Send Out the Clowns — Trump in Europe, Congress in Sane

July 12th 2018

“I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk how many times did you look all innocent in your wife’s eyes and lie about Ms. Page.”

And with that, Louie Gohmert, well known as being the most vicious clown in Congress, managed a new personal low, talking that august body, the House of Representatives, with him.

Wait, did I say ‘august’? Silly me. It’s only July. Although a case can be made for Congress being August; after all, that’s the dog days, and Congress has no shortage of curs.

Gohmert was attacking Peter Strzok, the FBI employee who wrote emails to his girlfriend disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump. Gohmert was exercising whatever it is that passes in him for moral outrage to defend the honor of serial adulterer Donald Trump.

It was a low point, but not by much. The Republicans were doing everything in their power to discredit Strzok, the FBI, the Justice Department, and anything and anyone that might bring Donald Trump and much of their own criminal party to justice.

The ones that weren’t vicious were almost preposterously stupid. Paul Gosar, an Arizona dentist who got tired of working for a living and ran for Congress, said to Strzok, “I’m a dentist, OK? So I read body language very, very well. And I watched you comment in your interactions with Mr. Gowdy. You got very angry in regards to the Gold Star father. That shows me that it’s innately a part of you and a bias.”

Well, OK, then. Let’s see if we can recreate the situation in that air conditioned dentist’s office that made Gosar such an expert.

Observe, Watson. The patient has his hands drawn into claws. His back is arched, his face is red, tears are streaming from the sides of his eyes, and he is emitting a loud, shrill, unpleasant noise. Do you note?”

“Amazing, Gosar. I have observed, and noted none of these things. How do you do it?”

“Acute powers of observation, Watson. Nothing more. But what do you deduce from this?

“The patient is, perhaps, a Democrat.”

“That is possible. Likely, even. But it suggests something a more immediate nature, Watson.”

“What would that be, Gosar?”

“That I forgot to administer the novocaine.”

Yes, he’s a member of Congress. Three terms now. The tide brings him in every two years, and the voters keep throwing him back. Bad teeth must be a small price to pay.

Republicans actually tried to threaten Strzok with contempt of Congress for refusing to divulge FBI investigation details that he is forbidden by law to answer. It happened like this: After declaring a motion to adjourn out of order, Chairman Goodlatte, who will never be associated with a tasty coffee drink, erupted in fury that Strzok refused to answer questions pertaining to confidential or secret FBI matters and threatened him with Contempt, despite an existing agreement that the committee honor such restrictions on what they could demand of him. Gleeful Democrats demanded the committee recall Steve Bannon, who also refused to answer some questions, but his basis was that to do so might embarrass President Trump.

They even tried accusing Strzok of claiming Trump supporters stink because he went to a Walmart in the sticks and “could smell the levels of Trump support.” Apparently metaphor is beyond the intellectual capabilities of the moral giants and magic dentists of the GOP.

The Republicans were betting the farm that they would find something, anything, to suggest that a) Strzok was tring to influence the 2016 presidential election and b) that the Russians were not. It’s safe to say they failed miserably, managing in front of a huge television audience, to thoroughly cover themselves in shit. Contempt of Congress isn’t a crime; it’s a sign of mental health.

Congress wasn’t the only branch of government making a complete ass of itself, of course. Trump barreled through Europe, doing all he could go blow up NATO. (Ironically, at the same moment that Strzok was explaining to the Committee that his remark that Trump must be stopped was based on Trump’s campaign pledge to make defense of NATO allies conditional on how much vig they put up.) He deep-sixed his own ally other than Putin by telling Prime Minister Teresa May publicly that she handled brexit all wrong.

(Remember the howls of outrage when Obama told the Brits that Brexit would move the UK down a notch as a trading partner to America? “Monstrous outrage” was one of the terms they used. According to Faux News, “Trump slams British PM over Brexit plan, warns US trade deal ‘probably’ dead in the water.” with the sub header, “Despite anger in London, Trump finds support in England’s pro-Brexit working“-class towns.” Oh, well, that’s OK then. He has support in Sheffield, so who cares what London thinks? )

Obama said Brexit was a mistake, and was clearly trying to interfere in someone else’s election, and that’s not a bit like Trump’s best budyy, that nice Mister Putin, who wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.

Speaking of which, Putin and Trump meet in Finland next. No staffers, no aids, no interpreters. No witnesses.

It’s a truly terrifying prospect.

But perhaps Congressman/Dentist Gosar will read their body language as they leave the meeting, and tell us just how badly Trump has sold us all out.

NOTE: Article corrected to reflect that Putin and Trump are meeting in Finland, not Iceland as I originally stated.

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Kavanaugh — The latest face in America’s decline into fascism

July 10th 2018

There’s a story going around that the reason Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh as his second nominee to the Supreme Court is that retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy offered to retire now and not after the midterms if Trump picked Kavanaugh to replace him. The thinly-sourced story, broken by NBC, seems unlikely on the face of it. Kennedy may like or not like Kavanaugh, but it’s unlikely he sees him as a continuation of the Kennedy legacy—whatever that is.

Slightly more plausible is the theory that Trump just wanted to annoy liberals. The day after his announcement, he pardoned the Hammonds, a couple of common land thieves who deliberately set fire to publicly-owned federal lands in hopes of making the land worthless for anything other than grazing. He saw their cause as anti-environmental, one of the more suicidal elements of Republican spite.

But the infantile philosophy of “Kiss a Nazi, it really annoys Democrats” could have pertained to any of the names on his showy short list, all of whom were religious whacks who disguised utter contempt for the Constitution in the nonsense jargon of ‘original intent.’ If the Constitution, hotly debated and compromised from the first word to the last, was crystal clear in its intent, what would we need with a Supreme Court?

All of them had appalling Dominionist policies, coupled with a deep, fascistic desire to make Americans the property of corporations.

Another theory going around is that Kavanaugh was willing to swear loyalty to Trump personally as a condition of being nominated. That one is much more credible, because Trump has made similar demands of his other appointees and department heads, including most notoriously James Comey. Kavanaugh would just be Tony Soprano’s Big Pussy (“Please. Not in the face.”). Is Kavanaugh dishonest and dishonorable enough to agree to such an oath in return for the coveted seat? I hope the Senate asks him about that.

No, the main reason Trump selected Kavanaugh over the sad pack of godstruck corporate hacks was because Kavanaugh, and Kavanaugh alone, was on record—repeatedly—of asserting that a sitting president should not be subject to indictment or criminal persecution while in office. It seems a curious stance for a man who played a leading role in the writing of the Starr Report, a damp piece of juvenile pornography (“Daddy, what does ‘analingus’ mean?) that was used to impeach and lynch a sitting president. The Starr Special Counsel’s office leaked like a syphiletic penis, and some believe Kavanaugh to be the starr leaker, particularly the juicy Monica Lewinsky scandal that the Republicans hoped would finish off Bill Clinton.

In the Minnesota Law Review in 2008 Kavanaugh penned an article entitled “Separation of Powers,” in which he wrote:

The result the Supreme Court reached in Clinton v. Jones—that presidents are not constitutionally entitled to deferral of civil suits—may well have been entirely correct; that is beyond the scope of this inquiry. But the Court in Jones stated that Congress is free to provide a temporary deferral of civil suits while the President is in office.

Congress may be wise to do so, just as it has done for certain members of the military. Deferral would allow the President to focus on the vital duties he was elected to perform. Congress should consider doing the same, moreover, with respect to criminal investigations and prosecutions of the President.

In particular, Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel. Criminal investigations targeted at or revolving around a President are inevitably politicized by both

their supporters and critics. As I have written before, “no Attorney General or special counsel will have the necessary credibility to avoid the inevitable charges that he is politically motivated—whether in favor of the President or against him, depending on the individual leading the investigation and its results.”

The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.

Even standing alone, the argument is radical. It isn’t enough that a president be shielded from criminal indictment, he argues; the President should be shielded from criminal investigation. Not only would a president be exempt from criminal law; he would be exempt from any inquiry of whether any evidence of criminal activity existed. Under such an arrangement, there could be no investigation into the 1972 Watergate break-in until 1977, when an unchallenged Nixon finally left office.

The appeal to Trump is obvious. It’s his ‘get out of jail free’ card, held by someone he probably regards as his own personal justice. It’s probably the main—indeed the only—reason he picked Kavanaugh.

But there is a drawback to Trump’s fantasy that he’s probably too dim to be aware of, and it’s almost certain Kavanaugh does know what it is, and chose not to mention it to Trump.

Clinton vs. Jones is stare decisis –- standing law –- and while it can be modified by an act of Congress, it cannot be done ex post facto, or after the fact. It could only apply to future inquiries against future presidents. Such a law would not apply to the existing Mueller investigation, or any of its findings.

Given his writings, Kavanaugh would have to rule in a way Trump would not like, not one little bit. That, or he could recuse himself, and we all know Trump doesn’t handle recusals at all well. Although that course of action would reflect better on Kavanaugh.

Congress might pass such a law between now and January (unlikely, since it would require 60 votes in the Senate) and the SC would probably find itself being petitioned for an emergency ruling at that point, or risk a possible revolution. Public tensions would be sky-high.

At that point, the Court would have to decide between law and order, or Trump and chaos.

When Propagandists Whine, Everyone Suffers

June 25th 2018

With Trump on the ropes because of the vast backlash to his policy of throwing thousands of children into cages, stripping them of their families, and lying in fifteen directions at once over what he was doing and why he was doing it, his pet propagandists are out in force right now.

Most of them remind me of nothing so much as the German propaganda film from the late thirties which infamously portrayed children in a German camp as plump, happy, clean, well fed, gamboling in the summer sun while their German caretakers looked on, beaming avuncularly.

Trump’s lackeys and sycophants are emulating fearless leader, lying in all directions at once and trying to pretend that Uncle Donald just sent the little darlings off to a jolly holiday camp where they can get food and water and even use the toilet.

Some of the claims are outlandish. Some are just vile. From the Guardian comments section, I culled a few. They aren’t representative of the commentary in the Guardian, which overwhelmingly condemns the forced separations and internments of children:

10,000 of the 12,000 children were trafficked in unaccompanied. They really need to stop illegal immigration in the first place”

Well, it they were unaccompanied, then who trafficked them? Oh, and I thought is was 3,300 children. Is there something you want to tell us?

It happens all the time in the justice system in both the UK and US.”

England stopped such barbaric practices in the 19th century, and I don’t know if the United States ever did have children imprisoned because their parents were accused of minor crimes. Until now.

Many of the children will stay with family members and have visiting rights to their parent. There is no risk of them becoming permanently separated.”

By all reliable accounts (this excludes the administration, obviously) the border agents aren’t even filling out paperwork to indicate what children are being separated from what parents. Now most kids over the age of six know their parents as other than “Mommy” and “Daddy” and may even have a telephone number or address memorized. So maybe they will see their parents again. The ‘tender age’ crowd (a term that sounds unpleasantly like cat food) are plumb shit out of luck. Especially the pre-vocal lot.

There was more, and of course, since the Guardian has standards, the really racist and defamatory stuff was moderated. If you really want to see examples, there’s no shortage of them on Faux News, or at Breitbart. Trump has really unleashed America’s inner Nazi.

And Nazi is exactly the right term to use in this case. The rhetoric about refugees or simple border-jumpers is on the same level that Hitler used to defame Jews and other “undesirables” back in the 1930s, and the siege of calumny and dehumanization of entire groups of people can lead only to the same horrific climax—there are no good intentions surrounding this sort of propaganda.

While the posters on the Guardian and other blogs have little to fear other than the dread that their children and grandchildren might learn their true role in these times, the sleek propagandists of Faux and other media outlets should consider what became of their fellow “dysreality advocates” over the past century:

Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. “Baghdad Bob.” Exiled to United Arab Emirates

Mildred Gillars. “Axis Sally.” Gillars was fined $100,000 and sentenced to 30 years in prison (served 15)

William Joyce. “Lord Haw Haw.” Hanged by the Brits.

Ritta Zucca. Propagandist for Mussolini. Exiled from America, sentenced to four years by an Italian court.

Iva Toguri. “Tokyo Rose.” Tried for treason, sentenced to 10 years, served eight. Pardoned by Ford when it came to light much of the evidence against her was fabricated.

Anna Wallis. “Seoul City Sue.” Propagandist for North Korea during war. Assassinated, South Korea blamed.

Trinh Thi Ngo. Hanoi Hannah Not punished. Her side won.

It’s worth noting that with the exception of Muhammad and Trinh, all these paid liars were Americans. Contrary to American propaganda, Americans don’t hate propaganda.

Jews don’t drink the blood of Christian babies, and refugees and migrant workers don’t want to sell drugs to school kids, rape our women, or offer to take jobs by working for $3/hour. They aren’t gang members (aside from a tiny number attracted by America’s penchant for criminalizing personal behavior).

The number of refugees and other migrants is trivial; as a percentage of the American population, they are the smallest ratio since records began in the 1910s. That’s both documented and undocumented combined.

Crime rates are lower amongst aliens of all kinds than amongst native born Americans. This is particularly true of violent crime.

They don’t take jobs from hard-working Americans: they earn jobs from lazy bastards who want others to do the work. American agriculture has seen over a billion dollars in crops losses this year alone, and the main harvest season is just now approaching for many crops.

They aren’t a drain on the economy: a 2017 report commissioned by the DHS and hurriedly buried by the Administration showed that America enjoyed a net gain of $63 billion over the previous ten years from their migrant population. Migrants pay payroll taxes, pay property taxes, pay sales taxes, and in return cannot collect social security, cannot get medical care other than emergency, and in some states cannot drive on the roads they help pay for. The ones taking the good jobs are here legally, and have as much right to those jobs as anyone else.

It’s easy to vilify groups of people and make them scapegoats. Demagogues and would-be dictators have used that gambit since time immemorial, and Donald Trump is using it now.

But there’s always a horrible price to be paid, and it isn’t always paid by the intended victims. Hitler’s policies led to the destruction and disgracing of Germany.

Speaking of disgracing, there are loud howls and whines about Trump administration members being harassed and even denied service in restaurants. Apparently, it’s so very, very unfair to treat a Nazi like a Nazi when they are off the clock.

These “victims” are locking children up in cages, lying about what they are doing, and smearing the parents as they do so.

If they want to stop being treated as contemptible, vicious, demagogic lackeys to a tin horn dictator, there is a simple solution: Stop being contemptible, vicious, demagogic lackeys to a tin horn dictator. Scrape up some principles, stand on them, and resign.

And Americans need to consume some history before history consumes them.

It Can’t Happen Here — Of Course It Can. It Just Did.

June 18th 2018

Is there anyone reading this who approves of taking children from undocumented immigrants and throwing them in concentration camps? If so, please stop reading now, and go throw yourself into the intake of a running jet engine, or try flossing with a running chainsaw. I don’t much care what happens to you, as long as I don’t have to put up with you. Go. Now.

“It Can’t Happen Here” is, of course, the title of a 1935 satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis. It was a time of Huey Long and Father Coughlin, when American plutocrats openly admired fascism and strove to push America in the same direction as Germany and Italy. Both the Presidents Bush and Trump are descendants of the 1930s proto-Nazis who thought Hitler offered a better way.

It was also a time when Americans viewed themselves as independent and freer than any people on the face of the Earth* (well, the 35% of Americans who could own property if they wanted, eat at any restaurant, or run for office). It was a time when the notion that big business was a friend to Americans and would treat them fairly was rapidly losing ground, and both fascism and communism were gaining ground amongst working Americans with promises of decent income and respect.

Lewis understood that in times of deep national crisis, Americans could be their own worst enemy, more than willing, desperate to follow the siren songs of every demagogue that came down the path. And of course, quite a few did.

As horrible as the current situation is, I do see one ray of hope. I’ve never seen the American public so outraged, and it includes segments of the population that I believed had simply abandoned all ethics and decency in order to follow Trump. Wide swatches of the fundamentalist Christian movement, which had just last month been 80% pro-Trump, are not only breaking with Trump over the incredible cruelty of his immigration policy. Two governors, in Massachusetts and Colorado, have respectively pulled their National Guard or mandated they not participate in the ‘jail the children’ movement. Every single living first lady, including Melania, have condemned this.

Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, America’s tag-team of five-and-dime fascists, openly chortled over how effective truly vicious cruelty could be in dealing with the relatively trivial problem of immigrants sneaking in. Jeff Sessions, America’s most despicable Southern-fried pixie, described the Trump policy as “zero-tolerance policy that leads to the high rate of family separations as a method to deter immigrants.”

Steal their children and throw them in the camps. His answer to the immigration problem is to turn American into a place no decent, sane person would ever want to visit. It’s an effective policy; immigration to Germany plummeted in the late 30s.

Trump tried to play all sides of the issue, first declaring that throwing children in concentration camps would continue until he got his silly wall. Then he said it was a Democratic Law that was causing it, and his hands were tied. (Apparently he forgot that the policy—not law, policy—of jailing the kids began just six weeks ago). Most recently, he sent his forlorn flack, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen out to explain that America wasn’t throwing children in camps. They shipped the Gestapo head in all the way from New Orleans, where she presumably was setting fire to kittens, to fill in for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently couldn’t take another day of discussing the matter with the press.

Sanders is the most shameless and souless liar in America, and it would be nice to assume that she finally reached the bottom, ethically and spiritually. Hell, maybe she has. She wouldn’t be the first fundie this week to go, “Hey, Trump ain’t no Jesus! He’s a dirtbag!”

Trump today declared America would not become a “migrant camp.” Silly bastard doesn’t realize the United States have ALWAYS been a migrant camp. Nearly all of us are from somewhere else. Trump’s grandfather was from Germany, and opened a whore house in Canada. Then came to America to inflict his predatory capitalism on Americans. A fine family tradition.

I wonder how many members of the Trump administration have asked themselves, “Suppose it was my kids? How would I feel if they were forcibly taken from me, and tossed into a camp where they were not to be told how long they would be there, or if they would ever see their parents again? If the children cried, nobody could comfort them or even touch them. Apparently the administration isn’t even keeping track of what kids belong to what parents.  Have they discarded the notion that some of these kids might survive the camps?

An audiotape came out today that had one of the concentration camp guards mocking a childrenfor crying. Said guard sounds like someone who needs to be run over by a bus. Slowly. Repeatedly. While an orchestra plays. He can conduct, if he wants.

But Sanders probably just didn’t want to put up with those uppity reporters. I’m quite certain Trump is looking for internment facilities for the media, CNN in particular.

Or maybe she realized the Trump administration is doomed, and is just mailing it in now.

Doesn’t matter. Once she’s out of the White House, she’ll spend the rest of her life trying not to be recognized whenever she goes outside. That seems a reasonable fate.

Meanwhile, Trumpkins need to beware. Autocrats like Trump always end up turning on their own, and before America finally rids itself of him, he’ll have a fair bit of opportunity to do just that. Just ask Jeff Sessions. (OK, Sessions richly deserves abuse. But still).

Trumpkins, the next children Trump throws into the maw of his vicious Gulag monument to his ego might be yours. History makes that a near certainty. Especially if Americans wait too long, and this dissolute monster consolidates his power.

Blame Canada — Or maybe it’s Canadian Bacon

Blame Canada — Or maybe it’s Canadian Bacon

June 10th 2018

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) just defined the term “custard head” by agreeing that if the summit between Pissmop and Little Rocket Man blow up, it’s all Canada’s fault. The only reason he won’t replace “custard head” in the dictionary is because it’s much easier to spell and pronounce than is Krishnamoorthi. Still, his constituents, in a deep blue district, need to peer closely at their Congressman and ask themselves if the man is secretly an idiot, or maybe just had one too many that morning.

You expect this sort of lunacy from the Trump administration, and most of the Republicans in Congress, who are so busy trying to conclude their coup against the United States that they basically don’t give a wet shit how crazy Donald is, so long as they can finish off the New Deal and those pesky Civil Rights that they hate so much.

It’s easy to dismiss Krishnamoorthi as a custard head. It’s kind of the default state of Trump supporters these days. There’s also the crooks and the traitors, but they tend to be a subset. Most Trump supporters are fools. Either they know what he is and don’t care, or they don’t know what he is. Either state requires a heroic amount of stupidity.

“Krishnamoorthi was cuing off shameless Trumpenflak Peter Navarro, who actually said out lout, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door, and that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference…That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”

OK, I immediately thought of the song, “Blame Canada” from the animated movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.”

But I also thought of Michael Moore’s foray into fictional satire, the movie, “Canadian Bacon.” In it, a US president (Alan Alda) is tricked into a near-nuclear war with Canada by a lunatic businessman (GD Spradlin) whose business failure he blames on Canadian tariffs. As the crisis mushrooms (so to speak) Alda’s character tries to phony up a new cold war with the Russian president, a fellow named Vladimir, and when that fails, proposes an international war on terrorism, a concept his cabinet dismisses as too absurd for words. He doesn’t want a war with Canada; he is educated, and knows what happened whenever the US tried messing with Canada. It never went well.

It’s depressing how sane and intelligent the characters, even Spradlin’s, are, compared to what we have in reality now.

Michael Moore made that movie 23 years ago. Obviously this is all his fault.

OK, so if Trump screws up in his meeting with Kim Jung Un, it’s Trudeau’s fault. He made Trump look weak, foolish and brittle, qualities nobody had ever suspected of Trump before the all-powerful Trudeau destroyed him.

I suspect that Trudeau, who is widely viewed in Canada as a kitten with some housebreaking issues, is Trump’s go-to foil, someone he can blame for if the talks are so catastrophic that even Trump can’t put lipstick on it. Trudeau is a lightweight who is a bit too cozy with oil and some other vested interests. He does great photo op, and has a knack for crowd-pleasing moves. Machiavellian and possessed of great personal power he is not. If his last name was “Smith” he would probably be in the Civil Service, in charge of teaching French in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yes, Canada has a province called “Newfoundland and Labrador.” It used to be just “Newfoundland” but someone decided a mouthful like that needed four more syllables. It’s not quite as goofy as “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”, but it is in the same league. Oh, wait. No, it’s in the Canadian League. But I digress.

I spent some time trying to think of historical parallels to this. I’m sure there are some, since many leaders in history have been childish, bratty, and incapable of normal human relationships. Most of them have been (wisely) forgotten by history. A fellow named Dr. Robert Sternberg wrote a book called Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish, and identified five fallacies associated with bad or unwise leadership. These fallacies were, in order given: Unrealistic Optimism; Ego-Centrism; Omniscience; Omnipotence; and Invulnerability. All involve large amounts of self-deception, slopping over into delusion.

Hmm. Looks like Trump is what the baseball scouts call “a five-tool player”. He makes Louie Gohmert look sane. That’s terrifying. He makes Krishnamoorthi look smart, even as he makes him sound stupid. That’s pretty scary, too.

Now, I’ve said in the past that I never expected this summit to take place. I figured someone in the Trump administration would figure out a way to put the brakes on this diplomatic disaster. But I keep underestimated the Republican capacity for servility and cowardice when it comes to Trump. They really are pathetic.

Trump, barring a massive political insult even he can’t ignore, will come back, gloating over his great victory. He will have convinced North Korea to destroy its nuclear arsenal, and in return, all America will have to do is destroy its own nuclear arsenal, cede Hawaii to North Korea, and become a province of Russia. Hawaii, because volcanoes and it will annoy the shit out of Barack Obama, and Russia because…well, that had nothing to do with Korea. He was going to do that anyway.

Chuck Schumer, a bit of a kitten himself, tweeted, “Are we executing Putin’s diplomatic and national security strategy or AMERICA’s diplomatic and national security strategy? After the last few days, it’s hard to tell.” No, actually, it’s all too easy to tell. Trump is a fool, a crook, and a traitor.

Now, Kim might greet Trump by telling him “I like Trudeau because he makes you look weak and stupid.” And during negotiations, speak to his aides (well, his sister) in Korea, with the only English word in clear being “Mueller” interspersed with giggles.

At which point, Trump will declare war on Canada, and then attack Mexico because someone handed him the map upside down.

Milkin’ It — Why Canada Won’t Be Cowed By Trump

June 9th 2018

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

In the chaotic and insane presser Trump gave at the G6+1 summit in Québec he railed about the Canadian tariffs of 270% on American dairy products. He howled that this was a devastating blow to America’s brave, patriot dairy farmers, or words to that effect. Canada was screwing America inside out, an insult not to be borne!

Oh, those awful, awful Canucks. (Truth in Advertising time for those who didn’t already know: I’m a Canuck). Two hundred and seventy percent! No wonder America’s going down the tubes! It’s probably why the US budget will have an extra trillion deficit next year!

Well, it was almost lost in the avalanche of sheer nonsense that Pissmop uttered during that strange press conference, but what makes his whines about Canadian dairy pure nonsense is this one inconvenient fact: The US actually enjoys a trade surplus with Canada in dairy. It’s about a 5-1 trade surplus, at that. Granted, the market, in both directions, is minuscule—about $600 million US—but it still means that the US exports about a half billion in dairy to Canada while Canada exports about $100 million to the US. Now, in case Trump is reading this, I’ll type it very slowly: The US does not have a trade deficit with Canada over dairy, the stuff that comes from cows, and for some reason, hens. It actually sells more than it buys. Have someone with actual business experience explain it to you, Donald.

So why is Fearless Leader pissing and moaning about Canadian cows? The best reason anyone can think of is that Canada has a regulated, efficient and effective dairy industry, whereas the American one is in such an intense state of cutthroat competition that there is a huge oversupply of milk, with the result that the “gate price”–the price distributors are willing to pay to take it off farmers’ hands—is lower than what it cost the farmers to produce the milk. And that’s with the cows doing all the work.

American dairy farmers overproduce, hoping that having more to sell means that more will be bought, and they will thus get a bigger share of the market. Anyone who has taken Econ 101 in high school knows this is utter nonsense, and someone who knows anyone who took Econ 101 in high school will probably be able to explain it to Pissmop.

Milk is milk is milk; there isn’t a great variation in quality from one farm to the next, despite what the advertising says, so the market is free to select the lowest price, knowing the quality will be about equal to the stuff selling for a few pennies more per gallon or liter. Which further drives down prices.

What will happen is what is happening: small farms are being driven, and the big dairy companies are buying their stock, overproducing yet more to destroy the remaining small farmers, and eventually they will turn on one another, and classic economics suggest we’ll eventually end up with a consortium of three-to-five big companies that will collude to artificially raise milk prices and limit supply. This is known as “the free market”, a market in which suppliers, consumers, and the product are anything but free in any sense of the word.

Not only are American farmers going broke competing with one another, but last year they cumulatively threw away forty three million gallons of milk—literally dumped into holes in the ground.

In Canada, they have this thing called “Supply management.” The Canadian Dairy Commission (and doesn’t the name just scream “Nazi socialism”?) set national quotas on supply, and coordinate with the ten provinces to ensure a stable market in which supply very nearly matches demand. (I don’t know if it applies in the Territories, despite that being nearly half of Canadian real estate—I haven’t heard much about an Inuit dairy industry, and cows are notoriously unhappy on ice).

Now here’s the thing: It works. It works extremely well. Yes, it means higher prices for consumers, but since Canadians enjoy a higher level of disposable income, nobody minds much. They look at the madness of the American industry and realize that the extra fifty cents a liter is a wise investment.

American wants a dumping ground for the surpluses created by its overheated cutthroat industry, and Canada isn’t interested in destroying its own efficient and effective industry in order to oblige suicidally competitive American dairy farmers. Nor do they want a system that encourages such patently destructive competition. They are also suspicious of lax American regulations regarding the use of hormones and antibiotics in cattle, and GMOs. The wild-west approach to basic health and safety measures in America has led to a deepening mistrust of American food products.

Pissmop has to know he’s spewing nonsense when he attacks Canada over dairy trade imbalances, since it’s obvious the existing imbalance actually works in America’s favor. (Part of the reason for that is that Canada doesn’t limit imports on cheese, and the American standards for cheese, which include permitting a certain amount of animal parts in the cheese, is much lower—as are the prices.)

Trump is taking a similar approach to trade with the rest of the world: American can’t compete because standards are low for their products, so Trump is demanding the rest of the world lower their health and safety regulations to let America compete “on a level playing field.”

The problem is the rest of the world, including Canada, perhaps America’s best friend, are looking at the US the way is is right now and muttering to themselves, “Don’t be that guy.”

Barring Roseanne — Even Deplorables Should Have Rights

Barring Roseanne

Even Deplorables Should Have Rights

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

May 31st 2018

It’s really hard to scrape up a lot of sympathy for Roseann Barr. She has a long history of saying despicable things, and embraces conspiracy theories that seem geared toward hurting innocent people. She really is a swine.

And I’ll be the first to admit I felt a certain amount of schadenfreude when I watched the deplorables of the far right, from the President on up, who had been cheering with glee at the NFL’s decision to fine players for silent and respectful protest who now were consumed in fury at ABC’s trampling of Roseanne’s first amendment rights. Most of them didn’t even notice any inconsistency there.

In fairness, there were plenty on the left who were equally inconsistent, only in the opposite direction. A lot of people have a territorial approach to civil rights, one of the reasons those rights have been degrading in recent decades.

Back in my Usenet days, we had this one troll who used to brag that he owned a factory, and that he would, from time to time, stroll through the employee parking lot, and any vehicle displaying a bumper sticker for any candidate or cause he didn’t support would result in that employee being fired.

Now this guy was just a troll, a nobody who just liked to annoy folks, but the fact is in many parts of the country, an employer can do exactly that. Most states have “at will” employment laws, which allow a employer to dismiss an employee for no stated reason. This allows employers to fire someone for having a Bernie sticker on their car, or for being black, or gay, or speaking Spanish in the break room. It makes all those feel-good fair employment practices laws utterly useless, and leaves employers free to punish any viewpoint they don’t like.

There are a lot of jobs where someone being racist should be fired, because they are in positions where their racism can hurt people, even kill them. Teachers. Police. Firemen. Medical personnel. Politicians. That list doesn’t include entertainers such as football players or TV actors. It doesn’t include line workers with Bernie (or Trump) decals on their cars.

The dividing line should be: can this person’s assholery cause them to infringe on the right of others as part of their jobs? If it can, the employer is justified in firing them. If it doesn’t, but they are trying to involve the employer in their deplorability (“I work for Greasy Spoon restaurants and I think all gays should be castrated” on Facebook) that would be reasonable cause for termination).

Outfits that try to deny others their rights should be subject to civil suits. Nobody needs to care if the owner of Greasy Spoon Restaurants is a nasty little bigot, as long as that doesn’t translate to discrimination in the restaurants. If it does, Greasy Spoon needs to suffer grievously in court.

Roseanne Barr is just a television entertainer. Her opinions might disgust people, but they don’t deprive them of their rights. She’s just another asshole on Twitter. Her employer should not have the power to destroy her career just because she’s a jackass on her own time. Just as football players should not be fined by their employers for quietly protesting injustice. You can’t support one and not the other.

But employers should, by law, have to account for terminations. There’s a lot they need to account for that they don’t, and as a result, while Americans still have a vestige of civil rights, American workers have less rights than the lowest beggar in Calcutta, often only fractionally above that of American slaves.

Liberals love to push for legislation that protects people from discrimination but turn a blind eye to the ability of employers to discriminate pretty much at will, making the rights they fight for meaningless.

American fascists love to pretend that liberalism is leftist (at least when it suits their purposes, as in smearing a liberal though red-baiting) but the fact is they are usually two different things.

It’s in the interest of liberals to fight vociferously for worker’s rights, consumer rights, and curbs on banks, churches, corporations and the government. People’s rights are much easier to defend when the people involved have some actual economic clout. A person without income security has no rights.

This includes not making people’s first amendment rights subject to caprice on the part of employers. You have a right to make an obnoxious fool of yourself—or make a principled stand, demonstrating dignity and courage. Both are usually in the eye of the beholder, and that beholder shouldn’t be able to make or break you for being a human. Either way, your employer should not have any say in the matter, so long as you aren’t involving them directly.

People gain by defending the rights of everyone, and remembering that having rights doesn’t include stripping others of their rights. It doesn’t matter if you think Roseanne Barr is full of it, or Colin Kaepernick; either way, they shouldn’t be subject to penalization in their work by employers. What ABC and the NFL did was the equivalent of that Usenet troll, strolling through the parking lot of his imaginary factory and capriciously firing people for the crime of having opinions. Only these are real people, losing real jobs, for bullshit reasons.

Until you have power in the workplace, you don’t have rights; you barely have a life.