futility

The Blind Chaos of Futility

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Somewhere between the joke about how conservatives in general cannot tell the difference, particular observations about the breathtaking naïveté we are supposed to believe about the Trump administration—

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday dodged questions about the existence of possible recordings of conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey.

Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)“I can’t comment on that,” Conway said on Fox News before moving to discuss other portions of Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier in the day.

Pressed twice more about the existence of possible tapes, Conway responded, “I can’t comment on that and actually the president himself has said he won’t comment any further on that.”

(Byrnes)

—we might find echoes of Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) point to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats when the latter decided he simply did not feel like answering: “You realize how simple it would be to simply say no, that never happened?”

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#DimensionTrump (cryptic pipeline)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (left) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI01; center) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 10 November 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

“The Trump executive order should be seen more as a mission statement, and less as a monarchical edict that can instantly change the law.”

Margot Sanger-Katz

As Republicans rally ’round their health care policy better known as, “Repeal and … y’know … whatever”, this is President Trump’s ante; Margot Sanger-Katz explains for the Upshot:

The order spells out the various ways that a Trump administration might fight the parts of the health law until new legislation comes: by writing new regulations and exercising discretion where allowed. Regulations can be changed, but, as the order notes, only through a legal process of “notice and comment” that can take months or years.

On matters of discretion, the administration can move faster, but there are limited places where current law gives the administration much power to quickly change course.

How much of the order is bluster and how much it signals a set of significant policy changes in the pipeline is unclear. The order was not specific and did not direct any particular actions.

“Right off the bat, what do they do―something incredibly cryptic that nobody understands,” said Rodney Whitlock, a vice president of M.L. Strategies, a Washington consulting firm. Mr. Whitlock was a longtime health policy aide to Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa.

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The Eternal Question of Laughing or Crying

Detail of 'xkcd' #1726 by Randall Munroe, 28 August 2016.“I’m excited about the proposal to add a ‘brontosaurus’ emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument.”

Randall Munroe

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Image note: Detail of xkcd #1726 by Randall Munroe, 28 August 2016.

¿Normalization?

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.

The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”

The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”

What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.

This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.

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Not About Anything But Democrats, According to Republicans

Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals is introduced as a Supreme Court nominee, at the White House Rose Garden in Washington, D.C., 16 March 2016.  (Detail of photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“Naturally, I would like to have him treated fairly, but a lot depends on who’s elected, a lot depends on who’s going to be president.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Via Reuters:

Two key U.S. Senate Republicans signaled they would be open to considering after the Nov. 8 presidential election President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, the centrist judge who was set on Thursday to begin meeting with senators.

The comments by Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, members of the Judiciary Committee that would hold any confirmation hearings, came a day after Obama nominated Garland to the lifetime position on the high court to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.

Senate Republican leaders have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Obama, whose term ends in January. They want the next president to make the selection, hoping a Republican wins November’s election.

Flake said while Republican leaders were “fully justified” in delaying action on confirmation, if the Republicans lose the White House race the Republican-led Senate “ought to look at this nomination in a lame-duck session in November.”

And while it’s true that something goes here about the futility of predicting conservative behavior, it’s worth reminding that part of the reason for this is that even Republicans aren’t paying attention.

This is the problem: They’re not even trying.

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My Superstition (Anti-Prophet)

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin poses with a snow truck Saturday, 23 January 2016; the Republican governor posted the image to social media in order to show Bluegrass State residents how hard he was working on the snowstorm shortly before flying to New Hampshire for a campaign event. Detail of self-portrait by Matt Bevin.

This is a personal superstition:

Aside from the obvious, it’s worth noting that when governors go to New Hampshire to headline fundraisers, it often means they’re thinking about raising their visibility ahead of a national campaign. Bevin’s entire career in public office has only lasted a couple of months; is he already eyeing some kind of promotion?

Every once in a while a paragraph like this comes up, or some similar circumstance. One reads or hears something, and, you know, just … oh, come on.

And while it is easy enough to knock Steve Benen for sounding histrionic partisan alarms early, the truth of the matter is that I also scoffed, nearly three years ago, at the proposition of Ben Carson running for president.

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Dick on Goats

The only reason I’m running with a juvenile, insensitive, obviously overused joke for a headline like that is because there just isn’t much to Jason Dick’s note on Beltway colloquialisms insofar as quoting enough of it to tempt you to click and read would pretty much require reproducing the post. Nonetheless, if you ever felt screwed like punch-line livestock for taking part in our civic process, well, nobody can actually answer the question, though there are certainly table scraps in the trough of the public discourse.

Say what?At least I didn’t say, “Don’t let it get your goat.”

Oh.

Damn.

Right. Anyway … I mean … never mind.

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Dick, Jason. “HOH Word of the Week: Goat, Goat Food”. Heard on the Hill. Roll Call. 28 December 2015.

A Congressional Fire Drill

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Bring your own analysis.

Roll Call has been busy trying to make heads and tails of House Republicans:

John T. Bennett: “Deputy Whip Tom Cole, R-Okla., and House Freedom Caucus founding member Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., did agree on two things. They both see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as the leading candidate to take over as speaker. And they believe a government shutdown will be averted by a stopgap spending bill passed within the next few days.”

Emma Dumain: “Sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call Saturday afternoon that in the event Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., makes a play for majority leader, Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., would look to move up one slot.”

David Eldridge and Matt Fuller“House Speaker John A. Boehner has a word of warning, straight out of the Bible, for fellow Republicans: ‘Beware false prophets’.”

David Hawkings: “The trend of past three decades will surely make California’s Kevin McCarthy, or whoever ascends to the presiding officer’s chair, extremely wary about his career’s trajectory over the long term — even after this fall’s latest internal Republican revolution gets put to rest.”

Catching up with some of the details that might have slipped by unnoticed, we can turn to The Hill:

Jordain Carney: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was ‘unable to control’ his party and that his resignation could leave Republicans increasingly ‘out of touch.'”

Cristina Marcos: “Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced late Friday he will run for House majority whip, just hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation.”

Mark Meckler: “Ding, dong … John Boehner is gone. Long live the tea party movement.”

Bradford Richardson: “‘Taking care of this leadership issue was a pretty selfless act that Speaker Boehner decided to make a little bit easier for everyone,’ Priebus said told host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 New York on Sunday. ‘I might imagine he would have been able to hang on, but the truth is he’s just not the type of guy to put up with it, so he just said, ‘Forget it, I’ll move on’.'”

And a check of the chatter:

Zoë Carpenter (The Nation): “ Let’s get one thing clear about John Boehner: His problem was not that his position on abortion was too liberal.”

Heather Cox Richardson (Salon): “Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.”

David Lawder (Reuters): “Thus far, a serious challenger to McCarthy has not emerged, though some Republican aides said that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is weighing a run. A Hensarling spokesman could not be reached for comment.”

Michael McAuliff, Laura Barron-Lopez, and Sam Stein (Huffington Post): “House Speaker John Boehner may be able to leave office on a high note after meeting the pope and potentially averting another government shutdown. But his abrupt departure has many on Capitol Hill fearing it will leave Congress an even worse, more gridlocked institution.

So … right. Good luck with all that. What makes the challenge seem so daunting, of course, is that everything will be obsolete by the time you get through it all. And there is a pervading notion of futility much akin to John Boehner’s speakership; that we might know what has happened, as well as what is expected to happen, does not mean it will happen. This is your House GOP. Enjoy the show. You know. As much as you can.

The Not-Quite Silence of the Moment

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

And now it gets interesting … er …ah … proverbially. You know. Never mind:

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) has declared his candidacy to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as Speaker.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power,” Webster said in a statement. “Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process. I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

(Richardson)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for the upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, 13 November 2014.  (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)House custom would see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) ascend to the gavel, and early rumors of a potential challenge from Majority Whip Steve Scalise were undone when the Republican from Louisiana’s First announced he was after McCarthy’s current job. Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are distancing themselves from challenging McCarthy’s ascension, and radio host Mark Levin is trying to rally public outcry against McCarthy.

This could certainly get interesting.

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Required Nightmare

Detail of image from Still Drinking.

And then there is this:

Imagine joining an engineering team. You’re excited and full of ideas, probably just out of school and a world of clean, beautiful designs, awe-inspiring in their aesthetic unity of purpose, economy, and strength. You start by meeting Mary, project leader for a bridge in a major metropolitan area. Mary introduces you to Fred, after you get through the fifteen security checks installed by Dave because Dave had his sweater stolen off his desk once and Never Again. Fred only works with wood, so you ask why he’s involved because this bridge is supposed to allow rush-hour traffic full of cars full of mortal humans to cross a 200-foot drop over rapids. Don’t worry, says Mary, Fred’s going to handle the walkways. What walkways? Well Fred made a good case for walkways and they’re going to add to the bridge’s appeal. Of course, they’ll have to be built without railings, because there’s a strict no railings rule enforced by Phil, who’s not an engineer. Nobody’s sure what Phil does, but it’s definitely full of synergy and has to do with upper management, whom none of the engineers want to deal with so they just let Phil do what he wants. Sara, meanwhile, has found several hemorrhaging-edge paving techniques, and worked them all into the bridge design, so you’ll have to build around each one as the bridge progresses, since each one means different underlying support and safety concerns. Tom and Harry have been working together for years, but have an ongoing feud over whether to use metric or imperial measurements, and it’s become a case of “whoever got to that part of the design first.” This has been such a headache for the people actually screwing things together, they’ve given up and just forced, hammered, or welded their way through the day with whatever parts were handy. Also, the bridge was designed as a suspension bridge, but nobody actually knew how to build a suspension bridge, so they got halfway through it and then just added extra support columns to keep the thing standing, but they left the suspension cables because they’re still sort of holding up parts of the bridge. Nobody knows which parts, but everybody’s pretty sure they’re important parts. After the introductions are made, you are invited to come up with some new ideas, but you don’t have any because you’re a propulsion engineer and don’t know anything about bridges.

Would you drive across this bridge? No. If it somehow got built, everybody involved would be executed. Yet some version of this dynamic wrote every single program you have ever used, banking software, websites, and a ubiquitously used program that was supposed to protect information on the internet but didn’t.

(Hunt Welch)

Click. Read. You know the drill.

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Image Note: Detail of image from Still Drinking, presumably ©2014 Peter Hunt Welch, but we can’t promise that.

Hunt Welch, Peter. “Programming Sucks”. Still Drinking. 27 April 2014.