Podcast Companion – Ep04

In Episode 04 I talk about Rachel Maddow’s poor handling of Trump’s 1040, the persistence of the liberal bubble, Trump voters and the ACA, AG Jeff Sessions, and Sec Def Mattis.

To go along with E04, I’ve included a list of sources that I referenced during recording:

Ep03 of the Podcast – Tammy and the T-Rex

My article about Maddow

Do Trump Voters Feel Buyer’s Remorse Yet

Breitbart’s Take on Ryan’s “Obamacare 2.0”

Another Breitbart Commentary on Obamacare 2.0, aka a Ryan Hitpiece

Rand Paul Criticizes Paul Ryan’s AHCA

DOJ Transcript of AG Sessions’s Remarks in Richmond VA on 15 March 2017

DEA Drug Schedules

ProPublica Article on Mattis’s Comments re: Climate Change

2010 DoD Report on Military Challenges


MSNBC Plays the Trump Card: Maddow and David Cay Johnson Give Us NOTHING on Trump’s 1040

UPDATE: I’ve recorded a podcast that expands upon my thoughts on Maddow, in addition to a few other points of interest.  There’s also a podcast companion article in which I list specific sources that I reference in the episode.

David Cay Johnson, a prominent financial journalist and Trump-empire expert, very recently received Donald Trump’s 2005 IRS 1040 form from an anonymous source.  The 1040, for those unaware, is the IRS tax form that lists totals and subtotals – assets, income, and a calculation of tax liability.  The forms indicate that Trump paid $38 million in taxes on $150 million in income.

Rachel Maddow invited David Cay Johnson onto her MSNBC show to discuss the exclusive leak. Actually let me revise: first Maddow plugged Johnson’s book, but THEN they jumped into the leak.  Unfortunately, almost everything important we can learn from the 1040, I’ve already told you.  Maddow, in a quest for ratings, publicized this leak on Twitter with vague language suggesting she had Trump’s 2005 schedules, which would contain very specific details about where the totals on Trump’s 1040 from came from:

About an hour later, she got a bit more specific:

What’s most interesting about the forms is that they are “client copies” of the form, meaning that they were copies for Trump’s reference. All of this suggests Trump leaked the forms himself. But why?

Two reasons. First, if Trump did leak the forms then he is using this benign data to distract from the severe backlash Trumpcare (AHCA) has been getting from all sides or from his own ridiculous Obama wiretapping claims.  Or both.  Actually, probably both.  Secondly, the data is so un-enlightening, Trump can call it “fake news” and fit it nicely into his cleverly spun narrative against the main stream media.

Trump supporters will see this as “liberal” desperation. In fact, the White House preemptively released a statement verifying the authenticity of the returns, but also suggesting that Maddow’s actions were “totally illegal” – they weren’t, by the way. The statement concluded: “The dishonest media can continue to make this a part of their agenda while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.” If Stephen Miller didn’t pen this statement himself, I’d be surprised.

Trump is a media genius. He baited Maddow using her greed for ratings and she fell for it. All she’s managed to do is further distance Trump supporters from the media and those who approve of her reporting were very likely already convinced that Trump has ties with Russia. What now?  Calls for Trump’s tax returns in the future will be scoffed at – Maddow will be referenced by name. These demands have already been voted down by Congressional Republicans, but now will they even be taken seriously at all?  Trump’s connections with Russia will be downplayed and seen as rabid liberal attacks on conservatism.  Plus, Trump has long been a proponent of killing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would grant him – and other ultra wealthy individuals like him – more significant tax breaks. You can expect that initiative to gain more supporters now or, at least, you can expect the traction of opponents of the “reform” to diminish.

I am furious and extremely disappointed in Rachel Maddow. In an era where our President is a habitual liar – even about daily minutiae – we CANNOT allow him to be empowered further by playing into his hand.

Donald Trump needs to release his tax returns like every other modern President has done. If there’s nothing to hide, why is he refusing to do so? The “under audit” defense can only last so long. If you are against him releasing his returns – why? Are you against transparency? At the very least, if he’s done nothing wrong, you’ll get the opportunity to gloat about how right you were and I would welcome the revelation that Donald Trump is actually just a very rough around the edges saint.

To those of you opposed to Trump, remember: don’t stand down at town halls, don’t stop calling your representatives,stay focused, and don’t stay quiet.

EDIT: So it begins.  Stop giving them ammo.

EDIT 2: What I was afraid of.  Blind support for the Maddow segment:

What I think a lot of people don’t understand in their bones is that their perspective might not necessarily be the one that matters.  That their take-away might not be the right one.  This person apparently saw some juicy info on Russia/Trump that I apparently missed.  I must have dozed off for an hour or so…

Overall, this is not how Maddow’s segment will be perceived and perception is what really matters.  We are playing fast and loose with facts and logic; convincing people now is all about making them feel the right way, and it’s perilous to not adjust our approach to account for that.  We’re witnessing the strength of populism in the digital age, but populist politics have always operated the same way.

It’s people like Gerry and friends here that are just not getting it and probably never will.  Don’t let yourself be a Gerry.

EDIT 3: I meet yet another Gerry (who has blocked me):

Politico reported on the ties between Rybolovlev and Trump last year.  I am still waiting to hear how anything other than Maddow’s release of the 1040 was at all revelatory.  It’s great that people are learning about Trump’s ties to Russia, but people who were convinced by Maddow last night were already opposed to Trump.  These are not the people I’m concerned about.

We need hard, actionable evidence and Maddow should be ashamed of how she billed the 1040.  We learned nothing new.  Full stop.


EDIT 4: The last one before I lose my mind.  

David Cay Johnson published a report regarding Trump’s 1040.

In summary: Trump bent a lot of tax laws and used tax-structures that existed at the time to pay fewer taxes.  Oh, and there’s nothing in there that specifically details Trump’s connections to Russia:



Muslims Not Welcome Here: Islamic Extremism and A Common Sense Immigration Policy for the US

In what can only be described as a stunningly obtuse and ham-fisted policy move, Donald Trump has effected an Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  The contents of the EO, by this time, are well known.  Most notably it “bans” immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) – in most cases for 120 days (at first), but in the case of Syria, indefinitely.  As has already been extensively discussed in the media, this ban has had immediate repercussions for legal residents, inbound travelers, those with dual citizenship with a country “detrimental” to the security of the United States, or who have family abroad in these regions.

Conspicuously absent from the list are both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, countries with well-known ties to Islamic Extremists whose attacks have directly affected the US at home and abroad.  Likewise absent and with known-ties to radical Islam are Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Egypt.  The connection which, again has been reported on extensively, is that Trump holds no major business interests in countries subject to the ban, but does have business ties in some other Muslim majority countries that are not subject to the ban.

What is perhaps most frustrating and repugnant about the policy is how brazenly it serves the financial self-interest of the POTUS.  The Oval Office made no effort to camouflage, conceal, or otherwise deflect attention from this.  With this fact alone, whatever intellectual foundation existed for such a massive immigration restriction evaporates entirely; the stated aims of the EO i.e. to prevent “Terrorist Entry” has effectively left off of the list countries known to harbor anti-US terrorists, including countries that provided the central figures of the 9/11 attacks.

Immigration restrictions alone are not inherently unconstitutional, nor do I find them particularly vexing in essence.  A robust immigration system should be dynamic enough to adjust to the international climate, which includes the ability to adjust immigration numbers as needed.  Indeed, there are even scenarios where blanket immigration restrictions may be warranted, such as in a state of war.  The irony of this situation is that because Trump is seeking to enforce a blanket ban with vacuous reasoning and questionable tenets, he has effectively cultivated a de facto wartime atmosphere.  The further issue, and perhaps the most troubling, is that this atmosphere exists against not any sovereign state, but against the second largest religious following in the world – one that spans over many countries and territories and claims members from an enormous array of ethnicities, creeds, and traditions.  Trump has managed, with a signature, to make official the divide between Islam and the West.  Muslims are no longer welcome here, or so we’ve seemingly told the world.

I, for one, consider such a vain, callous, and shallow policy entirely heretical to what 21st Century America should stand for.  In addition to the new position the administration has taken against the Islamic world, such political Blitzkrieg will serve only to further radicalize Muslims, even moderates who undoubtedly now consider themselves a suspect class in the eyes of US.  I have little doubt that Trump has done for ISIS in a few days what would have otherwise taken years.  In countries where moderate Muslims and peaceful Imams struggle to curb extremism, what will they say to impressionable youth who feel despised by a country they’ve never visited or seen?

And the greatest shame in all of this is that we are now further removed from a reasonable, rational discussion of Radical Islam which is unquestionably a threat to – and in direct opposition of – progressivism, freedom, and democracy.  Again, had Trump’s position been cogent and his tenets at all rational or uninfluenced by self-interest, it would have been intellectually reasonable and politically acceptable to impose immigration restrictions on certain nations with groups overtly hostile to Western Democracies.  It would have been reasonable to examine or to propose to change the vetting system for immigrants and refugees, even though the current vetting system has proved to be very successful.  Instead of this, of course, we’re left with an official, state-sanctioned divide between “them” and us.

Here I’m obliged to say that where I disagree with many on the left is that the US should institute a “take-all-comers” policy, even during a humanitarian crisis, from areas of the world that harbor anti-US Islamic extremists.  The reason for this is multifaceted.  Perhaps the most potent rationale I can provide is one of recent historical significance, namely the influx of immigrants into the EU, and especially Angela Merkel’s disastrous and wildly unpopular policies regarding Syrian refugees.  In Europe as a whole, immigration from Muslim-majority countries has been handled without proper infrastructure in place to help smooth the assimilation of refugees.  The chaos that ensued polarized immigrant communities and EU citizens alike, most often directly against one another.  As a result, far-right parties and populists have gained massive followings and xenophobia is rampant.

In the US, our own far-right parties have emerged as a direct result of the US’s failure to both rationally address and readily acknowledge the threat of radical Islam or consider the future of the US relations to the Islamic World.  Much of the reason why the government has failed to do this, in my estimation, is that a taboo exists against discussing Islamic Terrorism for fear of riding a slippery slope into erroneous generalizations.  Ironically, of course, the failure – largely of well-meaning liberals – to be open to having rational discussions about issues in the Islamic World, has further polarized right-leaning US constituents and has led to Trump’s state-sanctioned generalizations.  We need to discuss, understand, and compromise on issues that affect both the US and Muslim-majority countries.  We need to acknowledge and understand that Islamic terrorism is an extremely serious issue and disproportionately affects other peaceful Muslims.  We need clear directives that dictate when and to what extent to intervene in Muslim-majority countries while avoiding the oafish state-building experiments that, historically, have served only to radicalize formerly peaceable Muslims.  The onus is on us to have the mental strength to have these difficult discussions and to understand that Islamic Governments operate within a paradigm that is entirely different from the (typically) secular governments of the West.

This, in short, is why I am not inherently opposed to immigration restriction.  Influxes of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, especially under policies like Hillary Clinton suggested, could be detrimental to the overall progressiveness of the US constituency.  By this I mean that I would not be as concerned about the actual empirical effect of an influx of Muslim immigrants, but rather what the pre-perception of the empirical result would be.  I realize as though this sounds as though I’m suggesting giving in to domestic xenophobia, but if we’re to ever reclaim a less fractious constituency, I see pragmatism as the only solution.  Just as we – or perhaps all of us except the Trump administration – would like to avoid the further radicalization of Muslims, it’s equally important to avoid far-right radicalization at home or we can expect support for fear-based politics to widen considerably.

Our current vetting process, as I mentioned, has proven to be very effective.  It is critical, however, to take a lesson from Europe and the growth of Radical Islam within the borders of the EU.  We should also acknowledge the overwhelming difficulty Muslims have had adapting in EU secular societies without appropriate coordination and support and the subsequent backlash from non-Muslim citizens.  Where Europe is uniquely deficient, however, is in the effectiveness of its intelligence agencies in coordinating and sharing information, as well as lax border restrictions.  Those deficiencies may not be present to the same extent in the US, but in such a connected and modern world those same deficiencies are themselves a threat to the United States.  We’ve got to weigh our choices.  Either we approach the issue of Islamic Extremism openly and objectively, or we continue to ignore the issue.  The latter course only leads to disaster.  Any reasonable person will admit that a terrorist attack on US soil is bound to happen again as a matter of course which, if it occurs in the current political climate, will only further radicalize US constituents.  Undoubtedly the political backlash after a successfully executed attack would spawn even more heavy handed domestic policies against Muslims, further radicalizing populations at home and abroad.  There are no perfect answers to these issues, but I believe there are optimal ones that can successfully minimize the tit-for-tat radicalization that seems all but inevitable.

I imagine also there must be a rather gleeful reaction from Radical Islamists the world over.  Donald Trump has done them a tremendous service in his first week as the POTUS and I’m extremely concerned about the future actions of a man who has proven, time and again, to be a thin-skinned charlatan.  What’s worse is that Steve Bannon, undoubtedly the mastermind behind the executive order, has done well to consolidate his own position within the administration.  As the alt-right decried the feelings of liberal “snowflakes” at the same time they somehow managed to ignore the fact that their tough-talking candidate is the epitome of  the thing which they most despise and is, in addition, wildly unbalanced and devoid of even a modicum of common sense.

And yet, I am hopeful.  Rebellion seems widespread at all levels of government.  Protests abound and people are politically energized.  I count our blessings that we have Trump instead of an even more terrible individual.  Trump isn’t an artful liar in that he lies often and freely, which will hurt him in the end.  His claims and promises are so grandiose that he will never be able to deliver on many of them, which will ultimately alienate many of his former supporters.  In the end, I see Trump as a great if unintentional unifier of the country.  The worst is surely yet to come, but we’re finally awake.

EDIT: Some required reading.  One of the main responses to any criticism of Trump’s EO have been to compare it with prior immigration EOs from Obama and even Jimmy Carter.  This FP article offers a great point by point refutation of this position.  It requires a login to read, but is free and I encourage everyone to learn and know these counter arguments well.  Furthermore, the fact that Trump seemingly did not consult with ANY relevant agencies regarding this EO is something that should trouble you, if it does not already.  An administration this overtly isolated from reality is incredibly, impossibly dangerous.

Relax. This is all just a simulation, maybe. I gather my thoughts.

Many of us are trying to gather our thoughts after an unexpectedly perplexing election night and, frankly, a thoroughly bizarre year to date both politically and otherwise.  It appears that these results were widely unexpected by everyone.  My panic, formerly kept at bay by a dim hope, set in with finality late evening on the 8th.  I was reading Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight live feed, witnessing first hand their frantic back peddling dubbed “model corrections” in favor of a Trump victory.  CNN’s action movie coverage style, complete with a guitar-shredding background track and largely vacuous dialogue, probably took a few extra years off of my life.  What’s clear now is that we’ve all missed something and in a big way.

Some have proposed that we may currently be living in a simulation.  The theory goes that our descendants, or perhaps another sufficiently advanced species could hypothetically construct the technology required to a simulate the world of their ancestors, including approximations of human consciousness.  This is good.  Aside from the immediate existential weight this possibility adds to each of us as individuals, it means that we may have descendants who have survived long enough to evolve or become hyper-advanced.  It means that at least some shade of whatever epoch of the earth our reality is based off of has survived far into the future.

If you’re feeling bleaker, and I’m inclined to be, the simulation we live in may be much more subject specific.  For instance we could, presently, exist in an active simulation of the end of human civilization in the 21st century.  Perhaps our descendants are survivors of an apocalyptic event and hope to study its genesis.  Perhaps that event happens within our lifetimes.  And I do realize very deeply how hyperbolic all of this must sound to some, but the fact that a man as petulant as Trump will assume full control over an arsenal of the most destructive and horrific weapons ever created by man is a bone chilling reality we’ve all no choice but to face.  That an openly racist and misogynistic man has his hands on something other than a device connected to Twitter – and that WE put him in that position – is disturbing to the greatest possible extent.

How was the disconnect so wide?  How are the exit polls showing such a strong turnout for female voters and Hispanics for Trump?  How could anyone without a billion dollars or with a skin tone other than eggshell think for a moment that their interests aligned even coincidentally with  Trump’s?

This is a failure on many levels, but I have to place the blame squarely on the Democrats and their rosy naivete which spread so widely after Obama’s second win.  The electorate that turned out to vote – neglected and written off by Democrats – responded angrily with ballots.  The DNC groomed a candidate for nearly a decade who they KNEW polled poorly against key demographics compared to other candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  They KNEW that Hillary could never escape Bill Clinton’s legacy in the eyes of many, many conservative voters.  They KNEW that she is viewed as a more-of-the-same dyed in the wool career politician and they KNEW about her email “scandal.”  Still, they pushed forward. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign after evidence emerged of staffers inappropriately backing HRC over Sanders, not to mention the carefree use of Democratic Super-delegates in a primary election system that is overly complicated, convoluted and, it now seems, a position-for-favor factory.

And I empathize with Hillary and I do agree with many of her political views, regardless of the abysmal damage control of the campaign.  I am in awe of the sheer grit and poise required to stand firm in the face of an openly misogynistic opponent and – still worse – the passive and much more insidious off-handed and perfectly “acceptable” misogyny  that demands that Hillary never look old, or sick, or out of style, or too cold, or too emotional.  She – we – were up against a bloc of voters that made a clear choice of fear-mongering and wild-west politics over women.  Even women themselves strongly supported Trump.  The predilections of voters isn’t anyone’s fault, but how we dealt with it is all of our responsibility.  We ignored the signs and assumed we’d have two milestone presidencies.  We can’t ever again afford to de-legitimize or de-humanize the concerns of an electorate, especially one that has indicated, quite clearly, that it doesn’t care about Goldwater Conservatism anymore.

And where does this leave us in the worst case?  Far-right Supreme Court Nominations?  A trade war with China?  Russian appeasement?  War?  I find myself hoping that Trump turns out to be a Reaganesque leader, if only because Reagan managed to push the Doomsday Clock back instead of forward. Then again, Reagan’s counterpart was Gorbachev, and Trump faces a much less progressive and much more unpredictable counterpart in Putin.  Domestically, Trump’s rhetoric has legitimized speaking hate openly.  Across the board we can expect local elections to be flooded with imitators having vile points of view, charlatans, demagogues, and know-nothings.  We can expect xenophobia and homophobia to become acceptable creeds.  We can also do something about it.

We have to be political.  Write letters.  Call.  Reach out.  Challenge small-mindedness whenever you see it.  Encourage treatment of all human beings with dignity.  Stop blaming third party voters – the fact that there were so many inclined to vote against party lines should be a wake up call for all of us – none of us have any obligation to vote against our conscience.  I feel a profound sense of unease now, and so I can’t imagine what gay people, women, and minorities must be feeling.  We’ve got to make a commitment to stand up for one another and work as one.  I’m with you all, especially.

I don’t know what’s to come – I think it’s fair to say that even Trump didn’t expect to get here. It could be that this is a unique opportunity for us to grow as a country and to learn.  Or maybe we should all just wake up.