Meanwhile on Planet A

There is no Planet B.

– popular sign at Saturday’s science marches

This week’s featured post is “What’s Our Story?“, wondering how we can raise energy to defend Western values when we no longer believe the story the West has been telling about itself.

This week everybody was talking about Trump’s first 100 days

which end next Saturday. I was tempted to write my own summary, but there are too many already. The Atlantic‘s is pretty good. (At this point, Paul Ryan will be happy if we can get through the 100th day without a government shutdown. The biggest sticking point is funding for the Wall, which — surprise! — Mexico isn’t paying for.)

What I will do is quickly review what I said I would watch for out of the Trump administration:

One more thing I should say is that my worst fears haven’t manifested, and it may be too late for their most likely scenario. Last November, my biggest fear was that Trump’s first few actions would be popular. He’d be victimizing out-groups like Muslims, immigrants, and blacks, and the English-speaking white majority would love it. That popularity would set a snowball rolling that first Republicans, and then Democrats, and then the courts would be afraid to stand in front of. Before you know it, we’d have the kind of fascist populism I described in “How Populism Goes Bad“.

That didn’t happen. Trump is incredibly unpopular for a president at the 100-day mark. His approval rating is around 40%, and has never been higher than 45%. Before him, Bill Clinton was the least popular modern president at 100 days, with a 55% approval rating. Democrats are united, the courts are ruling against him, and even congressional Republicans may be starting to stand up to him.

and the Georgia congressional election

When Trump appointed congressional Republicans to his cabinet, he created a series of special elections to replace them. All the districts are in deep-red areas, so he didn’t think he was in danger of losing any of them.

Well, Trump’s general unpopularity and the corresponding mobilization of Democrats has so far made those elections surprisingly competitive. Two weeks ago in Kansas, the Republican held on to a seat that Mike Pompeo had won in 2016 by 30 points, but only by 7 this time. This week in Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff got 48% of the vote in a district where Republican Tom Price got 62% just a few months ago. If Ossoff had gotten 50%, he’d have won the seat. As it stands, he faces a June runoff against Karen Handel, who finished second with 20% in a divided Republican field.

538’s Harry Enten thinks the runoff looks like a coin flip. You’d think a few of the Republicans who voted for non-Handel candidates would move to Ossoff, but Republicans have a way of uniting against Democrats when the chips are down.

and the March for Science

Saturday there were marches all over the country (and even all over the world) to protest three main things

Wherever you were, there was a march nearby. I was in Santa Fe, where I marched from the downtown plaza to the state capitol with “a few thousand” other people. (I took the picture to the right while Senator Udall was speaking. The crowd behind me was at least as big.)

Marches in the bigger cities were even larger. I’ve seen estimates of 40,000 in Chicago, 50,000 in St. Paul, and so on. In D.C., the “early” crowd was estimated at 15,000, and I haven’t heard how big it eventually got.

I’m not sure where this woman was:

and Bill O’Reilly

Apparently, if you harass enough women in the workplace over a long enough period of time, and if some of them are brave and determined enough to inspire the others to come forward, and if boycotters make advertisers notice, and if The New York Times does a story about it, and if there’s a corporate parent that just doesn’t want the grief, then you might lose your job.

Clearly, we’ve come a long way.

Of course, you also might become president. There are still a few bugs in the system.

but the French election might turn out to be even more important

I wish I understood France well enough to tell you about it in detail. The headline is that someone from outside the traditional national-party structure, Emmanuel Macron, was the leading candidate in France’s presidential election, getting 24% of the vote. That will put him into a runoff in two weeks with the second-place finisher, Marine Le Pen, who got 22%.

Le Pen, who leads the party that her father founded, is not quite the anti-semitic fascist that he was, but represents France’s radical right. She is the Trump-Putin candidate: anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU, anti-NATO.

Polls say that supporters of the other candidates will unite around Macron in the runoff, so the disaster of a Le Pen presidency might be avoided.

and you might also be interested in

Paul Krugman has a good analogy for understanding the Republicans’ inability to come up with an ObamaCare replacement plan: trying to stuff a big balloon into a small box.

Republicans have … successfully convinced many voters that they could preserve the good stuff [of ObamaCare] — the dramatic expansion of coverage that has brought the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low — while reducing premiums, shrinking deductibles and, of course, doing away with the taxes on high incomes that pay for the program.

But healthcare costs money, and people who are poor or sick don’t have enough to pay for it. The government — or somebody — has to make up the difference. The repeated attempts at a Republican plan are all ways to try to hide the gap: You can’t pull out the government money — which is the main GOP goal — and keep the same level of coverage. So every time a plan gets well enough defined for the CBO to rate it, it turns out that millions of people will lose their health insurance.

The important thing to remember is that these problems don’t keep popping up because the people devising the plans are careless, and keep forgetting crucial issues. They’re popping up because the G.O.P. is trying to stuff a big balloon into a small box, and every time you squeeze it somewhere it inflates someplace else.


Matt Yglesias: If you tell working-class voters in dying communities that the mill or the mine is going to reopen and give them back their old jobs, you’re not respecting them, you’re pandering to them.


Shaun King makes a point relevant to my post last week on cold racism: There’s a simple reason that conservatives were upset by Obama’s golfing vacations, but are far less upset by Trump’s far more frequent golfing vacations: Obama’s golfing marked him as an “uppity Negro”.


Ordinarily, you don’t see a lot of stores closing unless the economy is in recession. But they are now. Possible reasons: Internet shopping has gotten big enough to hurt store traffic. Developers overbuilt malls, expecting growth that never happened. Consumers are spending less on stuff and more on experiences like vacations or meals.


Attorney General Sessions:

I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.

Someone needs to explain to the AG (1) how the federal court system works, and (2) that Hawaii is a state equal to any other state. This is yet another dog whistle to racists whose idea of “real America” doesn’t extend out to Hawaii.

Personally, I’m amazed that someone from Alabama has the stones to denigrate Hawaii.


When Republicans take over state government, one of the first things they do is make it harder to vote. My state of New Hampshire elected a Republican governor in November, and already had Republican control of both houses of the legislature. And so now comes an unusually insidious form of voter suppression:

According to the bill, wrongful voting/voter fraud is now considered to occur simply when a person “registers to vote on election day using an affidavit to satisfy proof of being qualified … and fails to provide a copy of the document by mail or present the document in person to the town or city clerk by the deadline.” This legitimate voter who doesn’t have documentation can now be subject to a fine of up to $5,000. He will also be removed from the voter rolls.

So if you take advantage of New Hampshire’s same-day registration, you now have to produce paperwork showing that you’re a permanent resident within 10 days, and if you don’t, you’ll be fined. So a legitimate New Hampshire resident who votes, but doesn’t get around to producing the required documentation within ten days is a criminal.

The bill has already passed the Senate on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting to criminalize legitimate voters.


The IRS is going to start using private collection agencies to get people to pay overdue taxes. What could possibly go wrong? I already get spam phone calls from boiler-room operations claiming to represent the IRS.


As you listen to your Bose headphones, they’re also listening to you. Well, not exactly, but almost. According to a new lawsuit, if you use the associated Bose app, it will tell Bose what you listen to, and Bose sells that information. Apparently, someone who knows what songs, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. you listen to can make a lot of good guesses about the rest of your life.

and let’s close with some advertising that shouldn’t work

This image off their Facebook page may look like it can’t possibly come from a real business, but while crossing Missouri on I-44 I saw a billboard with the same slogan.

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Comments

  • Tom L Waters  On April 24, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Cool that you were in Santa Fe for the march! I think my wife and were standing just a few feet back from where you took the photo from.

  • Abby  On April 24, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    “Last November, my biggest fear was that Trump’s first few actions would be popular. He’d be victimizing out-groups like Muslims, immigrants, and blacks, and the English-speaking white majority would love it.”

    I think that protests helped a lot in this regard. The Women’s March set the table by making it clear to us and the world that many people opposed the Don the Con agenda. This I think provided the energy, connections and confidence for the airport protests, which I believe were immeasurably important. I suspect that Bannon figured that by unveiling the Muslim ban on a Friday night, they would be able to mold the news any way they wanted. They would turn some Muslims away at airports in the middle of the night, take a few pictures that made it appear that the people who were turned back were dangerous, and then claim that they’d saved America! They probably figured that Muslims were disliked enough by the majority of the U.S. population that people would be happy to see them turned away. Instead, there were clamoring, instant crowds at the airports, lawyers showed up and took cases immediately, and pictures were taken all right, but not the ones that the White House wanted taken.

    • weeklysift  On April 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      I agree. In particular, after the Women’s March it was hard to claim that Trump was popular, or that if you stood up to him you’d be on your own.

  • JJL  On April 24, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Regarding the French elections:
    Le Pen made it to the second round once before. In that election, the percentage of the Le Pen vote in the second round was the same as in the first round, because everyone else held their noses and voted for “not-Le Pen.”

    That’s also a very plausible scenario for this election, although Macron is more of a wild card than the “not-Le Pen” candidate the last time around.

  • Dangerous Meredith  On April 24, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    “The IRS is going to start using private collection agencies to get people to pay overdue taxes. What could possibly go wrong?”
    Here in Australia we currently have a government department using private collection agencies to chase up welfare recipients who they claim were overpaid. Apart from the fact that the government department in question has stuffed up their data matching & is chasing debts innocent people don’t actually owe, it turns out that the debt collection agencies are being paid on commission and are chasing false debts from disadvantaged people really aggressively. All kinds of stuff is going wrong: http://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/they-called-more-than-10-times-a-day-sinister-tactics-of-debt-collectors-paid-millions-by-centrelink/news-story/e66e50ba908075224230c5808a3d426b

    Thanks for another excellent blog – I always look forward to reading them every week.

    • 1mime  On April 24, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      The IRS has been using private collections agents for some time. The problem is budgeting – Republican Congress refused to fully fund their budget request to add sufficient in house staff. The job still needed to be done, hence “temps”.

  • MAHA  On April 25, 2017 at 1:39 am

    Not a word about North Korea? Or Trump’s attacks on Canada for the dairy industry (which was excluded from NAFTA), or the softwood lumber dispute yet again. Doesn’t he know about past court decisions? Tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber violate the Free Trade Agreement. And it’s not “dumping”, it’s just trying to compete with the cost of US softwood.

  • Barb  On April 25, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Actually the IRS has ALREADY used private collection agencies to collect tax debts and, wait for it, they cost MORE than the cost of hiring more IRS Collections Agents, the private collectors engaged in tactics that the government is not allowed to engage in, and since they were not IRS employees they were not able to reach a compromise settlement with taxpayers (a not uncommon way to get a debt resolved and the case closed) so after hounding taxpayers if a compromise was to happen they had to hand the cases off to, wait for it, an IRS Collections Agent. I believe that the reason they are back is, wait for it, Mitch McConnell’s fine state of Kentucky has a whole lot of collection agencies that possibly have contributed to his campaigns, and of course there is no pushback from anyone when the IRS is attacked. See this great summary of the problem: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2017/04/the_irs_is_using_private_debt_collectors_again_that_s_a_problem.html

    And yes, I was at one time employed by the Internal Revenue Service, and darn proud of it.

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