016 primary. Meanwhile, every last toady and footstool of the mainstream press is frantically trying to pretend that this is just “business as usual,” and shove the whole thing down the Memory Hole as fast as humanly possible on behalf of their sponsors and shareholders. The conditions for a massive Republican defection have never been so ripe. Never have such tiny hands held such a great responsibility.

A lot can happen between then and now, certainly. But cults of personality don’t survive by playing nice with apostates, and without unseating a colossal number of Trump’s acolytes in the legislature during the 2018 mid-terms (preferably with staunch progressive leaders), the Republican Party stands little chance of remaining intact beyond 2020. Regardless of whomever decides to peel off at that point, I can tell you one thing: they won’t be wearing tricorne hats. Good thing for them that Fred Perry never goes out of style.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

MIND THE GAP

Artist's rendition of the 2020 Republican primary season.
The fissure developing between the Trump Organization and McConnell’s Republican Stooge Brigade may not be happening by anyone’s design, but that doesn't mean it's happening by mistake. This is kind of a long pull quote, but definitely worth the read.
“Mr. Trump has strained relations with a lot of people these days — members of his own party in Congress, the 55-plus percent of Americans who say they disapprove of his performance, his attorney general, his recently ousted communications director and chief of staff. But through all the drama and dismay, one group has never really wavered: the leaders of the conservative movement.

This is no accident. Mr. Trump and members of his administration have spent their first six months in office cultivating and strengthening ties to the movement’s key groups and players with a level of attention and care that stands out for a White House that often struggles with the most elementary tasks of politics and governing.

Their outreach extends to groups across the ideological spectrum — small government, tax-averse Tea Party followers; gun owners; abortion opponents; evangelical Christians and other culturally traditional voters. And it reflects the importance that Mr. Trump and his aides have placed on the movement politics of the right, which they recognize as the one base of support they cannot afford to alienate since conservatives, according to Gallup, are 36 percent of the electorate.

“You want the structures that deliver people, votes and enthusiasm — and he understands that,” said Grover Norquist, the veteran anti-tax activist who has been working with White House officials as they develop a tax legislation package.

[…]

Despite his failure to push any of his major agenda items like getting the Affordable Care Act repeal through Congress, the president has remained largely insulated from conservative backlash. His approval rating among conservative Republicans nationally is 89 percent, according to Gallup — almost exactly what it was on Inauguration Day.

Republican strategists who have been looking at private polling in states where Mr. Trump won in November say he continues to outperform his national average among right-leaning voters.

“If you’re a conservative Republican voter, who are you more likely to blame, Trump or Mitch McConnell?” asked Frank Cannon, a Republican who advises conservative groups and candidates. “I think that question answers itself.”

Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor who was a pollster and strategist for conservative causes for two decades before joining the Trump campaign last summer, said the goal of the administration has been to bring the movement inside after years in the political wilderness.

“So many of them look at this administration as a rescue mission years in the making,” she said. "It’s not just about policy but respect. And they just haven’t felt respected.”

[…]

Every Friday afternoon the White House sends an email to movement leaders called “The Trumpet,” which lists the latest events and achievements that conservatives might find of interest and asks for their help in promoting the president’s policies.

“Please publicly push for tax reform that is simpler and fairer, that provides middle-class tax relief,” one email implored last month.

There are small Oval Office gatherings, dinners with the president at the White House, regular strategy sessions with his senior staff, meetings with Vice President Mike Pence in his office and at his Naval Observatory residence.

Mr. Trump does not spare the hyperbole.”
As I mentioned the other day, orthodox v. evangelical conservatism is standard-issue movement Republican politics. The tension between the two lies at the heart of the Southern Strategy, and every other bit of Republican chicanery designed to convince the rubes to slit their own throats in the name of fucking over black people “freedom.”

But the evangelical side is winning out, as liberals always knew they would, because there’s no stopping an army of glassy-eyed zealots once you’ve funneled billions of dollars into their war chest for a generation or two. Especially after they’ve managed to elect* one of their own as the Leader Of The Free World.
“Trump might have frosty relations with the Republican Party, but he is, and will continue to be, an ideological Republican for as long as he's in the White House. I keep telling you the reasons: Fox News has colonized his brain; he loves fighting, and Fox News/interest-group Republicanism is about perpetual combat; and, of course, rank-and-file wingnuts give him the love for which he has junkie cravings.

Think of the Republican Party as the Catholic Church – it reserves to itself the right to manage the faith of believers. Trump is more of an evangelical – he has a personal relationship with wingnuttery. He doesn't need to practice this through an old-line church. But he still fervently professes the faith.”
Make no mistake: this debate is like arguing over who’s the smartest kind in remedial school. But as long as Trump can continue to convince the thought leaders of the conservative hate brigade that their movement is being failed by old guard Republicans and not by the Keystone Cops that make up his administration, he can continue to drink McConnell and Ryan’s milkshake for as long as he damned well pleases. And as long as McConnell and Ryan’s bucket list of bullshit remains unfulfilled, there’s not a damned thing they can really do about it, or him.

If Trump doesn’t decide to run for reelection as an independent in 2020, I’ll be very surprised.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DOG-AND-PONY-SHIT-SHOW

There are few things more soul-crushing in this world than job hunting, except for maybe dating. Both are total dog-and-pony-shit-shows, where rejection and indifference are omnipresent and approval is so rare as to take on mythological proportions.

Based on what I know of my area’s job market at the moment, I’m unmarketable by just about every conceivable metric for anything worthwhile: no college, no driver’s license, no specialties, and too old to work for peanuts.

I’m sitting here, trying to compose a new cover letter for myself, and the question keeps popping into my head: how do you pitch yourself as being worth something, when you’ve spent a sizable portion of your life feeling like you’re not worth anything, and you have the data to back it up?

Sure, I’ve been able to spin my shit into sugar periodically, mostly with innovative resume design and a bit of smooth talk. It’s enough to get me through the door as often as not, but the problem is, everything falls apart under scrutiny; in addition to my aforementioned underqualifications, I’ve been fired from four out of the last jobs I’ve had, including the one I have now. There’s just no way to euphemize that. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Getting my current job at all was a fucking miracle, due mostly to the fact that my boss was either too preoccupied or too lazy to ask too many questions, or to search for additional candidates. It’s something I’ve been able to exploit to considerable effect, much to my chagrin. I don’t like taking advantage of people, especially when doing so leaves me feeling as if I’m about to constantly be exposed as a complete charlatan. As if I didn’t constantly have that problem anyway.

The only things I’m “good” at don’t make any money, like writing. And I don’t even know how good I am it, only that I do it a whole fucking lot and that the voice I put on paper is sounding more and more like the one inside my head with every essay, article, or blog post. I certainly don’t feel prepared to freelance or submit my work to publications, for the same reasons why I hate looking for work: how many times can you throw yourself at the feet of someone’s mercy before your will to power runs out? What happens if you don’t really have any in the first place?

My shit might be good enough for prime time, but good luck convincing me of that. I can’t even get you to pay me for it. Why should anyone else? 

Yeah, that's a fucking hint. Take it, already.

Maybe if anything I’ve done for work actually made a difference in someone’s life, rather than sucking on an endless series of corporate teats with nothing to show for it for the last couple of decades, I might feel more encouraged to muster the necessary pluck required to be beaten about the head and neck with rejection and apathy. Even the modest accomplishments I’ve made at my current job aren’t leaving me with much in the way of optimism, given my “slash and burn” employment record of the last several years.

Such is the way of things when you spend most of your adult life denying and/or ignoring and/or being unable to afford to deal with the mental illnesses that plague you. They wind their icy, entropic fingers through every aspect of your existence, slowly impairing and then degrading your ability to live a “normal” life. Meanwhile, the world continues to turn, becoming more oppressive, more hostile, and more unforgiving with every passing year. Those who seem otherwise able-bodied (like myself) are often greeted with suspicion for failing to “bootstrap” our way out of the messes we make. But the only difference between me and a fuck-up like, say, one of Donald Trump’s kids is the fact that their wealth and privilege exempt them from ever having to own their dysfunction, or the damage it creates. There’s definitely something wrong with those kids, but being fantastically rich means never having to say you’re sorry.

So here I sit, examining the litany of professional failures that have attended my soon-to-be thirty-nine years on this planet, seriously entertaining the notion as I have for years that this about as good as it gets. I might be wrong; Lord knows I hope so. With freshly-subscribed-health insurance, I’ve been able to re-enter the medical system, and begin the necessary psychiatric evaluations for diagnosing my issue set. Never mind the arthritis and blood pressure problems I’ve begun to develop. I’ve shifted on from “spring chicken” to “perpetually exhausted, middle-aged pigeon,” and I don’t like it. Not at all.

Getting old sucks. Getting old with contending with increasing levels of mental instability, no future prospects, and no financial security in a world that doesn’t give two shits about you sucks even more. And having to swallow all of that time and again, so as to appear bright and positive and hopeful as I approach prospective corporate teat after prospective corporate teat?

Frankly, gouging out an eye with a grapefruit spoon sounds more appealing.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

BROKEN CLOCK SYNDROME, CON'T.

"What do taxes and your skirt have in common? I'm gonna hike 'em both up before this day is over! AYYYY!!!"


Reporting from the Washington, D.C. Bureau of the Department of the Division of Good Ideas, it’s…gasp!

Steve Bannon?!?!?
“Top White House adviser Steve Bannon is pushing for tax reform to include a new 44 percent top marginal tax rate, hitting people who earn more than $5 million a year, with the revenue paying for tax cuts for the rest, according to three people who’ve spoken to him recently. […]

Axios previously reported that Bannon was looking to raise the top marginal rate to “something with a four in front of it,” but the 44 percent bracket for those making $5 million and above is a more fleshed out proposal. Bannon has described himself as an “economic nationalist” and has pushed a populist agenda both through his previous outlet Breitbart News and as an adviser to Trump. That contrasts with what Bannon calls the “globalist” wing of the party, made up by people like economic adviser Gary Cohn (though both Cohn and Bannon come from Goldman Sachs).”
There is no need to adjust your Internet tubes; your lying eyes are not deceiving you, not this time. The Gin Blossom King actually proposed a smart, reasonable, and immensely beneficial policy initiative that would provide a great deal of tax relief to an increasingly overburdened middle-class. Never mind that it doesn’t go nearly far enough to compensate for the massive levels of inequality of nation is experience, which would require something, to paraphrase Bannon himself, “with a nine in front of it”; it’s a good idea, coming from the Party Of Bad Ideas. Which is precisely why it was DOA the moment it slurred forth from that puckery, spittle-flecked mouth of his.
“This has not come up,” said Jason Pye, vice president for legislative affairs at the libertarian group FreedomWorks, which opposes all income tax hikes. Pye said the group has been in “regular contact with the White House,” but “we didn’t bring [Bannon’s tax hike proposal] up because we didn’t see it gaining any traction.” […]

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Norquist added that he hadn’t seen the White House float the idea with any vigor. Bannon’s proposal “is not part of the debate at present,” he said. “I don’t see that this one has gotten any bounce or pickup.” He noted that the proposal would violate an ATR pledge to oppose tax hikes signed by hundreds of state and federal officials, including Trump.

Norquist said he hadn’t brought up the issue directly in discussions with the White House. “It’s embarrassing when you ask somebody about a very silly idea they put forward,” he said. “It’s up there with, ‘Was that you that farted?’”
And for that, you should be relieved.

Weird, right?

Here’s the thing: there are few things that could be more immediately damaging to our governmental system than if the Trump Organization were to suddenly develop a competency streak. Everyone – and I mean, everyone – is looking for any and every way they can to either distance themselves from the president* or normalize his country-wrecking shenanigans. Pushing a narrative about tax reform, even just for show, would give Republicans and their media enablers much-needed traction in issuing Trump the required mediocrity merit badges to remain credible, helping them to pushing false equivalence between him and the imaginary liberal bogeymen they continue to cook up, each one more outrageous than the last in order to compensate for his ridiculousness.

There’s just one problem: the Prime Directive of the Republican Party will not be betrayed so easily.
“Herein lies the problem with conquering a political party because the multitudes of establishment candidates they put up were easily stuffed in lockers: The rest of the party apparatus is still there after the fact. Bannon might want to raise taxes on the rich. Trump might even be open to it; he said he was, for what that's worth, as recently as last week.

But the network of donors and large corporations and interest groups and lobbying outfits who pay the campaign bills don't want that. So the congressmen and senators beholden to them don't want that. Paul Ryan doesn't want that, and neither will basically anyone in his caucus, from the unhinged fundamentalists in the Freedom Caucus to the apocryphal moderates. They are all devoted priests in the Church of Supply-Side Economics, lighting a candle for Saint Reagan as they whisper, over and over, that tax cuts for the rich stimulate growth and pay for themselves. That's why the "deficit hawks" in the passage above won't consider raising taxes in any way, shape, or form, despite the fact that increasing revenues is one of just two ways to close a deficit. The other is cutting programs and services, usually for people who don't pay campaign bills.”
Nothing is more important to the Republican Party than gutting the treasury and burning D.C. to ashes in exchange for tax cuts for their neo-feudal puppet masters. Period. They would rather let Donald Trump wipe his ass with the American flag and then set it on fire live on network television than support even the suggestion of any policy that doesn’t adhere to this objective. It matters not whether the party has their dick dragged through the dirt for the next four or eight years or not; the corporate media Memory Hole may be showing signs of strain after shoving the entire Bush regime in there, but they’ve got room for plenty more Trumpistas to be unpersoned as needed. Does anyone remember Michael Flynn anymore? Yeah...that was fucking February.

We’re not out of the woods yet. Hell, we just got here…

Monday, July 31, 2017

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS



Permit me if you will, Dear Reader, engage in a bit of blog remixing on behalf of my colleague Driftglass in order to worry an itch of mine:
“Well now Trump is here. And the sheer tonnage of the toxic stupid and fascistic crazy that comes belching out of the White House every single fucking day coupled with the sheer, unalloyed, amoral gutlessness of the Republican Party in the leering face of the unhinged lunatic it elected is putting a terrible strain on the rafters and load bearing walls of the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism. Huddled inside, terrified that their long-postponed Day of Judgment may finally be outside, huffing and puffing and getting ready to blow their Church down, the paid-in-full members of the faithful demand that someone step up and do, well, something. […]

And yet, as we stand at the very brink of realizing their dream of blowing it all up and enabling demented bigots to rule by decree on behalf of theocrats, plutocats and Mother Russia, suddenly some of the Republican's most loyal enablers are losing their nerve. It's too late to reverse the engines – to unbrainwash the +60M wingnut zombies that they programmed to Destroy!Destroy!Destroy! and tell them that it has all gone way too far, and there is no longer a Kenyan Communist Muslim Sleeper Cell Usurper on-hand to blame for their sins and crimes against democracy. Which is why the world is suddenly alive with the sound of their lifeboats hitting the water as hordes of newly-minted "independents" row frantically away from the listing hulk of the great ship they worked so hard to wreck.
And they'll probably get away with it. After all, thanks to a mountain of Koch money, relentless marketing by Fox News and the rest of the Hate Media ecosystem and, crucially, the complicity of the Beltway media, they pulled exactly the same stunt eight years ago, and there is no evidence that any of the meatheads and fascists and media quislings who conspired to get the GOP off the hook last time have grown a conscience in the last eight years.”
He’s right: they’ve done this before, and with spectacular fucking success. George W. Bush lied us into an illegal war that bankrupted the nation and set back our global reputation by decades, yet it wasn’t until Trump gave the reprogrammable meat puppets that make up the conservative base permission to forgive themselves for going along with such a massively stupid undertaking that they even deigned to speak Bush’s name aloud again with anything other than rank condescension. That’s how deep and how wide the Memory Hole was built by Bush’s cadre of fake pundits and goons and sycophants: they were able to shove the whole Tea Party into it.

And every. Single. One. Still has a job in the press or the punditocracy or in any number of think-tanks across the country, peddling the same bullshit that they always have been. And if you thought their Tea Party two-step was something, just wait until you see what happens once the Trumpaway 5000 is running at full capacity. There’s every likelihood that the thieves and liars and miscreants that comprise the Republican Party and their bootlicking associates in the mainstream press will be successful in convincing the world that Donald Trump is/was/shall always be a Republican fluke, not the end result of their seventy-year breeding program to create the perfect “Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.”

"Remember me? Heheh...they sure as hell don't!"
But then what? Does another right-wing astroturf movement suddenly “materialize” from out of the ether once Trump comes up for reelection? If so, what does it look like? For that matter, what does the popular response look like?

The Memory Hole may be fucking massive, but even it has limits. Recent stress tests have demonstrated that cracks are forming along the edges, as the punditocracy continues to stuff more and more outrageous levels of abject bullshit down its gullet. It will crack eventually, and while everything may not come tumbling out, nothing will ever be able to be placed in it again, either. That will come as a major relief to those of us who, y’know, remember things, and have the audacity to recall those things in front of people who have spent a lifetime pretending to forget them.

What concerns me is how spending all this time (and money; don’t forget how many billions of dollars it costs for Memory Hole maintenance and upkeep) convincing millions of people that history ends after 1960 is continuing to calcify the notion of conservatism as a political religion that cannot fail, but can only be failed by those who fail to live up to its principles. With every failure of conservatism that is foisted onto others, fissures continue to develop within the party, skewing ever-rightward. And it’s happening already, as we speak.

“[T]he Republicans two brands to sell in 2018. The president* will keep the suckers in the tent, while the "responsible" Republicans in the formal party apparatus will convince Thought Leaders that Camp Runamuck is a self-generating freak show as detached from the party as it is from empirical reality. Given the nature of elite political reporting in this country, this might actually work. However, given the nature of the folks in that picture, and the president* at whose erratic pleasure they serve, the odds are that it won't. But there is one thing that will guarantee that it works, and that's the well-known ability of the Democratic Party to stare down the gullet of any gift horse that comes its way.”
It’s Keystone v. Coors Light: no matter who wins, the American public loses, and has to drink shitty beer with no health care.

But sooner or later, the lather/rinse/repeat of Republican chicanery and the complicity of the mainstream press in covering it up are going to create a permanent fissure between ultra-right-wing “establishment” conservatism and the proto-fascist fringe that is continuing to gain momentum in this country under Trump, one that the Republican Party is going to have to respond to in some fashion or another. But if conservatism can only be failed and the party tries to pass the buck, foisting blame onto the “libruls” as is their default setting will they be successful this time?

Chaplin/Keaton 2020, anyone?
They they tried that shit at Tengrain’s 2016 Goat Rodeo, and in response their base named them the failure of conservatism, responding by putting Donald Trump in office because the shit always runs downhill. Now, the party is blaming Trump and Trump is blaming the party for their staggeringly inept bungling of the Obamacare repeal, while the base watches the “system” collapse and begin throwing their weight increasingly behind so-called “outsiders” who claim they can save conservatism from itself.

This is what happens when what passes for “reasonable political discourse” is dragged kicking and screaming to the right for so long: ultra-right wing conservatism becomes centrism, neoliberalism becomes the new rallying point for the Enlightenment, and sheer nationalist lunacy becomes mainstream right-wing thought. In light of that, the question of a bona fide fascist party rising in this country isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Nervous yet?

Friday, July 28, 2017

THINGS THAT KEEP ME UP AT NIGHT

I think it’s safe to assume at this point that the least gullible of the American public (which I sincerely hope includes you, Dear Reader) understands that the danger of “fake news” is not that it convinces people of its own veracity (although it can be extraordinarily effective in that regard), but that it degrades truth as a guiding principle in forming your worldview.

That being said, truth is about to start getting degraded a whole helluva lot faster over the next few years, due to a couple of emerging technologies that are seriously goddamned freaky. WNYC’s Radiolab has the scoop:



I’m hard-pressed to say which one has more insidious implications, so we’ll start with VoCo first. A collaboration between Princeton University and Adobe Research, VoCo is audio editing technology that allows you to not just edit pre-recorded spoken audio, but literally to create new spoken audio from whole cloth simply by adding or removing words using a text-based interface.

VoCo works by taking your recorded speech, which it has broken down into thousands of samples based on the phonetic patterns of your voice, and remixing it into new words. What’s more, the new audio sounds all but completely indistinguishable from the original audio, because it is the original audio.



So much for, “I never said that,” eh? Now, that’s merely a technicality.

I’ll get to the rest in a second, but I just want to say that, when I heard this in actual use for the first time, my blood ran cold. Fox News and Breitbart may suck up all the oxygen when it comes to being the face of American clown fascism, but right-wing hate radio is the glue that holds the conservative movement together. If there’s anywhere this technology could do some real damage – and sooner rather than later – it’s in the hands of someone like Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones or Sean Hannity or the like, especially because of the nearly impervious social membrane that separates hate radio from the mainstream press.

Doctored audio would be able to bubble up from the swamp with ease, attended by completely fabricated talking points that will have maximum credibility in conservative echo chambers everywhere, counterfactuals be damned. When you play them the actual video, they’ll just say it’s fake one. That’s how this works. That’s how this always works.

Up next is Face2Face, software designed to capture facial movements in real time and apply them over existing video:



Technology similar to this is currently in use for doing motion capture work in Hollywood, but the amount of detail and fine motor movement on display here is truly unprecedented. Human expression is one of the hardest things to reproduce with animation, and the fact that it can now be done in real time, however roughly, should have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up right…about…now.



Radiolab integrated the two technologies together to create this clip, and while the technology is clearly still in its infancy, there’s little doubt as to its incredibly disturbing potential. When you combine that with the ability of technology to consistently, drastically outpace its ability to be legislated, there’s little doubt in my mind that, once VoCo and Face2Face are ready to go to market (a question of when, not if), “fake news” as we know it is about to get a whoooooooole lot faker.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FAREWELL, FACEBOOK

I’m going to take a break from social media for a little while…as much as I’ve come to depend on sites like Facebook and Twitter for exposing untold numbers of people to my work, carrying on all manner of fascinating and illuminating conversations, organizing all manner of fantastic events, and more, I’ve reached a point where they’re taking a lot more out of me than I’m getting out them, literally and metaphorically.

In addition to the monumental amounts of data that are sucked out from under every keystroke and every mouse click, social media is draining the vitality out of me like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s doing it to all of us, even if we can’t notice it. Like any other garden variety addict, spending the exorbitant amounts of time in social media that I have over the years has made me more sullen, more paranoid, more insecure, and more hostile than I ever was in its absence. The only abatement to those impulses is to lazily scroll or swipe through my feeds, eyes glazed over, watching other people exist in real-time while I pretend to do the same.

Once upon a time, my level of social media consumption was once reserved only for the very geekiest. But we’re all addicts geeks now, and it’s making us meaner, sicker, and poorer than it seems we’ve ever been. And I want out.

Despite what you might think about the people on your “friends” list and how much they like/agree with/support you, social media ultimately comes down to every person for their self. Your lived experience versus everyone else’s. Your ideas versus their ideas. Cultivating “healthy” relationships and communities online really comes down to how well you can cultivate a “brand identity,” and how well you can market that identity to the people on what is essentially your mailing list.

Generally, this all happens pretty smoothly most of the time; any self-respecting social media website strives to guarantee that your experience with their service will fail to ruffle your feathers in any way you don’t prefer. But that’s part of the problem, especially when interactions between fellow Internet travelers inevitably go wrong.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be surrounded by virtual “yes men,” allowing us to agree with each other and disagree with others in more or less perfect harmony. Woe be to those who fail or refuse to sing in key, for many of whom merely being disregarded by their subscribers is a mercy. What happens with far greater frequency is that we turn our perfect harmonies against those who can or will not maintain them, with equal vigor and lack of restraint. It’s easier than ever, when we’re all camped behind the safe anonymity of computer screens. Even when it comes to people we know offline.

Now clearly, this phenomenon hasn’t been without its upsides; I know I’ve benefited plenty from being able to weed most of the bigots and conspiracy weirdos and just-plain-assholes out of my social media spaces, as have untold others. But there is no end to the pursuit and elimination of those people from your presence on social media, especially when doing so feels so damned satisfying. “Friendly fire” isn’t a question of if so much as when. But casualties are inevitable in the Culture War, and you’ll surprise yourself time and again with just how easy it is to justify using emotional violence to quell dissent in the ranks of your mailing list. After all, you’ve got a brand to maintain.

I know that quitting social media isn’t exactly going to do wonders for my already beleaguered blog statistics. I just don’t give a shit. There’s nothing inherently redeemable about social media for me any longer, and I’d rather turn my back and focus on creating the content for my own sake rather than for a bunch of strangers on the Internet. The only reason why I give a shit about most of you is because Facebook told me to.

If that’s not a good reason to take a break, I don’t know what is.

Monday, July 24, 2017

BIPARTISANSHIP, AND OTHER FAIRY TALES


“Bipartisanship” may be the Fool’s Gold of electoral politics, but it’s still nice to see Democrats and Republicans try and turn shit into Shinola every once in a while. From my local rag:
“Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday designed to prod states to reform their bail systems, in an attempt to move forward with criminal justice reform as Congress is caught in partisan gridlock over health care and other issues.

The new bill, which Harris co-wrote with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a former presidential candidate, would spend $10 million annually for three years on grants for states that reform their bail systems. […]


“In courtrooms around America, someone is released before their trial based on whether they can afford write a check or not and not necessarily based on whether they present a risk to their community,” Harris said at a criminal justice reform event in D.C. on Tuesday. “That ain’t right. It’s not fair.” […]


Paul has talked for years about reforming the criminal justice system. “Americans should be able to expect fair and equal treatment under the law regardless of how much money is in their pockets or how many connections they have,” he said in a statement.”
 
To paraphrase myself regarding Game Of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea to make an alt-history show about the Confederacy winning the Civil War, there’s one way that this can go right, 856,294,573,495,173,495 that it can go totally wrong. To which I can hear Rand Paul respond in that unholy, Beavis-meets-Forrest-Gump rasp of a drawl: “Never tell me the odds! Y’know, like Han Solo said in Star Wars! You know the Rebellion was started over Imperials nationalizing businesses all over the galaxy, riiiight? I saw it in a cut scene! I bet George Lucas reads Ayn Raaaaaaand. You know that’s where I got my nickname from, riiiiiight? Star Wars is so coooool!”

God, I hate myself for even typing that out loud.

So yeah…this bill will probably sink before it ever learns to swim, given how staggeringly lucrative the prison-industrial complex is and how woefully craven and fetishistic the Republican Party is. Holding people on bail is one of the easiest ways to fill bunks in any for-profit prison; doesn’t matter how long they keep them for, as long as they can keep ‘em long enough to be seen on to the next P&L statement or two. Who gives a shit if they really belong there or not? There’s license plates what need stamping, plantations what need tending, and pockets what need filling, from shareholders to Senators and everyone in between.

Never mind the fact that, to most of the zealots and bigots who make up the base of the Republican Party, “bipartisanship” is tantamount to treason, and is likely to get you shot primaried from the right before the next electoral season. Without some major right-wing support behind this bill in the Republican-controlled legislature, it ain’t goin’ nowhere. And with current Attorney General and former Keebler mascot Jefferson “Soft Batch” Sessions ready to reinstitute “Reefer Madness” across the nation any day now, we can safely forget about this until 2020, at the very earliest.

Which is a damned shame, considering the circumstances. I hate to play “Misery Olympics” when it comes to the ravages of the corporatocracy, because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, period. But there’s something to be said about the legal, sanctioned, state-subsidized human trafficking operation that is the modern, for profit prison system. It’s like somebody was all, “Hmmm…how can we make legalized, institutionalized slavery even more fucked up and abusive and dehumanizing? Oh, I know! Let’s throw it to the free market!” and all of a sudden, not only was putting (mostly black and brown) people back in chains to work for free self-evidently profitable, but now, whomever crams the most people into their corral makes the most money! It’s a win-win for the aristocracy, where the end justifies nearly any means. Props to Harris and Paul for stepping up and bringing attention to the issue, if nothing else. It may be a token gesture, but it’s better than nothing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

RACE RELATIONS, REVISITED

Malcolm Gladwell: writer, podcaster, Mars Volta stunt double. (H/T The Huffington Post)
If you're not listening to Malcolm Gladwell's new podcast Revisionist History, you're seriously missing out.

The long time New Yorker contributor and five-time New York Times bestseller-listed author's program has an interesting premise: to take seeming inconsequential or uncontroversial moments in history and put them under the microscope in order to demonstrate their consequence, or expose their controversy. Debuting last year with an episode called "The Lady Vanishes," which explored concepts of tokenism, moral licensing, and discrimination in the final moments before the 2016 presidential election through the story of a 19th century painting, Revisionist History has gone on to cover all manner of fascinating subjects, from Wilt Chamberlain's granny shot to the question of, as the website puts it, "whether laughter and social protest are friends or foes." Equal parts funny, achingly poignant, and incredulous, Revisionist History is not a show to be missed, especially now that the second season is well underway.

Gladwell has chosen with this season to focus on race, and the various mythological constructs - both historical and otherwise - that inform American views on the subject today. The first two episodes in this arc examine some pretty spectacular political jiujitsu in the history of the Civil Rights Movement: Brown v. Board Of Education, the landmark legislation that marked the end of segregation, and a famous New York Times photo of racial violence during a protest in Birmingham, Alabama that took the Civil Rights Movement to the national stage.

In "Miss Buchanan's Period Of Adjustment," the language of the Brown is examined and revealed to be based entirely upon false pretext: that segregation was not just unethical, but harmful to the mental development of black children, of which only the former is true. The long-term damage this wrought upon not just upon the education system amongst communities of color, but the nation's perception of black life writ large, has to be heard to be believed.


"The Foot Soldier of Birmingham" examines the story of the iconic photo of a police officer and his dog assaulting a young black man during a protest outside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that made international headlines and brought the eyes of the world upon the American South, and how it, too, had its own false pretext: not only was the cop not assaulting that young man, that young man bore a much closer resemblance to Uncle Rufus than Fred Shuttlesworth, if you know what I mean.


Whatever Malcolm Gladwell has up his sleeve next, I guarantee it'll be a total mindfuck. I know I'll be listening.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

GOOD IDEAS FROM BAD PEOPLE

Today in "That's a great idea! Glad I booted it from the liberals and resold it to the rubes after filing off the serial numbers I thought of it!" news:
"Currently, the CTC is a partially refundable tax credit of $1,000 annually paid out to families for each child in the household under the age of 17. Senators Rubio and Lee have proposed a new child tax credit of $2,500 that could be applied against payroll and income taxes.

To be sure, an expanded CTC has many merits. And given the status quo, I’d take a larger CTC over no additional relief for parents struggling to work and raise children in today’s economy.

But in the long run, targeted investments in paid leave, child care, and wage subsidies are likely to bring about better economic outcomes, provide more relief to the families that need it most, and keep federal spending in check."
Wait...what? Since when did the National Review become so anti-freedom?
"The biggest advantage of the CTC is its flexibility. The CTC is not tied to a specific use, such as offsetting child-care expenses. It arrives with tax returns each year and can be used for anything, from offsetting paid-leave expenses, to meals, to toys, to babysitting, to preschool, to bolstering savings accounts, to shopping sprees. [...]

But the broad nature of the CTC comes with several downsides. Because the CTC is spread out over a large population with few restrictions, it’s quite expensive. The CTC costs $550 billion over a 10-year budget window. The Tax Policy Center estimates that a new partially refundable $2,500 child tax credit could cost $1.2 trillion over the next decade — even a fraction of which would be a major line item by any standard. [...]

In aggregate, the CTC appears to simply make it easier for families to do what they were already doing, with the benefit of additional relief."
If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was reading a ThinkProgress article. This is far too reasonable and big-government-y to have ever been written by some neocon standard-bearer, right?
"A universal credit by its very nature is delivered irrespective of need, timing, or expense, and thus limited in its ability to move the needle on these big issues. The majority of Americans support more targeted efforts to change the status quo, such as a paid-leave policy.

Similarly, there are no accompanying economic effects of the CTC in increasing work-force participation, improving upward mobility, or increasing economic growth, the lack of which find some of their roots in the lack of family-friendly policy in the U.S. [...]

Given the economic challenges we face as a country, investments in family policy that carry robust pro-growth benefits should be particularly attractive. Importantly, stay-at-home parents would benefit from these policies also. Remember that in all households, at least one parent must be working. For this parent, higher wages from EITC investments and tax reform could help to offset the cost of the other parent staying at home or to pay for child-related expenses. Paid parental leave would enable all parents to be at home in the early weeks of a child’s life."
Sounds great! Sign me up! Oh, wait...
"Imagine that Republicans pass an expanded CTC this Congress. The price tag of the new CTC would make it difficult to pay for out of cuts to existing spending. It would provide some relief to parents but not fully take the air out of the balloon for paid leave and child-care reform.

This would give Democrats full runway to pursue their extremely expensive and government-heavy paid-leave and child-care proposals on top of an expanded CTC. It is worth pointing out that this is what Democrats have been wanting all along. In the 2016 presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton proposed expanding the CTC in addition to paid leave and child-care reforms. This may be a good thing for parents across America, but conservatives should realize that this is the worst outcome from a budget perspective and would significantly constrain resources for other investments.

In this regard too, it may be better to address the issues that working parents are facing with targeted policies. A modest paid-parental-leave program such as that put forward by the Trump administration, combined with an expanded and refundable Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and an expanded wage subsidy, would more clearly address some of the major issues families are facing, bring about significant economic benefits, and slow down the implementation of more expansive policies. Paired with broader tax reform, this would put substantial resources back into families’ pockets and grow the economy at the same time."
So essentially, the idea is to push Ivanka's bullshit paid-parental-leave program ($19 billion for her program over the next decade in exchange for nearly $2 TRILLION IN CUTS to social services) and shout from the rafters, "ARE WE NOT GENEROUS?!?!? ARE WE NOT MERCIFUL, YOU SCURRILOUS MOOCHERS?!?!?!" before the Democrats do something crazy stupid ridiculous like, I dunno...not repeatedly knifing the social safety net in the gut just to watch the faces it makes while bleeding out on the floor.

But then there's that whole thing about Hillary's e-mails...

Just keep shopping, America. Everything is fine. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday, July 10, 2017

ICYMI: HEALTH CARE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

"I would say it was even more rigidly segregated. The doctors were segregated and their patients were segregated. The degree of segregation between indigent patients and private patients was much more extreme than it is today. There were separate wings, separate china. Most medical offices in the South, particularly for primary care doctors, had separate waiting rooms, and black patients would be seen only after the white patients were seen.

One of the things that was strikingly different from today: At that time you talked about racial and ethnic differences in health care and in health. The implication was that there were cultural or even genetic differences that explained the differences in the use of health care and outcomes. Now we don’t talk about differences, we talk about disparities. The implication is that if there are differences, it’s the responsibility of providers and not the patients to correct them. Before, [the difference was attributed to] those ignorant people who don’t know how to use health care or take care of themselves. [...]

The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which ended legal segregation in the schools, reinforced the assumption that little would happen because very little progress was being made in desegregating the schools. The decision ordered states to end segregation with “all deliberate speed” but that [meant] no deliberate speed. [So] the hospitals thought they would have to come up with a plan and would proceed very gradually and cautiously with doing this, which would mean it wouldn’t get done. [...]

What’s different is the Title VI enforcement part. The Public Health Service was responsible for enforcing the Medicare nondiscrimination provisions. That created an interesting takeover by the civil rights movement. The three people who were writing the rules were really committed civil rights activists. They wrote the regulations following the direction and pleading of the civil rights organizations: You cannot have “all deliberate speed,” you cannot let anybody in the program unless they’ve complied with some very specific requirements, including no discrimination in  terms of where patients are placed or where people could go to the cafeterias or where they could be employed."
As in most damage reports of American travesty (prospective or otherwise), the specific percentage of black and brown people that stand to lose health care under an ACA repeal doesn't seem to have been accounted for by the CBO. But it doesn't take a genius to know that it's a staggeringly high number, and that far too many people of color stand to be sacrificed to appease Paul Ryan's malevolent tax cut obsession:



I can't help but feel like we're "lucky" in certain respects that Donald Trump screwed the pooch on the Republican Party's quarter-century Presidential breeding program by winning last year's election. A Hillary victory would have undoubtedly put her up against Paul Ryan in 2020, arguably the biggest sociopath Capitol Hill has ever seen; with twice the vile of Donald Trump and none of the brutishness, he would taste great and be less filling for conservative voters, peddling the softest of bigotries in rhetoric and the hardest in policy. His congeniality could very well have signed her death warrant, and reinvigorated neoconservative policies for another quarter century.In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for his repeated efforts at gleefully ripping the entrails of our social safety net to bloody ribbons so the aristocracy can have yet another tax cut.

Lesser of two evils, I guess...