The Trump White House released its first hints of a budget proposal yesterday, and in doing so they masterfully trolled pretty much the entire mainstream media. The first thing everyone focused on was the proposal to boost military spending by $54 billion, or ten percent. But the other focus was successfully manipulated by the White House to "journalists" who seem absolutely incapable of doing basic math. Get that -- the Trump team is outdoing someone else on lack of math skills! Really thought that would have proven impossible to accomplish, but here we are.
Archive of Articles for February, 2017
The Democratic National Committee met this weekend and elected as its new chairman Tom Perez, who narrowly beat out Keith Ellison on the second round of voting. It was the most contentious race for party chair seen in decades, so the first challenge Perez is going to face is whether he can quickly achieve any sort of party unity before the big push for the midterm elections gets underway. He's got his work cut out for him, but the bigger question is whether he'll be an effective party leader for the Democrats, and whether he can reverse the slide in the party's relative strength both nationwide and at the state and local level.
That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
I thought I'd take a little break from politics today to address some scientific news. Astronomers recently announced (with much fanfare) that they had identified a planetary system with seven possible Earthlike planets orbiting it. This, inevitably, gave rise to claims such as "[it] could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth." That's a pretty superlative statement, but we'll ignore it for now (hey, even scientists like to create media buzz, right?). Because in all the stories I read about the discovery, there was a significant lack of some necessary context. Namely, the sheer distances involved.
There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don't attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement -- instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.
The two formerly-individual holidays celebrating Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday have been merged into a single federal holiday -- a holiday which, while intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, has now become somewhat "genericized" (in name, at least) into a celebration of all our presidents. But what about the forgotten presidents? [Or, to be scrupulously accurate, "presidents"?]
Since it is Presidents' Day (or whatever else you call today, apostrophized or not), I thought I'd take it easy on our current president, and take a break from the regular ridicule I've been heaping upon him since he was sworn in. Today's supposed to be a noble holiday, after all, so I thought I'd make an extra effort at evenhandedness, and take a look back through history at some of the rocky starts various American presidents have had on the job.
Before we begin, two quick notes. That subtitle above isn't ours, but when we heard what CNN's Brian Stelter called the hot mess we saw yesterday, we had to agree it was the perfect description. Stress conference indeed! Secondly, our opening metaphor to describe our own personal reaction is going to need a rather roundabout explanation, just to warn everyone in advance.
President Donald Trump gave a press conference today, in which he uttered more than one blatant falsehood. The fact-checkers are, once again, going to have to pull an all-nighter just to keep up with them all. But while they're busy disproving the weightier of these lies, I thought I'd concentrate on just the easiest to debunk. Call me lazy if you will, but this one is just so laughably wrong that it would be downright hilarious if it weren't so obvious that Trump has such a deep-seated need to believe in it.
The relative speed differential between the Trump White House and the Republican Congress is already starting to cause problems, it seems. Because the Trump administration is moving so quickly and Congress historically moves at a pretty glacial pace, the unspoken bargain between congressional Republicans and President Trump is already showing cracks. The basic deal was going to be that GOP leaders in Congress would back Trump up on some of his (shall we say) more esoteric campaign promises, while Trump's end of the bargain would be to sign pretty much anything Republicans could manage to get past Congress, even if it contradicted some of what Trump promised his supporters (like gutting Medicare and Medicaid, to cite the most obvious candidate). GOP leaders would allow Trump to build his wall in exchange for Trump allowing them to shred the safety net and bestow generous tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy. That was the plan, at any rate.