The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wormtongue in the Oval

By now, everyone in the world has heard about President Trump's patently unconstitutional order to ban refugees from some majority-Muslim nations (except, coincidentally, not from those with which he has business dealings). But after his first Take Out the Trash Day, he did something a lot more far-reaching and dangerous yesterday:

President Donald Trump is reshuffling the US National Security Council (NSC), downgrading the military chiefs of staff and giving a regular seat to his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Mr Bannon, formerly the head of the populist right-wing, Breitbart News website, will join high-level discussions about national security.

The order was signed on Saturday.

The director of national intelligence and the joint chiefs will attend when discussions pertain to their areas.

Under previous administrations, the director and joint chiefs attended all meetings of the NSC's inner circle, the principals' committee.

On the point of the anti-Muslim ban, Lyft this morning announced a $1m donation to the ACLU to protest it. Good for them. (Uber only turned off surge pricing at JFK and offered to compensate their drivers who were detained, which at the moment could be as few as zero.)

Meanwhile, Republicans who slammed trump just 13 months ago after he said that he was going to do this were remarkably conciliatory when it actually happened. It's almost as if they're opportunistic toadies, who are morally complicit in Trump's attacks on American institutions.

So, anti-Semite and power-drunk Steve Bannon scores a twofer, nicely capping the president's first horrific week in office.

And for those who want a reminder of the reference:

Charlie Pierce on that interview

After seeing ABC's interview of the President, Charlie Pierce hadn't "been this horrified since JFK told us about the Cuban Missile Crisis:"

Holy mother of god.

The only demonstrable difference between Muir's conversation with Donald Trump and Katie Couric's legendary encounter with Sarah Palin is that Trump actually is the President* of the United States. He actually has the nuclear codes. He actually is enacting actual policies that will affect actual people. He actually did happen to the oldest self-governing republic on Earth...

And lest we lose sight of why Zaphod Beeblebrox is now in the Oval Office:

I wish the biggest problem with the new president* was that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and that what he is talking is insane ragtime from a campaign that, in his mind, never has ended. However, the biggest problem is that, while he's out talking the insane ragtime, truly retrograde policies are zooming into place from people with their own private agendas.

The more stringent "gag rule" on abortion that Trump signed into place with his executive order is pure Mike Pence. While Trump is blathering on about crowd size and Peyton Manning, Paul Ryan is as close as he's ever been to his golden dream of dismantling the social programs that, in his mind, stopped serving a useful purpose when they got him through college. The country's environmental programs are being handed over to people who would frack their grandmother's old gray head if they thought there was a buck to be made in doing it.

They need a front man who is both unintelligent enough not to get in the way, and enough of a freak show to distract the public from what they're really up to. Luckily, we hit the jackpot for them.

Four years of this? It hasn't even been a week.

Welcome to President Camp!

Remember when we in the reality-based community said that Donald Trump didn't have the bare minimum intellectual, emotional, or moral capital to qualify for the office of president? We weren't bloody wrong. New York Times reporter gives us a glimpse into the new life of President Trump that confirms our deepest worries:

“These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

His mornings, he said, are spent as they were in Trump Tower. He rises before 6 a.m., watches television tuned to a cable channel first in the residence, and later in a small dining room in the West Wing, and looks through the morning newspapers: The New York Times, The New York Post and now The Washington Post.

But his meetings now begin at 9 a.m., earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.

“They have a lot of board rooms,” he said of the White House, an apparent reference to the Cabinet Room and the Roosevelt Room.

He said he was enjoying himself so far, despite his visible displeasure with the coverage of his inauguration and the first performance of his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who shouted at the news media and made numerous false statements about Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowds in the White House briefing room on Saturday.

Read the whole thing. Every paragraph has a jewel in it. And then, at the bottom of the article, the Times website has this:

This, you see, is punctuation. Because the least-qualified human being ever to be president of the United States still has the enormous power that comes with the office, and he's using it exactly as he said he would.

Long day, so much to read later

Tabs open but not read in my browser:

There was one more item, but it's too big to gloss over.

The republic staggers

Krugman's column from yesterday—the day Donald Trump was actually elected our next President—echoes a concern I've had for years:

I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

... [T]he sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

Meanwhile, Trump set another new low yesterday when 7 electors voted for someone other than who they were pledged to vote, the largest such group since the 12th Amendment essentially enshrined two-party politics into our system.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

Articles to read this weekend

So many meetings today, so many articles in my queue:

Tired of all this Trump crap? Have some chocolate-truffle brownies. They look delicious.

Price is wrong

With Trump set to appoint Rep. Mike Price (R-Ga.) to head Health and Human Services, he's making good on his threat to destroy Obamacare. Even if the legislation doesn't disappear, Price will do everything in his considerable power to hobble it until it stops working altogether. Here's Greg Sargent:

Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price’s own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

Did people benefiting from Obamacare who voted for Trump really expect repeal to happen? I think we need more reporting on this question. Yes, Trump did repeatedly say he would repeal Obamacare. But he also said he would replace it with “something terrific.” And he explicitly went out of his way to create the impression that he does not agree ideologically with Republicans who are hostile to government efforts to supply health care to those who can’t afford it.

Now, it’s always possible that many voters backed Trump in the full knowledge that their Obamacare might be repealed, for other reasons — because, for instance, he’ll supposedly bring manufacturing and coal jobs roaring back. Before long, those voters will learn whether their bet was a well-placed one. It’s also possible that Trump will surprise us all and insist on some kind of replacement that somehow preserves much of Obamacare’s coverage expansion. And a kick-the-can-down-the-road scenario which keeps deferring the harshest fallout from repeal is also a possibility.

But it now looks more likely that we’ll see a substantial rollback of the progress toward universal health coverage we’ve seen in the past few years. News organizations love to venture into Trump’s America to hear voters explain that Trump spoke far more directly to their economic struggles than Democrats did. Maybe now we’ll get more coverage of those inhabitants of Trump’s America who are set to lose their health care, too.

How many Trump voters will lose their health insurance as a direct consequence of his election? Krugman estimates 4 million, and shows his work.

Elections have consequences.

Meanwhile...

Vieques is part of Puerto Rico and, therefore, part of the United States. So I haven't missed entirely everything. For example, I have these things queued up to read...someday:

Wow. It's almost as if this guy can destroy anyone's vacation even without winning the popular vote.