Saturday, January 21, 2017

All Hail The Gaslighter-in-Chief


Thursday night-- in a bizarre Adderall-fueled rant-- Señor Trumpanzee falsely claimed his inaugural concert was the biggest success in history. Unprecedented. People wondered if he was drunk. There were about 10,000 people. Obama's inaugural concert had drawn 400,000. Trump's a compulsive liar. PolitiFact has fact checked 358 controversial statements of his. Only 15 (4%) were rated true, although another 40 (11%) were rated "mostly true." Everything else-- basically 85% of what he's said to the public is a lie.

On Inauguration Day, Politico ran a piece dedicated to his uncontrollable penchant for lying, more than one a day, for example, since he became President-elect. "Many of Trump’s forays into fiction," wrote Brent Griffiths, "are familiar to those who watched his campaign: He’s still inflating statistics on undocumented immigration, crime and unemployment to paint a distorted picture of domestic safety. He’s still missing the mark on issues such as the documented effects of trade policy or the scientific consensus surrounding climate change. He’s still oversimplifying and overstating the Obama administration’s role in the rise of the Islamic States. And he’s still exaggerating the size of his crowds. Since winning, however, Trump has added two new areas where he frequently strays from the facts: the size of his victory over Hillary Clinton and the role of Russia in the 2016 presidential election." The article goes on to delineate and debunk 82 lies he's told in the last 71 days.

This morning, however, we're going to look not at Trump's lying per se, but at something much worse-- his gas lighting. Yes, that's the reason for the movie trailer up top for the George Cuckor-directed 1944 film Gas Light, about a woman (played by Ingrid Bergman) whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane.

Robin Stern is a psychoanalyst who been writing about gaslighting as a psychological condition. She wasn't talking about Trump and America when she wrote, fro Psychology Today, that "The Gaslight Effect happens over time, gradually, and often, by the time you are deep into the Gaslight Tango (the dance you do with your gaslighting partner, where you allow him to define your reality) you are not the same strong self you used to be. In fact, your ego functioning has been compromised and, no longer being certain of your reality, you are not often able to accurately identify when something is 'off' with your partner."
How do you know if you are being gaslighted? If any of the following warning signs ring true, you may be dancing the Gaslight Tango. Take care of yourself by taking another look at your relationship, talking to a trusted friend; and, begin to think about changing the dynamic of your relationship . Here are the signs:

1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, boss.
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person-- more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Remember, there is good news about identifying the Gaslight Effect. The good news is that knowledge is power. Once you can name this all too insidious dynamic, you can work towards changing the dynamic, or getting out-- take back your reality, and, get more enjoyment from your life and your relationship!
Last month, Lauren Duca, writing for Teen Vogue explored explicitly how Trump is gaslighting America. "Trump," she wrote, "won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception. Civil rights are now on trial, though before we can fight to reassert the march toward equality, we must regain control of the truth. If that seems melodramatic, I would encourage you to dump a bucket of ice over your head while listening to Duel of the Fates. Donald Trump is our President now; it’s time to wake up."

Trump has been successfully warping a sector of the public's sense of reality-- the most vulnerable and susceptible sector, primarily people with below-average IQs. You watched Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who suffers from a congenital joint condition, right?

Trump-- and the Fake News machine that helped him gaslight the public-- said he didn't mock the reporter. (He also referred to his autistic son, Barron, as "a retard." If you doubt your own eyes and ears in this matter... you've been gaslighted. Gaslighted by Trump. It's curable.

In his post-election summary of the triumph of the Trumpists, New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote that "All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering... Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President-- a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit-- and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety."
In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters-- white voters, in the main. And many of those voters-- not all, but many-- followed Trump because they saw that this slick performer, once a relative cipher when it came to politics, a marginal self-promoting buffoon in the jokescape of eighties and nineties New York, was more than willing to assume their resentments, their fury, their sense of a new world that conspired against their interests. That he was a billionaire of low repute did not dissuade them any more than pro-Brexit voters in Britain were dissuaded by the cynicism of Boris Johnson and so many others.

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Trump's Kakistocracy's First Two Achievements


Even as he was assembling and deploying an American kakistocracy and calling it his administration, there were people of goodwill urging everyone to just wait and be open-minded and see if Trump didn't turn out to be an OK president. "After all," one of that tribe told me several times, "he was a liberal Democrat most of his life." Nah... he was a Trumpist all of his life and the appointments-- from the neo-Nazi Steve Bannon to Pence cabinet picks like Betsy DeVos and Tom Price, it became clearer with each passing day that Trump will be the worst president in American history.

Even as he was being inaugurated yesterday, Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) President Scott Paul was looking for something hopeful in his address. "Trump's inaugural address," he said,"stuck close to the central theme of his campaign: Put America first. He vowed to return lost jobs, rebuild our domestic infrastructure with American-made goods and labor, and refurbish our atrophying defense industrial base. He’ll be building on what came before. His promise to 'Buy American and hire American' is very similar to the Buy America preferences that former President Obama saw embedded in the 2009 Recovery Act. I hope he learns from it and strengthens this principle...Ultimately, the proof will be in the policy. It will take a concerted effort on trade, tax, workforce, and infrastructure policy to create the economic and industrial renaissance the president is proposing."

Within minutes of being sworn in, Trump's first two actions as President were taken and neither was made to benefit American workers or American families. In his dark downer of an inauguration speech, written by neo-Nazi Steve Bannon, Trump's rhetoric had nothing to do with what Republicans are doing in Washington. "The establishment protected itself," he read from his teleprompter, "but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land... Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. But the new administration cancelled a fee cut on FHA-backed mortgages, an action by the Obama administration that was meant to help low-income and first-time buyers afford mortgages by lowering fees. The Obama Administration's lowering of the fees had been widely backed not just by consumer groups but by mortgage lenders, builders and realtors. Moments after the Trump move, the National Association of Realtors issued a statement asserting that Trump's reversal could keep as many as 40,000 would-be homebuyers out of the market in 2017 alone. Eliminating the cut was something congressional Republicans have been clamoring for.
Last week, during his confirmation hearing, Trump’s nominee for HUD secretary, Ben Carson, said the rate cut announced earlier this month surprised him and that if confirmed he would work with the “FHA administrator and other financial experts to really examine that policy.”

The suspension of the rate cut, set to take effect Jan. 27, came Friday before his confirmation vote.

In a letter announcing the suspension Friday morning, HUD, which oversees the FHA, said more analysis is needed on any “future adjustments” to insurance premium rates.

“FHA is committed to ensuring its mortgage insurance programs remains viable and effective in the long term for all parties involved, especially our taxpayers,” the letter to the real estate industry said.

In cutting the insurance premium, the Obama administration had argued that the FHA’s finances had vastly improved since it received its first-ever bailout in 2013 to cover potential losses on the huge volume of low-down-payment mortgages it insured from 2007 to 2009.

The administration noted that the agency’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund’s capital reserve ratio exceeded requirements for the second year in a row.

“With sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” former HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in announcing the cut.

The suspension of that decision will be a disappointment to home buyers currently out shopping, especially on top of the rise in mortgage interest rates following the November election.

If the planned reductions went into effect, borrowers who put down less than 5% on a $600,000, 30-year mortgage would have saved $1,500 a year. The Obama administration estimated that new FHA borrowers across the nation would have saved an average of $500 a year.
Needless to say, Trump's action against affordable housing isn't going over well among progressives in Congress. Ro Khanna, a freshman from Silicon Valley who Pelosi put on the Budget Committee, wants Trump to stick to his repeated promises to act in the interests of American workers. "The problem in Washington since the financial crisis," he told us, "is that tax dollars have gone to bank bailouts instead of to homeowners. This year voters demanded change. They want policies focused on Main Street, not Wall Street. What is sad is that despite his rhetoric, Trump has no interest in delivering that. His first was to increase the rate for low income home owners instead of raising taxes on the banks." Maryland freshman Jamie Raskin was another to react immediately. "Trump says he wants to put America first but he's already putting Americans last. How do you support American families by increasing mortgage payments?" The second Trump move by the brand new kakistocracy on its very first day in power was to signal that they will back Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters...  just in Texas so far.
Within hours of Donald Trump becoming president, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice late Friday asked to postpone a scheduled Tuesday hearing in the Texas voter ID case.

In its filing with a Corpus Christi federal court, the agency attributed its request to "the federal government's change in administration, which took place on January 20, 2017.

"Because of the change in administration, the Department of Justice also experienced a transition in leadership," the filing states. "The United States requires additional time to brief the new leadership of the Department on this case and the issues to be addressed at that hearing before making any representations to the Court."
I wonder if this came from the not-yet-confirmed Jeff Sessions, a big supporter of voter suppression efforts. And I wonder if any of his colleagues will have the cajones to use it against him when the final vote comes. I'm not overly optimistic. Congressman Beto O'Rouke isn't in the Senate-- at least not yet; he has to beat Ted Cruz in 2018 first-- but this morning he told us that "Voter I.D. is, at best, a solution in search of a problem; at worst it's an effort to stop people from voting, to remove that fundamental right that makes us all Americans. I'm concerned that this delay will allow the new administration to give up the fight for voter rights begun by the Obama administration."

UPDATE: Ted Lieu Seems Disappointed In Trump's First Move

Ted Lieu, calling in from the Women's March in Los Angeles told us this morning that "In his Inaugural Address yesterday, Trump said 'the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.' Hours later his new Administration reversed a decision intended to make it easier for low-income and first-time home buyers to afford a mortgage. On day 1 Trump forgot about the men and women who make our country great."

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Comrade Trump’s Inauguration Speech: The Reviews Are In!


-by Noah

Well, it’s done. Don “the Con” Trumpinsky, the blabbermouth, the one man Crime Of The Century, is President. The looting of the United States Treasury will now accelerate to something approaching the speed of light.

In the Kremlin tonight, Vladimir Putin and his KGB and Russian mob cronies are laughing hysterically. The vodka is flowing like rivers and the words “Mission Accomplished” are being shouted from the rooftops all over Moscow.

Has Russia won the Cold War without firing a shot? That’s the modern world for you. So much is done by computer. Hell, you barely even need drones anymore.

We now have a president who is arrogantly and openly violating the Constitution he just swore to uphold, with his hand on not just one bible, but two. Meet the new Bolivia. It is us.

Anyway, the headlines and reviews of Trump’s speech are in. Well, OK, they are my headlines, but, I do know that many, many other people, many other people, will be saying the same thing. Believe me. Believe me.


“Failed businessman gives failed speech. Brain dead zombies cheer!”

“No Talent!! Overrated!”

“Was that one of his Chinese ties?”

“New President’s speech is epitome of fake news!”

“Don’t expect the world to copy that hairstyle!”
That last headline is especially interesting. Over the years, I’ve observed that Madison Avenue goes out of its way to find male models for advertising, especially print advertising, that look like whoever the current president is. It’s a type of subliminal advertising.

During the Dubya days, my mailbox was continually filled with catalogs that featured male models that looked an awful like Dubya; the build, the skin shade, and especially the hair. The hair is easy. You can just dye it and cut it in the same style. Advertisers know that you can suggest a lot with just the simple things like hair, stance, expression, eyebrows, and make up. The best impressionists know this too.

If Clairol is really smart, they have already started making more orange hair dye and the makers of Cheetos are probably about launch new advertising that positions Cheetos as a facial make-up product. “It’s not just a junk food anymore!”

So, the question is: where are you gonna find willing models that resemble a fat-faced, orange-haired little troll? Not every bridge has a troll after all. Even if you do fit the description, do you want to walk around in public for the duration of, however long or hopefully, short time, the Trumpinsky presidency lasts? Is it worth the abuse? Trumpinsky himself can hide in his limo or in has garish tasteless Liberace-style abode, but woe to the person who walks around looking like the new president. You better be wearing a full-length, washable poncho. Is it worth that modeling fee money?

The speech? Oh yeah, this post is, ostensibly, about the speech and its impact, real and imagined! Here are the tweets we can expect from Trollface on the next 48 hours:
Everyone loved my speech. Loved my speech. Top ratings!

Everyone loved me! Amazing. Stupendous reaction! Fantastic!

Fabulous! Biggest turnout! Bigger than Crooked Hillary would have gotten.

Very famous speech today! Very, very famous! People are saying. Very famous!
To be fair, and DWT readers know that I’m always fair, we can give kudos to Trump for getting through his speech without making fun of disabled people, even if he has nominated an education secretary who has zero regard for them. Likewise, he didn’t shake any hands of any of his gangster buddies, at least while standing on the dais. Unlike during his last Florida fundraiser, Joey No Socks was nowhere to be found.

How did we get here?

Pre-speech speculation seemed to rise to a crescendo that rivaled the sports world’s speculation as to which teams would get into the Super Bowl. Would the Manchurian man-child president be able to keep his ever-flowing Niagara of insecurities in check? Would this ill-tempered and ill-mannered creature be able to keep the lid on his contempt for all humanity for even a half-hour or however long it took him to get though his speech? Could he project sincerity without giving away the true self that has always been on disgusting display?

If his cringe-worthy, bitterness-filled 18-minute off the cuff inauguration eve address at Washington’s Union Station were to be any indication, one could not be blamed for having low expectations. It was a downer filled with a kind of morose negativity that was so bad you would have thought he lost. Maybe, he’s still unable to get past the fact that his opponent got 3 million more votes, but, hey, you won, Trumpie, get over it. Or does it bother you that you couldn’t win without FBI Director James Comey teaming up with your owner Vladimir?

Will the ex-wives be there? Nah, too French!

The speculation began to reach a fever pitch early this week. What should we expect from a massively insecure president who has dedicated his life to erecting garish and tasteless towers labeled with his name in “gold?”

As today’s festivities began, it was interesting to see the small herd of top republicans enter the pre-ceremony holding pen inside the Capitol. McConnell looked poker-faced. Psychotic Ryan had that disconnected frozen smile that is fast becoming one of his trademarks.

Then came slit-eyed Trump, the orange fascist himself, and he looked absolutely miserable and grim. When he was introduced a few minutes later, he seemed to be way too tense, managing a thumbs up and half-heartedly mouthing a couple of thank-yous to the crowd as he walked to his seat. He looked like that was an effort for him and I’m sure that it was. Maybe, though, he was just disappointed that the record crowds he now saw didn’t match what he had foretold.

The pictures of the turnout do not lie. A simple comparison of today’s crowd with pictures of President Obama’s much larger crowds shows the reality. Although, I have no doubt that FOX “News” has already pulled their usual tactic of switching pictures to make their fake news point.

Next up came a few excellent words about the inauguration from Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. Blunt spoke of the inauguration and its relationship with the Constitution and how today’s history ties to the time of George Washington and John Adams. I don’t like Blunt, but he wasn’t making anything up and he offered something instructive. It was nice to see that there is a Republican who, at least for this day, could offer an undistorted history lesson.

Then came the religious “God is on our side” section of the program. One snake oil preacher, a weasel whose name does not deserve mention, made pointed mention of a god who protects us from those who would lie about us, not support us, mock us, blah, blah, blah. He wasn’t speaking about our country.

After a performance by the Missouri Choir, came New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer, reciting his platitudes, did manage to get in some things that will always offend Republicans with his talk about minorities, gay people, transgender people, etc. all also being Americans. As he did so, the rude crowd tried to shout him down. Imagine how far to the right and utterly gone you have to be to think that Chuck Schumer is a lefty and therefore shouldn’t be heard.

Next up, was Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, President George H.W. Bush’s worst legacy to our country, other than his offspring, that is. Thomas administered the oath of office to the hate-consumed Mike Pence. The part of the oath about defending us “against all enemies foreign and domestic” stood out to me. I should have looked closely to see if he had crossed fingers behind his back. I was struck by how grim he continued to look, even after his swearing in as he and his wife greeted President Obama and Vice President Biden who were smiling. Was this an indication of “Hey, you wanted this, it’s yours?”

Then, came the Morman Tabernacle Choir, backed by the President’s Marine Band in a performance of “America the Beautiful,” the “Sea to shining sea one.” ”America” from West Side Story might have been a better choice. At least it would have been thought-provoking in these particular times.

Finally, it was time for Chief Justice Roberts, whose path to the Supreme Court had been smoothed by the aforementioned Sen. Schumer, to play his part in the destruction of American values if not America itself as he swore Trump into office. That is definitely not something I would want on my resume.
With malice towards none and charity towards all.
- President Abraham Lincoln
I put that quote above because it stands in contrast to the thoughts, words, and essence of what followed.

As it started out, the speech was a stream of classic crowd-pleasing populist slogans and buzz phrases of varying degrees of validity.
We are transferring power from Washington to you the people.

The establishment protected itself.

Their triumphs were not your triumphs.

This moment is your moment. It belongs to you!
Then, once he had the crowd’s attention, he went off on his usual campaign boilerplate clichés, yelling bullshit about a depleted military and borders that have been undefended.
America will start winning again!

I will never let you down!

He spoke about bringing back our wealth. I don’t think he meant the wealth that is stashed offshore in places like the Cayman Islands. I took note of how his words about prejudice being unpatriotic got less enthusiasm from his crowd. I’m guessing it confused them. Maybe it was just that we all could feel the insincerity of his words. How could a man who based his whole campaign on bigotry of every kind known to humankind sell that one? He started his run by positioning himself as the Birther-In-Chief. He announced his campaign with absurdly hateful words about Mexicans. He mocks the disabled. With a past like that, even the greatest actor in the world would have trouble pulling off his words today.

The speech was short but it was anything but sweet. It was just a better way of saying what he says in his tweets. It led any objective person to believe that the speech was written for Trump by a professional writer who kept the essence of the man in the speech. But, like his less-focused campaign stump speeches, it was still raw at its core. It was angry as he focused on grievances. To cheers, he talked about the ending of jobs being shipped overseas. This, from a man who makes his clothing line in China. His daughter was sitting to his right, likely wearing shoes from he shoe line that are also made in China.

It was all very “My way or the highway.” The first wall he is building is the one in Washington.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First, American First.
That “America First” slogan, and the repetition of it should not go unnoticed. It was a nod to his KKK supporters. For those who don’t know, the America First movement was a late 1930s isolationist group that blamed the country’s troubles on Jews. It, like now, was a time when fascism was sweeping the world. Trump, who spouted isolationism and protectionism today, insisted on using this “America First” term throughout his campaign and used it today, despite pleas from the Anti-Defamation League and other groups who dedicate themselves to fighting anti-Semitism. He could have made his isolationist and nationalist points with other words, but he didn’t. It doesn’t take any leap at all to figure why he didn’t.

Trump made a point of saying that all countries should pursue their own self-interests. Just like Putin says in Russia. In other words, we should be so preoccupied with ourselves that Russia, and China, and North Korea, and every third and fourth world cesspool should feel free to run amok. That sentiment of “America First” and the way he says it is an excellent reflection of Trump’s own “Me First”, preoccupied with self thoughts. That can’t be surprising since, to the Donald, it’s all about the Donald. The world is just a bunch of irritants that get in his way. That gives us a clue as to how to act in the face of these fascists. It’s time for us to be as irritating as hydrochloric acid.

He called on loyalty to America but I can’t help but think he really just meant himself, which is something very different from what America is supposed to be. This is not a country designed to embrace that “my way of the highway” thing.

There was no articulation of the American values that are demonstrably alien to him.

There were no olive branches to his opponents. That was very telling but not surprising.

There was lots of darkness, and, yes, there has been a lot of darkness but we started turning the corner when his predecessor took over and stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs and turned it into years of job growth.

The economy has been growing, maybe not as fast as any of us would like, but it has been growing. By all measurements, no matter which scale you use, unemployment has been going down.

Another important thing to note is that some will say that he painted a picture of hope but he has already made to clear what he really thinks and what he really is.

So, we now, as I mentioned, have a president who is arrogantly and openly violating the Constitution he just swore to uphold.

Senate chaplain Barry Black, at the post swearing in luncheon, referred to Trump as “God-appointed.” Not that Trump doesn’t already believe that but why encourage that sentiment?

Through it all, Ryan rigidly smiled, like a serial killer. Watch this man. I know the new president can be quite a distraction with his “colorful” personality, but watch Paul “Crazy Eyes” Ryan very closely. Just as with President Trump, America ignores this man at the world’s peril. He is a true American Psycho, a mass-murderer whose weapon of choice is a pen. He is a terrorist who smiles that same smile he smiled today, as he wields his over-sized gavel signs his name to a paper that cuts short chemo sessions for cancer patients, all the while calling it a “great day for America.”

Today wasn’t a great day for America.

One final thought: You know I have to let out some additional snark.

Watching Trumpinsky’s Cabinet nominee cavalcade of loons and goons being questioned in the Senate during their confirmation hearings reminded me that Trump, with his background in beauty contests, has a stable of ready replacements should any of his Cabinet nominees fail to be confirmed, or, someday need to be replaced due to utter failure. In fact, I think we know that he would have preferred the people in this clip. They make about as much sense.

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Former South Dakota Teenage Republican Of The Year-- Is Now The State Legislator Molesting Interns


Heading into the elections in November, the Democrats held 8 of the 35 seats in the South Dakota state Senate. On November 8, they held 6 seats (and none of the 6 had been contested by the GOP). And of the 70 members of the state House, only 10 are Democrats. Every statewide elected official is a Republican and the 3 members of South Dakota's congressional delegation are also Republicans. Trump beat Hillary 227,721 (61.5%) to 117,458 (31.7%). In 2012 Romney won the state, but Obama did far better than Clinton, having taken 144,988 votes (40%). Of the state's 66 counties, Obama won 10; Hillary won 5. The Republicans own South Dakota; the Democrats barely exist there.

Last week the legislature killed a proposal that would have banned the predatory sexual behavior between legislators and their young pages and interns. Conservatives, who believe in the law of the jungle feel they have the right to rape youngsters as a manifestation of their power. When state Senator Stace Nelson, a Republican from Fulton proposed a ban on the behavior, he was rebuffed. Conservatives-- particularly, though not exclusively, Republicans-- are generally extremely hostile to ethics regulations.
A legislative panel voted down a proposed rule change Wednesday that would have explicitly prevented them from engaging in sexual contact with legislative interns and pages.

...Nelson said state lawmakers have previously engaged in instances of sexual harassment and sexual contact involving interns and high school pages, with at least one facing charges in 2007 for allegedly groping a legislative page.

"The facts are, this body went through a very public and ugly trial about a decade ago. There's been events in history that indicate these rules should have been put in stone and they haven't," Nelson said. "This is a rule we brought forth to address this so that there is no gray area."
The proposal was defeated in committee 9-4. Ironically, South Dakota voters approved-- 180,580 (51.6%) to 169,220 (48.4%)-- a package of ethics reforms in November and Republican elected officials are working furiously-- and so far successfully-- to block the implementation.

Yesterday, Sioux Falls' Argus Leader, the biggest newspaper in the state, ran a report on right-wing Republican from Madison, Rep. Mathew Wollman, who has been molesting interns. Although he denied the allegations when first confronted with them, he has since admitted his culpability to another right-wing crackpot, House Majority Leader Lee Qualm.

I remember when Mark Foley was caught molesting young interns and let off the hook by a conspiracy between Republican and Democratic leaders in return for him resigning. (Later Foley told me he would take pages to states where the age of consent was lower so he could have sex with them without technically breaking statutory rape laws.) Wollmann is claiming that the interns he molested were "of age" and "consenting." He has admitted he fucked one intern in 2015 and another one last year. He seems bitter that "my reputation was lowered, or perceived to be seen as lowered." Conservatives can't help but play the victim; it's part of the nature of conservatism.
He said he believed both were older than 21, and that he didn't feel he took advantage of his position of power because neither worked for him and both were of consenting age, which is why he thought it was permissible.

He said he hasn't hired a lawyer to represent him and would consider testifying before the committee if called.

"I can’t express how much I’m embarrassed, I understand these actions are unacceptable and I’ll accept all punitive measures that are decided," Wollmann told reporters. "I’ve tarnished the system and our title, this body as well as my name."

The state's legislative rule book says lawmakers are to avoid all sexual harassment in the workplace, but nothing explicitly prohibits sexual contact with interns or legislative pages.

Wollmann's confession comes a week after a Joint Committee on Legislative Procedure voted down a proposed rule change that would have prohibited sexual contact between lawmakers and interns or pages. House members said during the meeting that they considered sexual contact with high school pages and college interns to be misconduct.

The South Dakota Legislature last dealt with a case of a lawmaker engaging in sexual contact with a page in 2007. At that time, the Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion chose to censure Democratic state Senator Dan Sutton.

Qualm said he wouldn't comment on whether he viewed Wollmann's actions as a violation of House rules as he didn't want to skew the results of the investigating committee's probe.

“There are some implications in there, but that’s why we’re going by the rules, because we want the committee to make the determination,” Qualm said.
Yes... "some implications." Elizabeth Warren didn't have South Dakota or it's ethics-free Republican legislature in mind when she wrote her OpEd on the Republican approach to ethics for the Washington Post yesterday. She had Trumpanzee and his crooked cabinet in mind. Trumpanzee "is selecting nominees to run his government," she wrote. "It's no secret that I have deep reservations about the policy views of many of these nominees. I will vote against some of them."
But before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees' policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts.

The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules. If they succeed, the Republican-led Congress will erode public confidence in our democracy and set the new administration up for scandal and failure.

It is illegal for any Cabinet member to participate in a government matter that will "affect his own financial interest" or those of his or her family members, or any organization with whom he or she is affiliated. The reason this law exists is obvious: Without it, federal officials might be tempted to pursue their own interests rather than those of the American people, throwing into question the motives behind every move they make.

That is why Republicans and Democrats have embraced these restrictions. The procedures and precedents to enforce them have been followed by generations of American presidents and their Cabinets. Background checks ensure that nominees are free of criminal problems or debilitating foreign connections. Tax returns and financial disclosures reveal potentially damaging information that may undermine fitness to serve. Ethics agreements provide each Cabinet member a detailed, binding and personalized plan for disentangling from any personal and financial conflicts that could create even the appearance of self-dealing while in office.

But Republicans have ignored these safeguards. Betsy DeVos, the billionaire nominated to run the Department of Education despite having virtually no education experience, has not completed her financial disclosures or her ethics agreement. Despite Democrats' numerous attempts to postpone proceedings until these essential documents are provided, Republicans went ahead with DeVos's hearing Tuesday. Without the necessary information, we were unable to fully question the nominee about her many potential conflicts of interest. We were unable to say with confidence that DeVos will put the American people first. And after depriving the American public of even the most basic information on the nominee, Republicans further undercut a thoughtful examination by cutting the hearing short despite several senators pressing to ask additional questions.

When President Obama's nominees were presented to Congress, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanded that nominees meet these safeguards-- and they did, no matter who they were or what they had done in the past.

These requirements are even more important today, when Trump's nominees have complex financial histories, deep business ties and billions of dollars invested in the industries they will soon oversee. Complete compliance with the law might require weeks of hard work to identify and root out the many financial conflicts of a Cabinet whose members are collectively worth more than a third of all Americans combined. Difficult, yes-- but that is no excuse to ignore them.

The problem starts at the top. The president-elect has thrown out decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns or disentangle himself from his business connections. Now his Republican allies in Congress seem content to permit Cabinet nominees to do the same.

Republicans have threatened to jam through confirmation hearings despite incomplete FBI background checks, missing financial disclosures, refusals to produce tax returns and incomplete ethics agreements. When the head of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics said his office was under "pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest" to meet these rushed timelines and criticized the adequacy of the president-elect's plans for his own businesses, House Republicans finally decided to launch an inquiry into-- wait for it-- the Office of Government Ethics. Evidently Republicans don't like an "aggressive stance" on ethics issues.

Intimidating and bullying ethics officials into ignoring their legal responsibilities corrodes our democracy. It also leads to shoddy ethics agreements, which could leave Cabinet members with unresolved conflicts of interest that might affect their official actions.

Casting aside the nominees' ethical obligations puts everyone at risk-- even the nominees. Ethics agreements provide a clear line for executive branch employees between what is illegal and what is not. Conflicts can arise for even the most innocent of government officials. Respecting the process protects nominees from investigation and prosecution.

This problem is not theoretical. Lester Crawford, Food and Drug Administration administrator under President George W. Bush, resigned after only two months on the job and pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges after failing to report ownership of stock in food and drug companies regulated by the agency. President Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese, was plagued by conflicts of interest, resigning in 1988 after years of investigations into one scandal after another that distracted the nation's top law enforcement officer. Over the years, many government officials have been caught up in such scandals. These rules exist to prevent such incidents.

Congress must take these ethical requirements seriously. No Cabinet member should receive a hearing before his or her background checks, financial disclosures and ethics agreements are finished and senators have had time to review them. Nominees should be forthcoming and transparent. If those hearings have occurred, nominees who have not completed their ethics reviews should return for another round of questions after that information is made available. Senators should be thorough in their assessment and questioning of nominees. And financial conflicts with official duties must be eliminated.

I recently introduced legislation that would protect the president and vice president from financial conflicts and constitutional violations by requiring them to fully disclose and divest themselves of all personal financial interests. No such law is necessary for Cabinet officials because the laws on the books are perfectly clear.

If Congress ignores these basic ethics requirements today, the American people and the nominees themselves likely will pay the price tomorrow.

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"Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?" (MLK Jr.)


This week The Center has been featuring quotations from pioneering activists, writers and political leaders on social media that speak to the cause of social justice and equity. As we enter a period of uncertainty, one in which the signs of a hardening culture are already apparent, I find myself thinking of another.

Writing from a Birmingham jail cell in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following:

Will we be extremists for hate or for love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice
or for the extension of justice?

-- from an e-mail sent out this morning by Glennda Testone, executive director of New York's LGBT Center (known as The Center)
by Ken

I have my day pretty well blocked out activity-wise so that I won't have to deal directly with, you know, that stuff going on today. Naturally I recognize that this doesn't change the reality of, you know, that stuff the least little bit. Still, it's my way of coping, at least for a day.

In this morning's e-mail, though, I found and actually clicked through to the letter sent out by Glennda Testone, executive director of The Center, from which I've lifted the above Martin Luther King Jr. quote, which indeed seems mightily appropriate to the day.

I think it's an extraordinary letter, and I'm passing it along, not particularly because of its concern for issues of LGBT justice over the coming years, but because of the way it frames the issue of justice generally, which is obviously of concern to many other groups -- and individuals -- who find ourselves likely targets of the ugliness that the 2016 presidential campaign brought out, or maybe just reflected. So while the specifics, so smartly set out by Ms. Testone for the LGBT community, will vary for other at-risk groups and individuals, the general theme and of course the need to band together to fight the threat seem to me to have widespread application.

The only note I want to add is that while the letter is clearly, in a general sense, a fund-raising letter, with its repeated references like "the support of thousands of people like you," it approaches the day in the spirit of a dedication, a mission statement, a call for solidarity. The closest it comes to a direct appeal for, you know, money is that little tan button, "Support Our Work," in the header box. And since what you see here is a screen-shot graphic, with no live link, I do want to include that link, for anyone who may be inclined to follow it: (And the small-type links at the end of the letter should be live.)

Dear Center Friends & Supporters,

A few hours from now, a new President will take the oath of office. The transition will usher in an administration with more than a few officials whose careers have featured discriminatory policies and rhetoric aimed at the LGBT community. As the heart and the home for our community in New York City, we must be prepared for a fight in which LGBT equality is at stake.

By now, the catalogue of proposals that target or disproportionately affect the LGBT community may be sadly familiar. To name but a few: a sanctioning of anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of the First Amendment; a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that extends essential protections to the transgender community and coverage to so many in the LGBT community; an attack on our parental rights in states across the country; talk of so-called conversion therapy for LGBT youth and tepid enforcement of protections ensuring their safety within schools; and, finally, an agenda that will leave LGBT immigrants at greater risk.

Because of you we're ready to meet any challenge.

The Center will double down on its commitment to serving some of the most vulnerable LGBT New Yorkers through our transgender livelihood program, immigrant opportunities initiative and youth development continuum. We'll continue enrolling community members in health care and linking them to affirming care while providing substance use treatment and HIV/AIDS prevention and support.

And, in the months ahead, with the support of thousands of people like you, we will continue to care for one another and to provide a home for a community dedicated to justice for all.

This has always been The Center story. It has its origins in our founding when brave women and men came together out of a commitment to one another and to future generations.

Thank you for all that you do to ensure opportunity and equality for our community.

This week The Center has been featuring quotations from pioneering activists, writers and political leaders on social media that speak to the cause of social justice and equity. As we enter a period of uncertainty, one in which the signs of a hardening culture are already apparent, I find myself thinking of another.

Writing from a Birmingham jail cell in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the following:

Will we be extremists for hate or for love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice
or for the extension of justice?

The commitment carried out here every day at The Center, and made possible by you, is and always will be squarely on the side of love, and in service of justice.

Yours in love and service,

Glennda Testone
Executive Director

Become a Member | Donate | Subscribe | MyCenter

This message was sent by
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 W 13 St, New York, NY 10011 | 212.620.7310

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Trump Takes Office Following the Three Hottest Years in Recorded History


A chart of global surface temperature anomalies, meaning changes from a baseline, for the 2016 calendar year. Here the baseline is 1951–1980 (source: NASA). For the most part, the globe is a mask of red, and the Arctic is a sea of dark read, virtually "burning up."

by Gaius Publius

Nature bats last, and when it comes to global warming, nature is three-for-three during 2014, 2015 and 2016. For the third year in a row, global temperature has been the warmest in recorded history. Global temperature in 2014 surpassed all previous years; 2015 temperature surpassed that, and 2016, the year just ended, was the hottest of all.

In addition, "this is now the fifth time that the temperature record has been shattered in the current century (along with 2005, 2010, 2014, and 2015), and it’s the 40th consecutive year featuring an annual temperature above the 20th century average. All 16 years of the 21st century rank among the seventeen warmest on record, with 1998 being the eighth warmest" (Gizmodo).

This is worrisome enough, but it's clear that temperature rise is accelerating as well, though not necessarily on an every-year basis (2017 may be a bit cooler than 2016 due to the La Niña effect, but no one knows for sure). 

In general, expect more change, and expect it to occur more rapidly than anyone wants or expects. Also, expect more and faster consequences, both trivial-but-noticeable and deadly.

The Arctic Is "Burning Up"

The phrase "burning up" is meant figuratively, of course, but only because the Arctic is so cold to start with. As I wrote late last year, the North Pole was 50 degrees warmer than normal in December — that's the winter month of December — warm enough in fact to melt winter ice. You can see warming that reflected in the chart at the top. The darkest red on the chart is around the Arctic. The summer with no Arctic ice is fast approaching, perhaps this year or next will see it, and the winter with no Arctic ice is on the horizon as well. Many alive today will see the last Arctic ice in human history.

Why is the Arctic so much warmer than, say the Antarctic? Because the northern hemisphere is where almost all the industrial activity is. Take a look at the GIF image below.

The animation shows a time sequence of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. Notice the circulation flowing north and east on lower and upper air currents, and none to the south. Now picture the same for Europe, Russia, India and China.

The northern hemisphere is awash in daily CO2 emissions from industrial and consumer energy use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and methane). That rate is increasing, not slowing. Tick, tick, tick.

If Trump Won't Stop This Disaster...

Which brings me to my real main point, which I'll pose as a question for now. Let's assume Donald Trump and his cabinet-level band of climate destroyers — Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, EPA director-designate Scott Pruitt and others — are determined to make the climate disaster worse, and to make it arrive sooner than it otherwise would.

What are the choices left to us besides laying down and taking it?

That's the question. There are answers. Americans are a resourceful lot, not much given (usually) to laying down and taking it. It will be interesting to see what the American people come up with when they know that help from their government will never come.

Watch for it. Because they will do something.


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It's Trumpanzee Inauguration Day And God Is Crying Cold Tears


Yesterday, Alan Grayson e-mailed his supporters to ask them to support John Lewis-- which you can do here, at the Resist ActBlue page. When he was in Congress, Grayson always spoke reverentially about Lewis. In his e-mail he reminded his supporters why Lewis feels Trump is an illegitimate president and why he's boycotting his Inauguration today. "I don't see this President-Elect as a legitimate president," said Lewis on Meet The Press. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton."

Before Lewis' interview, only a small handful of congressmembers had heeded Luis Gutierrez's call to boycott the inauguration. We may never know how many members skip it, but so far over 70 have made public statements about why they are staying away-- and most of them mentioned John Lewis and the way Trump responded to him. Back to Grayson:
The Tweeter-in-Chief responded as follows:

"Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime-infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk-- no action or results. Sad!"

I don’t know what’s worse about President-Elect Trump, his thin skin or his thick skull.

Make Donald Trump even more angry-- show your support for John Lewis.

John Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who challenged racial segregation on the buses in the South.  He also was the Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

In 1961 and 1962, Lewis was arrested. Twenty-four times.

In Anniston, Alabama, Klan members deflated the tires of a bus that Lewis and the other Freedom Riders had boarded.  Then they firebombed it.

In Birmingham, Lewis was beaten.

In Rock Hill, South Carolina, two white men punched Lewis in the face, and kicked him in the ribs.

In Montgomery, a mob met the bus, took Lewis off the bus, knocked him over the head with a wooden crate, and left him unconscious on the bus station floor.

On one day in 1965, a day known as “Bloody Sunday,” Alabama state troopers in Selma hit civil rights demonstrators with tear gas, charged into them, and beat them with clubs. They broke John Lewis’s skull.

I’ve seen the scars on his head.

Somehow, all of that . . . pain . . . forged an outstanding Congressman. A champion on universal healthcare.  A forceful proponent of gay rights and gun safety.  An apostle of peace.

Let me sum it up this way.  Whatever John Lewis has done, he has done for others. And whatever Donald Trump has done, he has done for himself-- bigly.

I’m glad that there are people like John Lewis in public life.
So are these 71 Democrats, all of whom have explicitly confirmed that they're skipping the Trump inauguration today:
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Ted Lieu (D-CA)
Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)
Judy Chu (D-CA)
Mark Takano (D-CA)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Karen Bass (D-CA)
Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
Tony Cardenas (New Dem-CA)
Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA)
Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Darren Soto (New Dem-FL)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Mike Quigley (New Dem-IL)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Pete Visclosky (D-IN)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Katherine Clark (D-MA)
Mike Capuano (D-MA)
Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
Anthony Brown (D-MD)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
Alma Adams (D-NC)
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ)
Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Grace Meng (D-NY)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Pete DeFazio (D-OR)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Dwight Evans (D-PA)
Mike Doyle (D-PA)
Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
Bob Brady (D-PA)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Al Green (D-TX)
Joaquin Castro (New Dem-TX)
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)
Donald McEachin (D-VA)
Don Beyer (New Dem-VA)
Gerry Connolly (New Dem-VA)
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Like Grayson, Steve Israel is no longer a member of Congress. However, unlike Grayson, I haven't seen Israel, a former Blue Dog and a lobbyist-loving corruptionist, have anything to say about John Lewis' service. His dismally failed messaging talents have been so catastrophic for the Democrats that he was just hired by the corporately owned and operated Third Way organization to bring his "his decades of experience... to help Democrats reconnect with middle class voters and offer a compelling alternative to bring Democrats out of the wilderness." Here's some Fake News from Third Way:
“Democrats are on the cusp of becoming a regional party. We are winning only in the more comfortable and elite coastal areas and losing badly virtually everywhere else. We are thrilled that Steve Israel will be joining our organization and serving as a leader in our New Blue campaign. Steve’s tremendous expertise will be an integral part of devising the economic strategy and messaging that will restore the Democratic Party nationwide,” said Jonathan Cowan, President of Third Way.

Mr. Israel said in a statement, “I am eager to join Third Way’s work on this vital task. I came to rely heavily on Third Way’s insights in my own swing district and as DCCC Chair. They are the smartest think tank in Washington when it comes to innovative policies with broad appeal. And, as I saw first-hand in evenly-matched areas around the nation, we need a vision for the Democratic Party that constructively taps into the unique convergence of anxieties gripping middle class and working families. The New Blue campaign is precisely what our party needs as we rebuild in message, mobilization, and values.”
Blue America is looking forward, not backward to the failed era of Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Blue Dogs, the New Dems and Third Way but towards young leaders of working families like California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who is running in the special election to replace Xavier Beccera in Congress from a district that Steve Israel and his allies from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party might want to characterize as one of the "elite coastal areas" (like Old Westbury, Great Neck, Oyster Bay, Manhasset, Roslyn, Mill Neck and Woodbury-- all among the richest towns in America and all formerly represented by Israel), although the district Gomez is running in is a fast-growing and vibrant but an area that is ranked as one of the dozen poorest congressional districts in America. That's Third Way's and Steve Israel's idea of an "elite coastal" area. Oh, yeah-- Steve Israel doing messaging for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party... what could possibly go wrong?

Writing on his Facebook page yesterday, Robert Reich referred to today's freakshow as "a sickening event in the history of the United States, a tragedy for America and the world, and a victory for hatefulness, racism, misogyny, and authoritarianism."
[W]e say farewell to the first African-American President-- a man of decency, integrity, and dignity-- and turn the national reigns over to a thin-skinned, vindictive, impulsive, sociopath. Trump is a conman and bully who is ignorant about democracy and disdainful of its basic institutions. He lies constantly. He has cheated his customers, investors, and contractors. His countless tweets and stream-of-consciousness statements at his rallies reveal a nasty, greedy, mendacious, bigoted human being, with a level of egotism and narcissism rare even among politicians and celebrities.

Trump fueled his campaign with the sense of dispossession and anxiety found among millions of voters-- most of them white-- many of whom voted for him because they thought he would carry their resentments and fury to the nation’s capital, and make our political economic system work for them instead of the privileged few. Some say Trump rose on racism. But racism has been with us since the founding of the nation. Trump rose on downward mobility and economic fears, which allowed him to exploit racism and as well as fears of foreigners and Mexican immigrants, Islamophobia, and the rest of his hateful arsenal.

Trump is the ultimate price our political establishment pays for doing almost nothing to improve the plight of the bottom 60 percent of Americans for over thirty years.

As David Remnick has written, the most hopeful way to look at this grievous event is that it and its consequences in coming years “will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.”

Every decent American-- regardless of political party, or wealth, or race-- must now commit herself or himself to combating Trump’s authoritarianism, calling out his lies, protecting the weak and vulnerable among us, keeping hope alive, and preserving what we can of what is best about America.

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