Deficits? We don’t care about no stinking deficits!

Once again, the Republican party proves that it’s very concerned about deficits when the Democrats are in charge:

From the text of the 2017 Budget Resolution:

(4) DEFICITS.—For purposes of the enforcement of this resolution, the amounts of the deficits are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $582,574,000,000.
Fiscal year 2018: $541,560,000,000.
Fiscal year 2019: $673,600,000,000.
Fiscal year 2020: $728,659,000,000.
Fiscal year 2021: $785,164,000,000.
Fiscal year 2022: $897,085,000,000.
Fiscal year 2023: $892,854,000,000.
Fiscal year 2024: $863,233,000,000.
Fiscal year 2025: $946,057,000,000.
Fiscal year 2026: $1,008,577,000,000.

(5) PUBLIC DEBT.—Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 632(a)(5)), the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $20,034,788,000,000.
Fiscal year 2018: $20,784,183,000,000.
Fiscal year 2019: $21,625,729,000,000.
Fiscal year 2020: $22,504,763,000,000.
Fiscal year 2021: $23,440,271,000,000.
Fiscal year 2022: $24,509,421,000,000.
Fiscal year 2023: $25,605,527,000,000.
Fiscal year 2024: $26,701,273,000,000.
Fiscal year 2025: $27,869,175,000,000.
Fiscal year 2026: $29,126,158,000,000.

Holy Cow! Look at those numbers go up! Why are these numbers rising? I thought you told us we were going to see massive savings because the massive expenditures for Obamacare were going to go away, GOP?

OOOH! Because you’re going to spend billions getting rid of the estate tax and reducing income taxes for the top 2% of the country. Of course! Silly me for thinking otherwise!

Rescinding the Affordable Care Act means not only taking away health coverage from some 20 million Americans. It also means scrapping two big tax increases Democrats imposed on the wealthy to help pay for it all.

Republicans are likely to ax those taxes on the earnings and investments of those making more than $250,000 — and not replace them — in what some predict will prove the biggest tax cut of next year.

Okay, that blows a huge hole in the deficit, because these clowns have already said they want to delay the demolition of Obamacare on the health care services side. That means the expenses will rise with no money paying for them. So much for the “responsible Republican” name they always claim for themselves.

(Side note: to give you a sense of the callousness some of the GOP exhibit toward the poor and middle class, try this:

“It means that there’s a large, permanent tax cut before we even get to tax reform,” said Ryan Ellis, former tax policy director for Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

“To me personally, that’s the best part about repealing Obamacare,” he said. “Because on the health care side of it, you have this complicated ‘replace’ that you have to turn to after that, but on taxes, it’s all easy — it’s all dessert.”

What the hell. I’m sure Mr. Ellis has blue-chip health care paid for by his employer.

Do you suppose the true-believers will ever, ever turn on the GOP for lying to them about deficits and the national debt? They do it every time they get into power, and then the Democrats have to clean up after them when they get back into the White House and Congress. It’s happened over and over again, from Reagan/Bush to Clinton, who balanced budgets in his second term, through Bush 43, who spent trillions on the Iraq War and Medicare Part D and blew up the deficits again, which Obama then had to pare back down. Now we have both houses of Congress in Republican hands and they have the White House too. If the country survives Trump it’s going to be another gigantic mess the Democrats will have to clean up.

Nice job you’ve got there

It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.

What am I talking about? Well, the House Republicans put a nasty little twist into the Rules package they enacted the other day. They revived an 1876 rule which allows any member of Congress to slash the pay of an individual federal worker all the way down to a single dollar.

The revival of the Holman Rule was the brainchild of Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who is intent on increasing the powers of individual members of Congress to reassign workers as policy demands.

[snip]

Before the change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.

Republicans and Trump advisers have been quietly drawing up plans since the election to erode some of the job protections and benefits that federal workers have received for a generation, starting with a hiring freeze Trump has pledged to put in place in his first 100 days in office.

Those plans include an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, less generous pensions and a ban on union business on the government’s dime.

This is the party of small government, one employee at a time. Apparently Representative Griffith thinks Congress can manage employees and agencies better than the professionals. So much for civil service protection.

This is the most loathsome set of politicians I’ve ever seen.

Putin’s Russia really is in favor these days

At least with Trump and with certain Congresspeople. “Hey, Duma, let’s talk!” So says Orange County’s gift to the US House of Representatives, Dana Rohrbacher.

…he is planning to lead a congressional delegation to Russia next month and expects to meet with Russian officials to discuss “how we can work with the Duma.”

“We’re going to look at certain goals we can set with our Congress and the Duma,” the Russian legislature, Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said in an interview. “What could we actually set in the legislature of Russia and in Congress? Could we work together, for example, and cooperate on space activities?”

[snip]

Rohrabacher, a former White House speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan who represents Orange County, said Russian leaders are eager to meet with U.S. lawmakers to talk directly about the sanctions and many other lingering political tensions.

“We’ll go within a month of the inaugural,” the Republican said of the timing. “It’s going to be an official trip of my subcommittee.”

Assuming Trump agrees with the goal, it looks like the sanctions on Russia for invading and annexing Crimea and then starting a civil war in eastern Ukraine are likely to be lifted. Trump seems to think taking another country’s territory is no big thing. Look out, Mexico and Canada!

These are horrible people.

Good ol’ No-Socks, every PEOTUS’s friend

Oh boy. Our future President hangs out with guys named Joey “No Socks” when he’s partying at Mar-a-Lago on New Year’s Eve, and it’s not the first time. Apparently no one felt the need to remind Trump that hanging out with convicted felons doesn’t look real good to the American public.

Here’s a little background on Joey: He’s President and CEO of something called the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

Cinque, who has been described by the academy as one of Trump’s “dear friends,” is also a convicted felon who reportedly survived a murder attempt, was associated with the infamous mob boss John Gotti and went on to earn the nicknames “Joey No Socks” and “the Preppy Don.”

Trump’s hotels and golf courses have received lots of five and six-star awards from the outfit. He denies knowing much about the association, even as

he, two of his sons and multiple members of his organizations have served [on its board]. He also claimed he doesn’t know Cinque well.

Our man Trump will Make America Great Again, apparently by calling in the mob.

Grifter-in-Chief

Trump celebrates New Year’s Eve by selling tickets to his party. From The Huffington Post:

“The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict,” she [Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition team who will be White House director of strategic communications,] told Politico. “This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”

Four years of this. Apart from all the other calamities this clown may bring upon us, the sheer embarrassment of knowing 62M of my fellow Americans approve of him will be nearly intolerable.

Rogue One

Someone had a helluva lot of fun putting together this video of Easter Eggs he found (or thinks he found) in Rogue One. If you haven’t seen it yet, DO NOT WATCH THIS!

I’m sure there were tons of symbols in the movie that I missed, but one I saw and wondered about was the location of the holy city Jedha. Placed atop a huge mesa, I immediately thought of the Roman Herod’s fortress at Masada. It later became a base for Jewish Sicarii rebels and was the site of a siege which resulted in the mass suicide of some 960 people, according to Josephus. Considering Jedha’s fate in the film, I have no reason to think I’m wrong about my suspicion.

Trump’s Russophilia

You’ve heard of Manchurian candidates, people brainwashed into treason and successfully running for high office. I don’t think Trump has been brainwashed (for one thing, his brain…no, no, never mind), but I am really beginning to seriously wonder about his affinity for Putin and Russia. I think despite his birth in this country he’s actually a muzjik, a Russian peasant. Certainly he behaves like a 19th-century peasant, or how I imagine one would behave.

If I were President-elect of the United States right now I know damned well I’d like to know what a foreign country did that facilitated my winning the election. I’d be secure in knowing that there might be an outcry and a demand for a re-run, but that my party holds both houses of Congress and wouldn’t agree to that. I sure as hell wouldn’t blithely suggest it’s “time for the country to move on to bigger and better things” when the current President imposes sanctions on the country that is widely suspected of hacking my opponent’s computer systems, particularly when every US intelligence agency agrees that that’s true.

Josh Marshall has an interesting theory which might explain Trump’s seeming disinterest in the truth about the hacking. Marshall thinks

Say you’re Trump.

You have nothing to do with this. You know nothing about it. But think about all the crooks and gamers and sleazeballs around your campaign. There’s Manafort, Stone, Page … all their associates, not to mention your business associates with ties to Russian organized crime. (Stone publicly said he had some sort of a backchannel to Wikileaks.)

If you’re Trump, how confident are you that a real investigation wouldn’t turn up anything weird? Probably not very.

I find that perfectly feasible. It could be completely wrong, but it’s a theory which has merit. The best thing about it is that there is going to be an investigation which will prove or disprove it; Senators McCain and Graham are not going to let this go, and they may force Majority Leader McConnell to empanel a Select Committee. According to observers, that would make it far less likely that its results would be buried than if the investigation were to be assigned to the Intelligence Committee.

We’re still going to have a President Trump, but we might avoid having one who sells the country out to the Russians.

Barack, Bibi and the State of Israel

Tom Friedman has been an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times for a long time. As early as 11 years ago he was being ridiculed (see picture) by the more irreverent members of the blogosphere for his certainty that he was the holder of all truths, even when those truths had been invalidated convincingly. For example, he was a fervent supporter of the Iraq War, and even when it went to hell as many of us suggested it would he continued to support Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer in their folly.

Nonetheless, if you keep swinging at pitches you eventually hit one, and if you hit it hard enough it may go out of the park. I think he did that in today’s column. In it he just wipes the floor with Bibi Netanyahu, calling him

a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

Friedman suggests that Obama and Kerry took the step of abstaining from the UN vote condemning Israel’s continuing construction of settlements the other day and allowing the resolution to pass in hopes that it would provoke the half of Israel’s population which does believe in the two-state solution with the Palestinians to force Bibi and his ever-more right-wing party to stop building them long enough to debate the wisdom of doing so. Indeed, that’s what US Secretary of State John Kerry said in his speech today:

In the end, we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two state solution. We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interests to help anyone on either side create a unitary state. We may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them. And it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies.

That is why we decided not to block the UN resolution that makes clear both sides have to take steps to save the two state solution while there is still time.

Congratulations, then, to Friedman, who figured it out before Kerry delivered his speech.

Netanyahu has been a willing captive of the Israeli hard-right for his entire second term as Prime Minister (2009-present), and it moves further right every year. His coalition has a one-vote majority in the fractious Knesset, so he finds it necessary to pander to that part of his party and the smaller ones even further out on the fringe in order to hang on to power. After all these years of doing so I’m not entirely sure he’s got enough integrity left to do otherwise. The only way he can be made to do it is through his citizens’ standing up and scaring him into believing he can lose his job if he doesn’t reconsider the settlements and the provocation they have become.

Terror

I remember reading “Watership Down” in high school. I’m a little surprised that its author, Richard Adams, was still alive. He passed away today at 96.

In his honor I’m going to use a word from his most famous book to describe how we on the liberal side of America have felt since it became clear that Trump had won the election back in November: tharn. It means stupefied, frozen in fear.

R.I.P., Mr. Adams.