Liars

So, this may come as a surprise, but I super duper hate Donald Trump. Sure, I don’t like his policy. I very much disagree with Republicans. But I don’t hate Republicans, at least, not for their policy. Sure, I think their religious trappings are incredibly hypocritical and their anti-regulation bullshit puts our country at risk, BUT I DON’T HATE THEM.

I hate Trump.

It’s the way he and his ilk attempt to control narratives. They’ll say anything to get their way. I’m pretty sure most of us can agree that politicians are self-serving liars no matter their politics. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about getting criticism from the media (strong criticism that is deserved) and declaring the media is THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE??? What people? How does that even make sense?

I’m talking about attacking the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office before they even knew what the CBO would say. Why’s that? Well, they were well aware of how the CBO would run the numbers and knew it wouldn’t be pretty. We’re talking about an organization of economists here. For the most part, economists do not skew liberal.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just the stuff that stands out in my mind. It holds with a pattern. Don’t like something? Call it fake news. What makes it fake? It makes wittle Drumpf feel bad inside. Facts, sure, the media does report facts, but these facts are so hurtful! Poor Trump. I feel so bad for that rich fucking scumbag.

I would hardly be the first person pointing out that this administration, led by this fucking thin-skinned man-child, basically just lies constantly. That brings me to the whole Obama is tapping his wires thing. Like, are you fucking kidding me?

I try to imagine being a Republican with integrity right now. I can’t imagine it, but surely it would suck. The best we have is John McCain and we all know he doesn’t have enough integrity to actually do more than complain a bit here and there.

Trump is a nightmare. Our collective nightmare. Anybody who values facts, journalism, and science is cringing constantly. I wish I could enjoy the media constantly squeezing him, but what good has it done? We know he’s lying, but conservatives seem to be okay with that.

So that’s where we are. I fucking hate Trump because he’s turned the Republicans into something I’m finding increasingly pathetic and despicable.

To my great sadness, I can find no solace in the progressive movements. We have to stop eating our own. We have to stop engaging in this out-liberaling. It’s okay to ally ourselves with people that we disagree with. We’ve got to fight Trump and his lying bullshit administration. This is too important to do anything less.

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A Message to the Media

So I keep seeing a lot of rumors and fear-mongering among liberals. Even the actual media keeps reporting on the rumors of who is going to be nominated or shit like that. It’s really irritating me. Look, guys, I know precisely how bad a Trump presidency with a fully Republican House AND Senate is going to be. There’s no way this won’t be horrific.

HOWEVER! Let’s get upset when they’ve actually done those terrible things instead of crying about it now. At this point, it’s not so different from the half-truths or lies of the right. Let’s rise above this, please.

See, I’m sick of reading about Trump. I don’t want to be miserable and anxious all the time. So, for the moment, let me be oblivious. Stop freaking out prematurely and allow me to relax in the last days of the Obama presidency.

Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump

The state of international relations isn’t great. Obama has been a very cautious leader, and while he’s avoided anything terrible, he also hasn’t solved anything. Overall, I think he’s done fine. But now the US has a choice. More Obama (Clinton) or Trump (shit, literally a piece of shit). With the current babbling that Trump pretends are words, it’s worth looking at issues with US foreign policy.

First, I want to go over a few issues with the Trump campaign in terms of international diplomacy (in other words, forget about the race baiting, the blind religious intolerance, and let’s just stick with pure foreign policy).

It starts with wanting to disband NATO even while being unaware of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. There’s the disquieting fact that one of Trump’s advisers was the architect of Viktor Yanukovych’s campaign for reelection before the protests (during which police snipers murdered quite a few protesters) and subsequent flight of Yanukovych. Here’s a tidbit from a very interesting article that frames the situation nicely:

Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government. And now Mr. Manafort has taken on a much larger campaign, seeking to turn Donald J. Trump into a winning presidential candidate.

There’s the fact that he wants to DESTROY our trade relationship with China in spite of the fact that if we did that, everything we buy would be way, way more expensive. It’s something people don’t seem to think about when they talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs. Anyway, back to foreign policy.

There’s the troublesome praise of petty tyrants like Saddam and Kim Jong Un, not to mention Putin, Assad, and Gaddaffi. And even as he praises Assad, he wants to get the US involved in another war in the Middle East, or maybe he’s changed his mind and now he wants to magically make Turkey go single-handedly defeat ISIS? It’s impossible to say.

I probably failed to mention something. In fact, I didn’t even mean to write that much. So let’s go back to the issues with NATO. Is there any merit in somehow forcing the other members to do more? Well, that’s a thorny issue. How would we do that? By somehow renegotiating trade deals? Because that sounds like a titanic task that would require a lot of things to go right. The fact is, we have no real way of making our allies up their commitment. The only real thing we can do is lower our commitments, thereby putting them in danger.

The horrible thing is, Trump is (shudder) right (gag) about one thing. Our allies in NATO aren’t carrying their weight. If Estonia is so afraid of being invaded, they need to start acting like it. THey need to militarize like crazy. Of course, no doubt that would be met by an equal militarization and further breakdown of relations between Estonia and Russia. The same goes for Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. So what does this mean? Does that preclude these countries from building up their armies?

One thing that I do know is these countries do have something to fear. Russia fought an actual war with Georgia to snip away Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia outright invaded Crimea and then quietly send their “little green men” into Ukraine. If I lived in Latvia, I would be very worried about Putin trying something like that.

So, if we know there’s something to fear and there’s no good way to beef up the threatened countries without the US unilaterally doing it alone (which is a bad idea and would definitely escalate the issues), then what options are there? If Latvia won’t spend the money and the UK won’t spend the money, is it really the obligation of the US to potentially get involved in a massively destructive conflict? And if the answer is no, are we really going to let international bullies run free?

Personally, I think the United States is the reason there’s been no wars between nations (that is, excluding civil wars like Libya, South Sudan, Syria, etc). The US is the world police, for good or for ill. Once the US stops doing that, all hell is going to break loose. There will be wars between nations primarily led by dictators. It will be bad. Is it so expensive that the US can’t afford (literally use of afford) to head off these conflicts? Isn’t it better to be the pushy world cop than to let open warfare come to the fore? I don’t know. My gut says yes, but the chance of being wrong is potentially catastrophic. Global thermonuclear war, anyone?

Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Monroe Doctrine, so here’s a primer. The Monroe Doctrine started off as a rather innocent way of declaring that the European powers of the day wouldn’t be allowed to form any new colonies in the Americas. Obviously, it was more complicated than that, but it doesn’t matter because the real issue with the Monroe Doctrine came much, much later. During the Cold War, the US used the Monroe Doctrine as an excuse to do a bunch of slimy, disgusting stuff in an attempt to stop communism from spreading.

In reality, the Monroe Doctrine was basically saying that the Americas were the domain of the US and the US alone. No other country was allowed to intervene, only us. It was basically a statement of regional imperialism. As I said, slimy. Yet, now that the US is a global power, even THE global power, we can no longer support the type of actions we used to perform under the Monroe Doctrine. We can’t overthrow a regime just because we don’t like it. In terms of the public perception and voter power, the best we can do is something like the no fly zone in Libya. We can’t go in and assassinate people, or arm people. At least, if it were revealed that the CIA was doing that, not only would the world be furious, but the American people would punish whoever allowed it. Of that, I am certain. Even if it was the US assassinating Putin or some such nonsense.

The point of bringing up the Monroe Doctrine is to discuss regional supremacy. As in, is it okay for Russia to claim regional supremacy? How about China? When China claims the South China Sea in the Chinese equivalent to the Monroe Doctrine, is that okay?

First off, my gut says no. Regional supremacy was scummy when the US did it and it’s no less scummy when other countries do it. The problem is imperialism. The US might not be great when it comes to being world cop (the debacle of the Iraq War comes to mind), but at the same time, are we really going to let China muscle in? My gut says the US is right to do freedom of navigation patrols and potentially antagonize China.

Look at Vietnam. They fought a war with the US. But you know who else they fought a war with? China. Cambodia. Ever heard of the Khmer Rouge? They were insane, murderous, and terrible in every way. China backed the Khmer Rouge because it was ostensibly a communist movement (it was also insane). Yet, for some mind numbing reason, Pol Pot was absolutely certain that Vietnam wanted to destroy Cambodia, so he intentionally and repeatedly slaughtered Vietnamese villages on the border (also purged everyone inside Cambodia who might be Vietnamese). In the end, Vietnam really had no choice but to go secure the border, and when the attacks wouldn’t stop, they took over all of Cambodia and removed the scourge that was the Khmer Rouge.

And the entire world sanctioned them. China was furious and immediately invaded Vietnam. The two had several border wars. They had conflicts in the South China Sea. Now Vietnam is allied with the US because China is a regional power that wants to bully them.

Stepping back, let’s view this through the Trump lens. Consider that China and the US are best buddies when it comes to trade. We need each other. Our relations are good and strong in that regard. A real war between the US and China would be horrific for both sides. This ain’t no US/Russia conflict. And what does Trump want to do? He wants to destroy that bond.

So consider our options here. Either we have regional power players who bully their neighbors and simply take what they want, or we have a very expensive apparatus funded by US taxpayers to prevent truly devastating wars. These are the options. People like Putin who seize the reigns of power are bullies and you have to have someone to stand up to them, so stare them down and warn them off. Trump wouldn’t be that guy. Trump would smile and talk about how Putin is a GREAT guy.

A brief message to Bernie diehards

So you don’t like Clinton. Whatever, I understand that. Last time we had to choose, I didn’t like her either. I liked Obama. HOWEVER, she’s clinched the nomination. There’s way no way Bernie can win. It’s not possible.

And continuing to rag on Clinton only hurts the progressive platform. Sure, she’s not as liberal as we’d like, but you’ve got to think about the consequences here. Again, Trump. Now, you might say, there’s no difference. And you’d be wrong. Let me briefly give you two incredibly important things. No matter what else can happen, these two factors are VITAL.

FIRST: Supreme Court. The next president will definitely get AT LEAST one nomination. You remember that whole gay marriage thing? Pretty sweet, right? Vote Trump and he promises to nominate hardline conservative (aka bigots) to the court. If we elect Clinton, we’ll get a court that will strike down the obviously illegal laws that are currently in effect (including the absolutely incorrect view of the 2nd Amendment).

SECOND: Veto power. Do you want to repeal Obamacare? I sure as fuck don’t. That’s the only reason I can afford health care right now. The only reason why Republicans haven’t defunded our health system is Obama’s veto power. That also goes for discriminatory anti-gay bills, bills that would eviscerate EBT and so on.

Blood money

Cleveland is going to pay off the Rice family. That is to say, the government of the city of Cleveland is going to pay them SIX MILLION DOLLARS without admitting any wrongdoing. That is to say, a small group of people in the government of Cleveland are going to spend SIX MILLION DOLLARS of taxpayer money so they don’t have to admit they were wrong in murdering a kid. Everybody is Cleveland is paying this money, even the Rice family.

What kind of fucked up political calculus is this?

Why is it okay for this to happen? Why is this city wasting the money of its people so they can do this? Instead of fixing anything, or punishing those who did something wrong, they simply waste the money of taxpayers so they can make it go away. This shit has got to stop.

Tax cuts aren’t magic

Around this time last year, Kansas was looking at an 800 million dollar shortfall. They managed to take a pinch here and chop a bunch there to take the deficit down to 400 million. Then they robbed several segments of the budget to make up the gap, notable the schools and the highway fund, which then triggered the current fight about school funding.

Each year Kansas faces a huge budget shortfall. In spite of what Gov. Brownback promised, cutting taxes has not, in fact, increased revenue. Shocking. Now, that’s not to say that Kansas doesn’t have a low unemployment rate. Whenever Brownback supporters talk about the tax cuts, they always like to mention the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate in Kansas peaked in 2009 at 7.3 and the US as a whole peaked a couple months later at 10 even. So that’s where it was, but where is it now? The US is at 5 and Kansas is now at 4. So, with that in hand, we can see that tax cuts were not the cause. The US rate has halved, meaning there’s a strong downward trend anyway. Proponents of Brownback and tax cuts in general like to claim that the tax cuts led to a lower unemployment rate, but that’s not exactly honest.

For about a year now, nearly every single month Kansas has collected less than the projected/required amount. They knew this budget shortfall was coming. Yet, here we are. These tax cuts took place in 2012/2013. We’ve got plenty of data at this point. We know tax cuts do not magically increase the state tax revenue. When you think about it, that’s a pretty fucking stupid idea.

Here’s a tidbit from a Wichita Eagle article:

Gov. Sam Brownback blamed the state’s financial troubles on global factors in his first interview since the state’s $290 million budget hole was announced, pointing to dropping oil and agriculture prices as the cause of the shortfall.

“I mean, we’ve got a global commodity market that’s fallen off badly. You’ve got a number of commodity-based states that are struggling now budgetarily,” Brownback said Friday.

He also said any tax increase “would have negative impacts on the state” when it already faces economic challenges.

The Kansas legislature has a weird delusional way of doing things. There’s a budget shortfall of 290 million dollars. The Kansas constitution doesn’t allow the state to have a budget deficit, so they’re required to come up with something.

Now, Brownback is not wrong about the dropping oil and agricultural prices causing problems in the state. But let’s be real, a year ago Kansas has the exact same problem. The issues they’re having now aren’t related to the ag and oil drop, they’re merely causing extra issues. In fact, I would contend that the economic outlook for the global economy means that Kansas should seriously consider temporary tax increase ANYWAY, and when paired with the super-minimal taxes they have now, it’s simply idiotic not to increase them.

So if they aren’t going to raise taxes, what are they going to do?

One option would sell off a portion of the state’s future tobacco settlement money for quick cash. Another would delay a $99 million payment to the state employee pension system.

Great idea! That sounds totally fiscally responsible.

Wow. So I’ve spent a lot of time telling you why these massive tax cuts led to stupid results. But I recently read a Slate article that actually gave a really great and really succinct explanation of why we get those results. Great article, by the way. Read it here. However, for the purpose of this, I’ve snipped out the most important bit:

A brief explanation: Companies organized as pass-through entities, such as partnerships, LLCs, or S-corporations, don’t pay corporate taxes. Instead, their profits get handed over to their owners, who then pay personal income taxes on the earnings. Brownback exempted those profits from state taxes under the theory that it would help spur more small-business growth.

The problem is that many large and successful businesses are also organized as pass-through entities. And, as the right-leaning Tax Foundation gently warned in 2012, there was nothing to stop other big companies from restructuring themselves to avoid taxes. That seems to have happened in a big way: About 70 percent more businesses have taken advantage of the loophole than expected, which has helped cripple the state’s budget projections.

And from this, we get a national effect. The Republican candidates for president aren’t talking about tax cuts. Here’s the final bit from a recent Star column:

So it’s possible the Kansas budget plan has worked, in reverse: it’s convinced politicians across the nation what not to do. It’s like the rest of the country is sticking pins in the state, trying to kill voodoo economics once and for all.

Voodoo economics comes from George H.W. Bush. That’s what he called Reagan’s tax plan. He then lost to Reagan in the primary and didn’t become president until Reagan ran into term limits.
So there you are. Tax cuts don’t create so much growth that they offset the tax cuts. They tried that, over and over, and it just doesn’t work.

Petty Tyrants in the Missouri Legislature

Missouri has an extremely Republican state house and senate. However, Missouri also has Kansas City and St Louis, which are Democratic strongholds. Personally, I live in Kansas City so I know a lot more about what goes on here.

A while back, Kansas City got Uber to agree to some regulations after extensive negotiations. And Uber, being the right-wing company that it is, went to the Missouri legislature because the Missouri legislature is also right-wing. Together, Uber and the legislature are currently trying to make the previously negotiated regulations illegal.

Another thing: Kansas City attempted to raise the minimum wage but the Missouri legislature made it impossible for any municipality to raise the minimum wage. It goes on and on, not just with Kansas City but also St Louis and Columbia.

The Missouri legislature, full of Republicans who criticize the federal government for overreaching, doesn’t allow for local control. It’s the one of the more shockingly hypocritical things that the Republicans do and it happens in every state.

You may have heard about what happened at the University of Missouri. There were some racist stuff, protests that not enough was being done, and then the football team got on board and the whole thing exploded until the MU leaders were forced out. Right? Pretty rough summary, I know, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Now, the Missouri legislature wants to seize control of the University of Missouri. The university isn’t conservative and the legislature really can’t abide by that. It’s not like MU handled the protests well. No, the legislature is mad that MU handled it at all.

The legislature prefers suppression of dissent rather than dialogue or, you know, finding a solution. They prefer ignoring problems, which you can tell because the Missouri highway system is in shambles and they do nothing because it’s easier to ignore the problem than allocate some funding on what is clearly a bipartisan issue.

What I’m getting at is, the Missouri legislature is full of scumbags who abuse their power as lawmakers to attack anyone they disagree with. As you may have gathered, it makes me very angry but can’t do anything about it because they’ve manipulated redistricting to give themselves a permanent control of the legislature.