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Cersei Clinton

Hillary Clinton has a book coming out blaming everyone but herself for her loss in 2016. It’s mostly an academic exercise. The election was so closely decided — 70,000 votes in three states — that you could literally blame it on anything you want. Comey’s letter? Yeah, that might have moved the polls less than a percent. Sexism? Sure. Bernie? Of course. Russia? Fine. In the end, however, she won the popular vote. She lost the election because three states she was supposed to win easily — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — went to Trump by tiny margins. And she barely campaigned in those states. Everything else — Comey, Russia, Bernie, sexism, Mars being in the house of the ram — were not things she could control. The one thing she could control — campaigning in those states — was the thing she didn’t do.

Anyway, excerpts from the book are coming out now and some of them just make you say … Wut?

In the book, Clinton manages to work in references to both Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that is now a hit Hulu drama. Because Clinton is down with the kids.

“Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count,” Clinton writes. “They shouted, ‘Guilty! Guilty!’ like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting ‘Shame! Shame!’ while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep.”

Clinton refers to GoT’s Season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” in which Cersei—confessing to adultery—is forced to walk, naked, through King’s Landing to atone for her sins under the radical Faith Militant religious group’s regime. All the while, Septa Unella, walks behind her ringing a bell and chanting “Shame,” while passersby heckle and spit at her.

This is … not a comparison Clinton should be making (assuming it’s genuine and not just made up for gits and shiggles). First of all, Cersei was guilty of adultery. And incest. And treason. And everything else under the sun. Second, Cersei became queen, which Clinton never managed to do. Third, just … seriously? I can’t put it better than Robby Soave:

What’s the difference between Game of Thrones character Cersei Lannister and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? One is an entitled narcissist who quietly supported her lecherous husband (whom she clearly loathed) when it was politically convenient, then insisted it was her turn to rule (even though it wasn’t), chose boot-lickers, ass-kissers, and elitist bankers as her advisors while alienating more competent and better-liked people who might have helped her, exacted petty vengeance on imagined enemies, escaped justice and the judgment of the people by destroying her main rival—the charismatic, income-inequality obsessed populist—with an explosive cheat, and was left confused why so many people in her country would rather be ruled by a complete political unknown who tells it like it is.

The other fucks her twin brother.

I suspect this was inserted by a ghost writer or someone who wasn’t terribly familiar with the series. I’m reminded of Joe Posnanski writing about Ted Cruz (who had his own hilarity today):

One of my dream jobs is to become a political sports consultant. It works pretty simply. Let’s say that Carly Fiorina decides during her Iowa caucus campaigning to send what she might later call a “tongue-in-cheek” tweet about how she loves her alma mater Stanford, but she’s “rooting for a Hawkeyes win today” in the Rose Bowl.

I would tell her: Don’t do it. That’s all. If it is a joke, nobody will get the joke. And if it’s a pander, hey, that’s fine, but it’s a terrible pander. No real sports fan in Iowa would expect you to root against your alma mater in a bowl game.

I bring this up now, obviously, because I sure as heck wish that presidential candidate Ted Cruz had come to me first. He was in the gym where they filmed much of the movie “Hoosiers,” and he was referring to the scene where coach Norman Dale has his players use a tape measure to show that the rim is the same height in Indianapolis as it was in little ol’ Hickory.

“The amazing thing is,” Cruz said, “that basketball ring in Indiana, it’s the same height as it is in New York City and every other place in this country.”

Basketball ring. He called it a basketball ring.

“Fortunately,” the writer Anthony Castrovince tweets, “It was in Indiana. Not a big basketball state.”

Great “Spinal Tap” reference. Anyway, I feel like one of those “superheroes” who helplessly watches a senseless calamity. I could have stopped him.

It’s hard to know exactly where “basketball ring” falls in the list of awkward sports talk by politicians. At first glance, it seems like THE most awkward because, honestly, nobody on planet earth has ever referred to a “basketball ring” except when pointing out that Carmelo Anthony hasn’t won one. Put it this way: My 14-year-old daughter laughed, and she actively loathes sports.

Politicians desperately need a position of “pop culture advisor” who will keep them from doing things like comparing themselves to the biggest villain in a popular TV series or urging their supporter to “Pokemon Go” to the polls.

Sixteen Years

This day is, I think, a good day to call or write to friends you haven’t heard from in a while or family members who’ve grown a bit distant. It’s always a good time to remind people that they’re in your heart. But today of all days is a good time to remember who quickly and horribly someone can be snatched away from us.

Trump’s Deal

So, here’s the thing. Yesterday, Trump, during intense negotiations over the debt ceiling, basically caved into the Democrats:

President Trump struck a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday to increase the debt limit and finance the government until mid-December, blindsiding his own Republican allies as he reached across the aisle to resolve a major dispute for the first time since taking office.

The agreement would avert a fiscal showdown later this month without the bloody, partisan battle that many had anticipated by combining a debt ceiling increase and stopgap spending measure with relief aid to Texas and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. But without addressing the fundamental underlying issues, it set up the prospect for an even bigger clash at the end of the year.

Mr. Trump not only accepted the spending-and-debt plan advanced by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders, but also aligned himself with them on immigration. A day after rescinding President Barack Obama’s program protecting younger illegal immigrants on the grounds that it went beyond a president’s authority, Mr. Trump said he wanted to work with Democrats to legalize the program.

“We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” Mr. Trump told reporters after the Oval Office session without mentioning that Mr. Ryan and other Republican leaders had also attended. Regarding the immigration program, Mr. Trump said, “Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I.”

Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi pressed for a three-month deal to keep the government running and raise the debt ceiling along with the hurricane aid to give Democrats leverage later this year when other matters, including a longer-term government funding deal, could be negotiated between the two parties. By ensuring that all the pending issues converge at the end of the year, Democrats hope a longer-term agreement on fiscal matters could include immigration, health care and any number of other issues.

So instead of siding with the Republicans to push for an 18-month debt ceiling hike that would push the issue past the 2018 elections, Trump decided to deal with Pelosi and Schumer to put us on the path to yet another fiscal crisis in December. I’m normally one for compromise. That’s how government has to work. But when you compromise, you should get something. Trump’s gain was a Harvey relief package that was going to pass anyway. He didn’t get immigration reform or a Wall or tax cuts or anything else. But he gave the Democrats the crisis they need to force their issues to the floor in December. Mainly, as far as I can tell, so that he could boast about having made a deal.

Here’s the thing. For years, Republican leadership have been pilloried and blasted for making deals with Obama. The debt ceiling deal, the fiscal cliff, the sequester — the deals that cut the budget deficit in half by keeping spending flat for six years. These were supposedly the actions of “RINOs”. Yet these deals were way more favorable to conservative interests than the one Trump just cut. And yet the same people who blasted Republicans for “giving in” to Obama are praising Trump for bypassing Republican leadership.

The revelation I have had since 2016 … and a big reason my blogging has tailed off … is because I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t really care about issues. They care about identity. And nowhere is this more distilled than in the ongoing presidency of Donald Trump. The support for Trump is not based on issues or philosophy or conservatism. It’s based on one or both of two Cults of Personality: one based on worship of Trump; the other based on hatred of Obama. Cutting deals, no matter bad they are, is suddenly OK.

DACA in Danger

So this happened:

The Trump administration on Tuesday formally announced the end of DACA — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and rescinded the Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at the Justice Department.

Trump has given the program six months to live and challenged Congress to replace it. He has, however, undermined that a bit by saying he might “revisit” the issue if Congress fails to act. DACA originally passed the House but fell five votes short of breaking a Senate filibuster. So Obama enacted it by Executive Order.

First of all, I think this demonstrates yet again how dangerous rule by Executive Order is. Thanks to DACA, about 800,000 individuals came forward to gain status under it. They provided the government with tons of documentation on their location, how they came into this country illegally and so on. But because DACA was passed with the stroke of a pen, it can now be undone with one. And so now these people are more vulnerable deportation because they tried to do the right thing.

And that brings to the second point, which is how cruel and pointless this policy is. DACA isn’t an amnesty. It grants legal work permits to people who came into this country as minors, have not broken the law and are either in school, have graduated school or are in the armed forces. On balance, they add to our economy. Cutting them out of the workforce would impose billions in compliance costs, estimated to be along the impact of a few dozen new regulations. These are the kind of immigrants — working, law-abiding, serving — that we want. And now they are in danger of being sent to countries they have never lived in so that can Trump can pander to the nativists.

The gripping hand however is that … Trump is right in one respect. DACA is something that Congress should do, not the President. They’ve been screwing around with this legislation for 16 years. I don’t know that this kind of deadline will make them do their damned job (although the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling games of chicken worked). But they need to stop playing around. It’s time to make DACA permanent. And it’s time to do it through the proper legislative process.

Texas Deluge

I’ll have more to say on the situation unfolding in Texas. There are still a lot of rumors flying, as there were with Katrina, so we’ll wait to see. It’s a disaster of unprecedented proportions.

However, I did want to note how moved I am to see thousands of people — cops and civilians — doing what they can to help. It seems that every time I turn on the TV or fire up Twitter, I’m presented with images of cops rescuing people from rooftops, civilians in boats rescuing people, trucks driving into the region with supplies or houses of worship opening to anyone who needs shelter. Most without being asked. Most without being paid. All without beating their chests about how heroic they are.

This is who we are. And no politician or political group will change that. As long as I see Americans looking for out for each other, I will maintain my hope for this country.

Antifa on the Attack

No matter how much I might criticize the GOP, Trump or anyone else, that will never diminish my disgust for the crap like this:

Their faces hidden behind black bandannas and hoodies, about 100 anarchists and antifa— “anti-fascist” — members barreled into a protest Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

Jumping over plastic and concrete barriers, the group melted into a larger crowd of around 2,000 that had marched peacefully throughout the sunny afternoon for a “Rally Against Hate” gathering.

Shortly after, violence began to flare. A pepper-spray-wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields. Another was attacked by five black-clad antifa members, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself. A conservative group leader retreated for safety behind a line of riot police as marchers chucked water bottles, shot off pepper spray and screamed, “Fascist go home!”

Let’s be clear. These weren’t Nazis. Or Klan members. These were peaceful protesters marching in opposition to Marxism and support of Trump. And Antifa set upon them, even (according to rumor) beating a passerby into a coma. There’s plenty of video if you want it.

In the wake of Charlottesville, there was a brief surge of portraying Antifa as heroes for fighting against fascism. There were even bizarre comparisons made to World War II. But this is not fighting against fascism. This is using violence to shut down speech Antifa doesn’t like. It’s disgraceful. And if the Republicans were as slow to denounce similar violence as the Democrats have been to denounce this violence, it would be a national scandal.

Months ago, someone sucker punched Richard Spencer. I and many others objected to it, pointing out that this was using violence against a man who, while hateful and vile, was not engaged in violence. The Left split on this, with some opposing it but many saying punching a Nazi was OK because … you know … Nazis.

But now we’re seeing that the “don’t punch people” side was right. It has proven to be a very short leap from “punch a Nazi” to “punch a Trump supporter” to “beat the hell out of anyone you think might be”.

Arpaio Free

I guess it won’t come as any surprise to readers of this blog that I am no fan of “Sheriff Joe”. Funnily enough, my conservative temperament tends to side against people who routinely ignore violent crime to pursue illegal immigration, whose myriad abuses have resulted in multiple deaths and $140 million in settlements and compound their illegal actions by ignoring a court order. The later finally resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for contempt of court although sentence had yet to be passed. Arpaio claims this was an Obama vendetta, but the case was about as clear-cut as cases get: brought by a federal judge, referred to the DOJ and pursued by career lawyers in Public Integrity.

Arpaio has been a hero in conservative circles for a while given his aggressive pursuit of illegal immigrants and his humiliation of prisoners. He shouldn’t be. The Phoenix New Times has been covering his abuses for years. Here’s a sampling:

Click the link, then scroll down. And while I would dubious of characterizing him as “one of the most racist evil men alive”, this thread also catalogues his abuses:

Web cams in women’s bathrooms, fake assassination attempts, using his office to spy on his opponents, detaining or arresting every Hispanic in sight, arresting reporters, denying critical care to prisoners (one instance of which results in the death of a baby). Call that “tough on crime” if you want. I call it lawlessness and thuggery.

This comes up because Donald Trump just pardoned him. While I support the use of the Presidential pardon, I am very conscious of ways it can be abused (e.g., Marc Rich). This falls into that category. Of all the people Trump could have pardoned, this is the first one he picks. I suspect its partially because he likes Arpaio (and David Clarke, another “hero” whose abuse of the law is legendary). And also partially Arpaio was an early Trump supporter.

So … to sum up … Trump just pardoned one of the most unlawful “lawmen” in America because he was a supporter.

So much for draining the swamp.

Wrong Robert Lee

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the current debate over the removal of confederate statues. I see the point of the defenders that they reflect pride and history. And I am against vigilantes pulling them down on their own. But I also see the point of the critics: that these statues were mostly erected in the 1920’s and 1950’s, when America was undergoing spasms of racial strife. Some — like the Battle of Liberty Place Monument — were specifically erected as an act of defiance against the federal government by racists. I probably end up where Radley Balko is: preferring they be moved from places of honor to museums or parks where their context can be given. But I certainly see the other side of this debate and don’t think it is entirely defined by racist shitheads.

The question always gets asked: where do you draw the line? Should statues of Jefferson and Washington come down, too? But first of all, you’ve already drawn a line. I doubt that anyone would want statues of Che or Mao or Stalin or Hitler in a places of honor. If you favor keeping the current confederate statues up, you’re just drawing the line behind Jeff Davis rather than in front of him. Second, line-drawing is what we do in politics. We say that consensual sex is OK, but non-consensual is not. We say that killing someone in self-defense is OK, but murder is not. We draw lines constantly. And I see no reason why we can’t at least debate where the line gets drawn on statues. Agreeing with the Lefty Kooks on one thing does not mean you have to agree with them on everything. There’s no law of nature or politics requiring that we let this be a slippery slope.

For example

On Tuesday night, [ESPN] confirmed that its management moved an Asian-American announcer, Robert Lee, off the University of Virginia’s home opener football game “simply because of the coincidence of his name.”

Earlier Tuesday, a source had told CNN that Lee was abruptly switched to the Youngstown versus Pitt game. He had recently been promoted by ESPN, so the switch was a sensitive matter.

News of the decision follows the violence that broke out earlier this month at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The night before the deadly violence, white nationalists marched across the UVA campus, carrying torches and chanting racist slogans.

This is … ridiculous. And I’m sure the network realized it about ten seconds into the ensuing uproar. There is a valid debate to be had over Robert E. Lee’s character and legacy. I can see why some people might be offended by venerating the man who fought for slavery. But, Christ, his name is not kryptonite to black people. Just hearing that name, or someone with a similar name, is not going to make them weep. Removing him isn’t going to ease racial tension by one iota. And while the debate over the confederacy’s legacy is an interesting one, it is not the most important race issue we face right now.

Trump’s Press Conference

I can not respond to that disgrace any better than Charles Krauthammer did:

I never thought I would see an American President fumble a response to Nazis. But here we are.

One of the biggest problems with Trump is that he has fucks like Bannon, Gorka and Miller whispering into his ear that the racists who marched through Charlottesville are his base, the people who got him elected. They are not. The White Supremacists managed to gather less people than would show up for a National March against Mayonnaise. Even that lunatic Farrakhan managed to get a thousand times as many for his Million Man March. They are a fringe. They are less than a percent of the people who voted for Trump. But Trump he been persuaded that they are the bulk of the GOP.

Charlottesville

This is a bit personal for me. I went to graduate school at the University of Virginia. Charlottesville is a great college town. I spent six of the happiest years of my life there. I met my wife there. I made lifelong friends there. I started my career as an astronomer there. It’s one of the few cities I would consider moving to from my current digs.

So to see a bunch of alt-right white-supremacist clowns walking around with tiki torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans hurts. I absolutely support their right to free speech, of course. If people hold vile views, I want them to publicly own it. As fellow UVa Astronomy alum Phil Plait put it:

The proximate cause was Charlottesville’s decision to sell off some confederate monuments, part of a national movement to get rid of such monuments. While I am very attentive to history, I’m also aware that most of these monuments were erected as protests against the Civil Rights movement. So I’m not opposed to seeing them go.

Things got worse this afternoon. After counter-protests and some violent clashes caused the alt-right rally to break up, someone drove a car into the crowd. I won’t embed the video, but it’s easy to find. It looks deliberate to me. And if so, it was an act of terrorism. And I hope they throw the book at the piece of garbage who did it.

I suppose we should take some comfort in that The National Rally for Racist Pieces of Shit only managed to get a few hundred of these dopes. But that’s cold comfort when I see people being mowed down on a street I once walked down in a happy daze because a pretty girl had gone out on a date with me. Any Nazis are too many Nazis.

Update: A good and balanced first hand account.