Weekly Newsletter

Vol. 45: Stand Me Up at The Gates of a Hell

A special Tom Petty tribute for volume 45

The TrumpShaker Top Four
October 8, 2017 – National Fluffernutter Day – Day 333 P.E
Stand Me Up at the Gates of Hell
A movie theater, a college campus, a high school, a church prayer group, an office building, a nightclub, an elementary school, a softball field, and now a concert venue. Another communal space in America was drenched in blood on Sunday night as a shooter, with an arsenal of 20 guns in a hotel room, rained bullets down upon the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas – killing at least 58 people and injuring over 500.Politicians waited to hear the race, religion, politics, and motivation of the shooter to see if anything could be done to stop this now very imaginable horror from happening again and again. When the shooter was identified as a 64-year-old white male, Republicans offered thoughts and prayers, lamented that this is the price to pay for freedom, declared that we can’t do anything about evil, and let us know that now is not the time or place to discuss guns. After the San Bernardino shooting, Trump called for his Muslim ban. The day after the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub, he renewed his demand. So depending on the shooter, we can either do nothing or ban 1 billion people from the country.The New York Times notes that in the 477 days after Orlando, there have been 521 mass shootings and Congress has not done a thing. After the Las Vegas shooting, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) summarized the feelings of a frustrated nation, “The thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

The shooting also brought strong reactions from several late night talk show hosts – Jimmy Kimmel,Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah were especially powerful.

The words coming from Republican leadership were less powerful:

“What happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle,” Trump said, referring to the response time of the police. When asked if there is a gun violence problem, Trump replied, “We’re not going to talk about that today.”

“It’s an open society and it’s hard to prevent anything . . . . I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions. To protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small,” said Senator John Thune (R-SD) on what can be done, which is apparently being as small as possible to avoid being shot.

“[M]ental health reform is a critical ingredient to making sure we can try and prevent some of these things that have happened in the past,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan apparently forgot that earlier this year he passed a bill to repeal a regulation that made it harder for those with mental illness to buy gun. Also, as Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) tweeted “All due respect Mr. Speaker, you and your party celebrated taking mental health care from millions just months ago at the White House.”

Republicans and the NRA have indicated a potential interest in doing literally as little as possible by regulating “bump stocks,” the accessory used by the murderer to make his semi-automatic gun achieve nearly the fire rate of an automatic gun. (Note that it’s already illegal to possess a fully automatic weapon, so prohibiting bump stocks just returns us to the status quo.) Of course, rather than just doing the right thing the NRA and Republicans are blaming President Obama for bump stocks. After years of claiming Obama was coming for everyone’s guns, the latest spin is that the Obama administration approved bump stocks (because they were not legally allowed to prohibit them) and so now the Republicans and the NRA are protecting us.

Even if the token gesture of regulating bump stocks passes, it will do little to address the ongoing crisis. Below is the cover page from The New York Times, exactly two years prior to the Las Vegas shooting.

Jammin’ Me
The Supreme Court heard Gill v. Whitford this week, which challenged the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. In 2012, Republicans won only 48.6% of the statewide vote, but took 60 of the 99 seats in the State Assembly. In 2014, Republicans won 52% of the vote and won 63 seats. In 2014, they won 52% again and yet gained one more seat to 64. A nearly 50/50 divided state has provided Republicans with a near supermajority in the past three elections. Based on the questioning, Court tealeaf readers think that Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, may be ready to strike down Wisconsin’s maps. This would be a big win for our representative democracy. Justice Sonia Sotomayor summed up the essential issue best in her questioning of Wisconsin’s lawyer, “Could you tell me what the value is to democracy from political gerrymandering? How does that help our system of government?”
You Don’t Know How it Feels

The situation remains very troubling in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Sixteen days out, 90% are without power, 45% without water, and 58% have no cell service. The response from the U.S. government was so wanting that the global anti-poverty organization, Oxfam, has allocated its resourcesto assist.Amidst this suffering, Trump landed on Tuesday in Puerto Rico for his “All is well” tour. Lowlights:

  • As he pushed for trillions in tax cuts, Trump notified Puerto Ricans that they are really cramping his style. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack . . . .”
  • Trump said the devastation wasn’t “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
  • Trump threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd like he was Nino Brown passing out turkey on Thanksgiving.
  • Trump toured a destroyed home and told the family as he left, “have a good time!” Amazingly, he did this in Houston after Hurricane Harvey as well.
  • Trump handed out flashlights, telling people (again 9 of 10 of whom do not have  power), “Flashlights, you don’t need them anymore. You don’t need them anymore.”
  • According to the The Washington Post, Trump discovered water purification tablets. Below is a reported conversation with a church volunteer:
“Wait,” Trump said, “you put it in dirty water?”
“And then you can drink it after 10 to 12 hours,” she explained.
“Would you do it? Would you drink it?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said.
“Really?” Trump said, a disgusted look coming across his face.
“Really,” she said.
“Is this your company or something?” Trump asked the woman, seeming suspicious of the aggressive pitch.
“No,” she said, “I’m part of the church.”
Quick TrumpShakes

One More Time to Cause Some Pain – The Republicans lost the battle over an ACA repeal two weeks ago, but they seem hell bent on winning the war to take away health care from millions. The latest from the front lines:

  • The Trump administration eliminated the mandate that health care plans must include contraception coverage. New rules would allow employers to stop offering contraception coverage if they have a “moral objection.” Apparently after emerging from a time machine from the 50’s, the Trump administration justified this decision because birth control promotes “risky sexual behavior.”
  • The current Senate Republican proposed budget cuts Medicaid by $1 trillion and Medicare by $473 billion.
  • Trump personally told Health and Human Services to deny a request by Iowa to fix its ACA insurance markets.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 9 million children, has still not been renewed by Congress, despite expiring on September 30.
  • Lastly, Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA under President Obama, summarizes here the larger Republican plan to completely gut health care through funding cuts, executive orders, and sabotage.

Raised on Promises – Staunch pro-life advocate Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) decided not to take his elected position to term, resigning after getting caught texting his mistress that she should get an abortion. Some are calling him a hypocrite, but he is consistent in being against giving a woman a choice. Murphy’s growing controversy didn’t stop him from voting for a House bill this past week that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks.

Don’t Do Me Like That – At the United Nations, the U.S. voted against a resolution that condemned the use of the death penalty for “specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.” The resolution passed 27-13. Former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice condemned the Trump administration’s actions.

Don’t Come Around Here No More – Attorney General and escaped Keebler Elf Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has been busy baking a whole batch of legal actions in which the secret ingredient is lovediscrimination. Sessions kicked off the week by rescinding an Obama-era policy that concluded that transgender employees are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On Wednesday, reports surfaced that the Department of Justice is investigating affirmative action in admissions for Harvard University. No details of the investigation were provided, but Sessions is probably not investigating why legacy applicants are three times more likely to be admitted to Harvard. After putting the possibility of increased discrimination based on gender and race in motion, Sessions went for the cycle on Friday, opening the door to sexual orientation and religious discrimination as well. He issued a guidance memo that states, among other things, that “religious organizations” (a yet to be defined term) can make hiring decisions based on religious beliefs. In practice, this may mean allowing employers to not hire gay employees or fire a woman if she becomes pregnant outside of marriage.

Learning to Fly – The Trump administration continued spreading its wings across the globe in the most expensive way possible.  Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is the most recent Trump administration member of the mile-high cost club. The Washington Post found that Chao used government planes at a cost of at least $5,000/hour on seven occasions. Further investigation into Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s travel habits found that he spent over $800,000 of taxpayer dollars on seven flights on military planes. For example, he spent $43,725.50 on a day trip to Miami. Commercial flights were available for $688 round trip. Next week, I look forward to reading that Melania uses the Blue Angels to take Barron to school.

Breakdown – Despite running a campaign based on a combination of email and wall-based security, team Trump continues to have trouble following even the most basic security protocols. In response to criticism that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were using personal email for official White House business, Javanka said, “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” and moved their emails to a server owned by the Trump Organization – the Trump family private business that is supposed to be firewalled from the Trump presidency, not storing White House emails. Also, Chief of Staff John Kelly is experiencing technical difficulties. Someone from the Buy More Nerd Herd White House tech support found that Kelly’s personal cell phone, that he continued to use after joining the administration, had beencompromised for several months.

Wildflowers – As the effects of warming and rising oceans make themselves known from Houston to San Juan, the Trump administration decided the best response is to scrap all of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which reduces greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. Apparently, not willing to wait years for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan to destroy the environment, Trump is working to kill off animals today. The administration very quietly withdrew 42 pending regulatory actions to protect endangered species.

Running Down a Dream – When Trump declared an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), he allowed anyone whose status ended before March 5, 2018 to apply for a two-year extension by this past Thursday. The federal government did not directly inform any of the DACA recipients of this deadline though, despite having the contact information for everyone in DACA. 23% of those eligible, 36,000 people, missed the deadline. The latest efforts in Congress to protect DACA recipients involveRepublicans demanding funding for Trump’s wall in exchange for mercy. It looks like the most vulnerable in our society may end up paying for that wall.

Rebel Without a Clue – Stephanie Rule of NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron.” Unfortunately, Tillerson didn’t say that to Trump’s face, but to others during an argument at the Pentagon. No word from Stephanie if she has a list of the other 200 million Americans who have called Trump the same thing.

Free Fallin’ – This week in “signs of our slipping from a democracy to an autocracy” – Sign #1: Trump called for a Senate investigation of NBC News for reporting negative (but objectively true) news about him being a moron. Sign #2: FEMA removed statistics from its website that showed only about half of the population of Puerto Rico had drinking water and about 5% had electricity. However, FEMA left up all positive statistics, such as an increasing number of federal workers on the island and that 30 miles of roadway are now cleared. After an uproar, FEMA restored the data on its website.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part – Trump summoned reporters to White House because he wanted them to take photos of him dining with military leaders. During the photo shoot, Trump said ominously, “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.” Reporters responded by asking Trump, and I’m summarizing here, “WTF?” Trump then said, “You’ll find out.” The transcript ends there, but I think he then tapped his fingers together and said, “Excellent.”

Featured Articles of the Week

Buzzfeed reporter Joseph Bernstein exposes “How the Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hate”.

In the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills looks at our culture of gun worship in “Our Moloch”.

I Won’t Back Down
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