incompetence

American Prestige

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, after signing executive orders at the White House in Washington, D.C., 23 January 2017.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what ‘illegal immigrants’ means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies.”

Steve Benen

Via msnbc:

Turnbull insisted after the call that the agreement with the United States is still on – the prime minister was less eager to publicly discuss the nature of his conversation with Trump – though the U.S. president turned to Twitter last night to declare, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what “illegal immigrants” means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies. NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell noted overnight that someone should tell the White House that Australia “has more troops fighting ISIS in Iraq than any other ally [and] has fought at our side since” World War II.

That’s not a rhetorical aside. Someone really should let Team Trump know about this, because there’s reason to believe they’re unaware of it.

In #DimensionTrump, it is easy enough to expect that these stories only go downhill.

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The Donald Trump Show (The Duck Episode)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“Satirical humor only works if it is punching up. Humor that punches down is just mean. A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.”

Sophia A. McClennan

Playwright Neil Simon asserted that comedy is cruelty, a theme that serves well enough as a benchmark as long as we can figure out what it means. Sophia A. McClennen offers some definition, and while the point itself is reliable, whence comes its seeming obscurity? That is, McClennan offers a fairly clear standard, yet also incredibly simplistic, and in this case we ought not criticize the standard as wonder if the critic herself has somehow gaffed up.

The answer to that last, by the way, is no.

Still, we postulate the possibility because it really does seem like the sort of basic notion people shouldn’t need explained so simply. Why did the chicken cross the road? The audience suffers cruelty as the butt of the joke for overthinking it. The rape joke that isn’t a rape joke but instead a blonde joke or a cop joke? Pick your cruelty: Are all cops rapists? Are all blondes stupid? Are all women just there to stick your dick in their mouths? (Hint: “Not another breathalyzer!” is a rape joke.) There is the Sandbox Joke, ne’er to be repeated publicly, which heaps its cruelty on young children for having been born in dark skin.

Is dementia or Alzheimer’s humor ever funny? Perhaps there is an affirmative answer; the cruelty of how many surrealists it takes to screw in a light bulb is illustrative for its lack of abstract gravity―in the end, surrealists can’t complain and surrealism itself is inherently indifferent.

More directly, the heart of McClennen’s consideration:

Last October, Death and Taxes ran a piece wondering if Trump had dementia. They pointed to the fact that Trump’s father, Fred, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years prior to his death. They also highlighted Trump’s aggressive late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings. They explained that it would be really easy for Trump take some tests and prove that he is mentally fit. “Because if Trump can prove he’s not suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him with a damaged mind devoid of all shame or self-awareness, he might just be an asshole.”

Now it may seem like I’m taking this in a flip manner and not respecting the real health challenges that face those that suffer these ailments. But that’s actually my point. I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

Or, more directly:

Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight reminded viewers that Trump speaks at a fourth grade level. That makes him, according to Camp, scientifically proven to be the dumbest candidate of them all. But Camp’s joke is only funny if Trump is talking that way to attract voters who respond to his simplistic rhetoric. It’s not funny if he really has lost the ability to speak like a healthy adult.

It is enough, to the one, hearing the people around me wind up their disgust: “He’s crazy! Why does Trump say these things?” And, yes, it would seem pedantic to suggest they answer their own question. Such as things are, the exclamation ought to carry some weight.

At some point, craziness needs to stop being the punch line. There are, for instance, his supporters, and then everybody else; it’s hard to discern the gray area, the in-between, the fence made for sitting. And everybody else seems to inevitably land at some version of Donald Trump being crazy. Perhaps it’s time we start taking the question of mental health more seriously? Not only would incompetence be, as McClennen notes, specifically not funny, it also seems a grave and necessary question in considering who should serve as president. The title “Leader of the Free World” might well be colloquial, but it also seems fair enough to expect the person we entrust with this duty should not be, at the very least, psychiatrically incompetent.

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McClennen, Sophia A. “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?”. Salon. 25 April 2016.

About What We Expect from Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015.  (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Well, you know. They tried.

Like we noted last week, it’s Congress.

The failure of Congress to strike a budget deal Monday night to avert a government shutdown means House and Senate lawmakers will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution―even though they approved one last week.

(Fuller)

Show of hands: Who’s surprised?

Anybody? Anybody?

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Image note: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01CD) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Fuller, Matt. “Congress Needs Another Stopgap Spending Measure To Avoid Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2015.

Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

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The Point of the Day (Dissonance)

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Steve Benen gets our nod for the Point of the Day:

When Republicans aren’t blaming intelligence agencies for what transpired in 2003, they’re blaming President Obama – the one who was right about Iraq from the start – for the war they apparently find tough to defend.

Reality paints a very different picture. Bush/Cheney lied the nation into a disastrous war, mismanaged it in every way possible, strengthened U.S. foes, and destabilized the entire region. All of this transpired, of course, before Obama even launched his national campaign. Indeed, the catastrophe began unfolding when Obama was still a state senator.

The crux of the bizarre talking point is that the Democratic president withdrew U.S. forces in Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement reached between the two countries. And which bleeding-heart pacifist thought it’d be a good idea to endorse this withdrawal plan? That would be George W. Bush, who negotiated the SOFA in 2008.

But there’s no reason to accept the premise – the Status of Forces Agreement was not responsible for creating a disaster in Iraq. Invading the country in the first place created a disaster in Iraq.

We might also take a moment to note a point about sources; Mr. Benen might be an msnbc producer and blogger, but set that aside for a moment and tell me he’s wrong.

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Gohmertology

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, joins House Republicans to speak during a news conference in opposition to the Supreme Court's Defense of Marrriage Act (DOMA) decision on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The note at the outset: This is Louie Gohmert we’re talking about.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday said that former President George W. Bush (R) may have gone about the Iraq invasion differently if he had known he would be succeeded in the White House by President Obama.

“Everybody else wants to ask that question about, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq, you know, knowing what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him — that would not even be able to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, that would start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos — then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question,” Gohmert said in an interview with radio host John Fredericks, according to an audio clip highlighted by Right Wing Watch.

(MacNeal)

Those who remember the old Doonesbury joke about “future presidents” can try out their best fourth-frame smile; this is what it comes to. Nonetheless, we should recognize that the distinguished gentleman from Texas’ First Congressional District, Mr. Gohmert, is at the very least a team player.

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The Countdown: Three Weeks

Jim Obergefell, left, and John Arthur, who suffered from ALS, are married by officiant Paulette Roberts, Arthur’s aunt, on a plane on the tarmac at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport on July 11, 2013. (Glenn Hartong/AP)

Three weeks.

It was not a long marriage, just three months and 11 days — the time it took his husband, John Arthur, to struggle to say, “I thee wed,” and then die from ALS. Now their union, and the 20-year relationship that preceded it, is at the center of Obergefell v. Hodges, the title case of four consolidated appeals the Supreme Court will hear this month to decide whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

(Rosenwald)

Perhaps it would be helpful to understand not only the importance of Mr. Obergefell’s marriage, but also the terrible depths to which two judges in the Sixth Circuit stooped in hopes of calling it off.

The right of Ohio to decide which marriages to honor or not depends in part on whether the marriage is illegal for other reasons. And that’s part of what is going before the Supreme Court in three weeks. You know, because marrying your gay partner is the equivalent of other prohibited behaviors like incest, or incompetence. (See Sutton and Cook, pp. 40, 59.)

That is how low Judges Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook reached in order to unmarry a dead man.

Yes, there is a reason even Justice Thomas knows it’s over. And in three weeks, Mary Bonauto will do us the honor of driving the nails.

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Rosenwald, Michael S. “How Jim Obergefell became the face of the Supreme Court gay marriage case”. The Washington Post. 6 April 2015.

Sutton, Jeffrey and Deborah Cook. “Opinion”. DeBoer v. Snyder. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 6 November 2014.

Thomas, J. Clarence. “On Application for Stay”. Strange v. Searcy. Supreme Court of the United States. 9 February 2015.

A Matter of War and Peace

This would probably be a good time to pay attention to the news cycle:

Detail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 April 2015, via Cagle Post.For most independent experts, assessments of the preliminary framework tend to range from good to surprisingly good to astonishingly good. Among congressional Republicans, those parameters vary from bad to Neville Chamberlain to oh-God-oh-God-we’re-all-going-to-die levels of opposition.

The question, however, is not what GOP lawmakers intend to do; the now infamous “Iran letter” from 47 Senate Republicans already makes clear just how far the congressional majority will go to sabotage American foreign policy. Rather, the pressing matter at hand is whether Democrats will help the Republicans’ sabotage campaign.

(Benen)

It is easy enough to grasp the Republican position; this is about the New American Century, and an opportunity to create a new worldwide rivalry akin to the Cold War in the guise of a series of blazingly hot wars across the Middle East and into South Asia.

More mysterious is the Democratic motivation. In the face of Republican warmongering, we find ourselves wishing that just once the Democrats could actually go about their jobs with some degree of collective competence.

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Image noteDetail of cartoon by Randall Enos, 4 April 2015, via Cagle Post.

Benen, Steve. “To sabotage or not to sabotage, that is Congress’ question”. msnbc. 5 April 2015.

Stupidity and Incompetence, or, What Republican Voters Want, or, Ted Cruz

TedCruz-bw-banner

Just remember that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants to be president. And remember that for some reason, Senate Republican leaders saw fit to give him the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveneness. David Levitan picks it up from there. The summary, from FactCheck.org:

During his critique of NASA’s spending on earth and atmospheric sciences at a recent committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz made some misleading claims regarding the agency’s budgets and the science that it conducts.

• Cruz said there has been a “disproportionate increase” since 2009 in funding of earth sciences. There has been an increase — and it is larger than some other NASA areas — but spending on earth sciences is lower now as a percentage of NASA’s budget than it was in fiscal 2000. And the increase reflects an effort to restore funding that had been cut.SciCheck: Factchecking science based claims (FactCheck.org)

• Cruz also suggested that the “core mission” of NASA does not include earth sciences. In fact, studying the Earth and atmosphere has been central to NASA’s mission since its creation in 1958.

• In criticizing NASA’s spending on earth sciences, Cruz also said the agency needs to “get back to the hard sciences” — meaning space exploration and not earth and atmospheric research. The term “hard sciences” refers to fields including physics and chemistry, which are central to the research being done as part of NASA’s earth science programs.

Now, perhaps it might occur to wonder why Senate Republican leadership would put so dishonest and incompetent a person in any committee chair. And the answer is about as obvious as it can be. Remember how conservatives like to complain that government does not and cannot work?

Yeah. This is called laboring to prove the thesis.

And if it occurs to wonder why anyone would go out of their way to sabotage an entire society just to prove a petulant political thesis, we need only remind that this is what your conservative neighbors want. This is what they vote for. Stupidity and incompetence are of great value in the Republican Party, right now, since they have nothing left but to try to wreck the place just so they can thump their chests and boast about being right all along, that government cannot and does not work.

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Levitan, David. “Cruz Distorts NASA’s Mission, Budget”. FactCheck.org. 18 March 2015.

An Exercise in Futility (Mixed Up Mixmaster Mix)

Detail of frame from 'Durarara!' episode 17: Masaomi Kida addresses his color gang, the Yellow Scarves.

The sad tale of Aaron Schock is also one of the stranger scandals we’ve seen lately Marin Cogan of New York magazine explains:

The saga unfolded in the most unexpected way. About two months ago, Washington Post reporter Ben Terris dropped by Schock’s office for a coffee with the congressman’s spokesman, Ben Cole. When Terris commented on the unique office décor — most politician’s offices are painted standard-issue yellow or navy and filled with knickknacks from the member’s district, but Schock’s walls were blood red, decorated with pheasant sprays and antique picture frames — an interior decorator popped out of the lawmaker’s office and offered to show him her Downton Abbey–inspired work. Terris might have never written about it had Schock and his staff not treated him like he was about to reveal a state secret. That story caught the eye of other reporters, who started digging into his spending reports. What they found was not good: Schock had spent more than $100,000 in one year from his taxpayer-funded congressional account on chartered planes — more than the senators who represented the state. He’d taken his interns to sold-out Katy Perry concerts. He misreported a private flight as a software purchase. Along the way, his spokesman was forced to resign after Facebook posts he’d written comparing black people to zoo animals were unearthed.

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