I haven’t read Politico regularly enough over the past few years to be entirely certain, but it seems to me those “gotta win the morning” folks have become since the last election a bit less the stenographers of power and somewhat more often the critical observers; does that fit your experience?
Witness Harold Pollack’s politely titled piece today, “Paul Ryan Failed Because His Bill Was a Dumpster Fire”. Pollack doesn’t fail to point out all the ways Paul Ryan and his allies might have tried to improve their bill’s chances, both process issues such as working with moderates to lure a few Democrats rather than expecting the Freedom Caucus to come round, and policy issues like the explicit transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from the poor and sick to the top 1%. Consider that under the Ryan bill the richest 400 households in the US would have seen a tax cut greater than the total expenditures for premium tax credits under Obamacare for the twenty smallest states plus the District of Columbia.
A shrewd legislator would have found a way to make this less obvious. Ryan’s reputation for intelligence seems in this case to have overshot his actual capacities.
But it’s not simple legislative tactics or even longer-term strategy that’s at issue here, as Pollack notes.
So why did Republicans fail? In a word: insincerity. Republicans had seven years to do their own hard work, to coalesce around a credible conservative alternative to the ACA. They might have used this time to work with Republican governors, to explore which conservative policy ideas seem to stick, which aspects of ACA needed to be retained. They might have crafted a more moderate bill along the lines of the Cassidy-Collins bill, which would have given liberal states and Republican governors who adopted Medicaid expansion much greater leeway. Or they might have refined another conservative model, such as Avik Roy’s modifications to ACA exchanges, to turn ACA’s exchanges in a more conservative direction. They might have prepared the American public for whatever plan they chose.
They didn’t do any of this, perhaps because they believed they would never have to. Secure in the knowledge that they would face President Obama’s veto, Republicans rammed through a succession of extreme repeal-and-replace bills that resembled AHCA’s original draft. These bills excited the Republican base, but would have horrified most other Americans if they ever found sufficient reason to look. Then Congressional Republicans suffered what George W. Bush might call a “catastrophic success” with Donald Trump’s unexpected victory. They had nothing real to deliver.
Much has been made of Republicans’ hypocrisy in trying to ram the AHCA through Congress after complaining so vociferously about the legislative process that produced Obamacare. This hurt House Republicans less than the shoddy content of their actual bill, and the glaring mismatch between their political rhetoric and what their actual policy proposals were designed to do.
Yet another example of young Americans doing us all proud, by way of No More Mr. Nice Blog:
What would be a dream night for Suly and Anaximandro Amable, a newly married couple who went to Cancun for their honeymoon, became a bitter experience on Monday March 13.During a family show on the high seas, young American spring breakers began to sing the controversial “Build That Wall”chant, which shocked Mexican national tourists and workers.
This is just one of the many blameworthy behaviors that young spring breakers have shown recently in Cancun and that are described as acts of xenophobia and discrimination against Mexicans within their own country, which is (or should be) totally unacceptable.
Swedish kids don’t act that way, neither do Japanese kids, or Germans, Danes, Indians, Canadians, Poles or Ecuadoreans.
I wonder if they know the Wall Street type who thought it would be cute to get drunk and dry hump a statue of a little girl? You know, this guy:
To hell with it. Slap these punks in the army and send them to Syria. If not, they’re gonna wind up running Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. They’re gonna be your next representative or maybe even a supreme court justice, a CEO, an attorney or an advertising executive. They’re going to preside over Fourth of July parades, ribbon cutting ceremonies and shareholder’s meetings at which they breathlessly announce the next wave of layoffs and sleazy stock buy-back schemes. They’re going to be in the Kiwanis club and coach your kid’s soccer team. In short, they’re going to evolve into good solid bourgeois Americans who will dutifully keep our best traditions alive, including xenophobia and racism.
After they’ve matured a bit, they’ll learn to keep it discreetly in the closet (as some of them have no doubt already learned to do with their more unseemly sexual urges). They’ll go to their graves insisting they aren’t racist, but every time a foreign brown person yells “boo!” they’ll be leading the charge for sanctions, drone strikes and boots on the ground. These brave, potbellied burgomasters will man up and tell us war is hell as they urge roundups and mass deportations. And not only will they not suffer from it. it will make their careers.
In a comment on my last post, Rocky D says he has been a reader since 1996. I didn’t think it had been that long, and the Bad Attitudes archives seems to have become mostly inaccessible. In the process of poking around, though, I found the following. It reinforces my vague memory that the CIA was getting a raw deal these days. The so-called president says the agency can’t be trusted because they were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction that tricked the Idiot Son into invading Iraq. But consider this entry, from October of 2002:
Paul D. Wolfowitz is one of George W. Bush’s bits of rough trade over at the Pentagon, another being Donald H. Rumsfeld. Lately both have been sulking over the CIA’s insubordinate refusal to believe that Saddam is about to drop an atom bomb on the Mall.
So now they want to set up a special Pentagon intelligence unit that will squeeze the CIA’s facts in such a way as to produce the truth for a change.
Yesterday Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz explained to the New York Times just how those poor souls over at the CIA had managed to go so wrong.
Firstly, the fierce chickenhawk said, “They are not making independent intelligence assessments.” Readers of Orwell will understand this sentence at once. Independence is disobedience.
And secondly, there exists “a phenomenon in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won’t, and not see other facts that others will. The lens through which you’re looking for facts affects what you look for.”
Note Mr. Wolfowitz’s use of the second person plural. He would find the first person singular to be, in this context, literally unimaginable.
Trump is not an anomaly. He is not an aberration. He is not an unfortunate stumbling block on our road to perfect democracy.
Trump IS our destiny. He is the pitch perfect embodiment of the contemporary American soul. He is the zeitgeist. He is us. He is the ugly id brain of the ugly American, come to claim his birthright.
There is not one flaw in Donald Trump that doesn't apply to American culture generally.
Trump is a narcissist? So are we.
Trump is a bully? So are we.
Trump is an ignoramus who thinks the findings of science are a hoax? Welcome to America.
Trump is a crass con man who would walk over your mother's corpse to make a buck? So would the rest of us.
I’ve expected the coming of Donald Trump for years. I knew that a right wing despot was in our future since Reagan told us ketchup was a vegetable and Margaret Thatcher, echoing Ayn Rand, told us there was no such thing as society, only individuals. A right wing plutocracy was baked in the cake at that point. I always thought he would be a Bible thumper, but he was a reality TV star instead. How did I miss that? It's so obvious now.
Donald Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote. That’s the truest thing he ever said. If you want to know what this country is about, stop reading EJ Dionne and Paul Krugman. Watch FOX News and listen to Limbaugh instead. That is who this country is, and Trump is their boy. They will love him forever. They will drag their asses over hot coals for him.
And when he fails to deliver those 30 dollar an hour manufacturing jobs, he will start bombing Muslims, and his adoring fans will love him for it.
Fox America will hoist the flag and start calling out traitors. It’s going to happen. Wait for it.
A third of this country loves him, and they are stupid and mean. They never doubt the wisdom of their prejudices and they will beat you up.
This is what fascism looks like.
And the country will go along with it.
The country will go along with it because we have no alternative.
I dunno, we just couldn't think of one. We fancy ourselves as swell folks, but, you know, all we could muster is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It was the best we could do. We just can’t imagine anything more. Maybe Chelsea Clinton and Corey Booker will come along and make America safe for free trade again?
Christ, it’s enough to make you long for Warren Harding.
All that is necessary for fascism to triumph is an inept liberal class.
Anyway, I refuse to spend too much time on Trump. He is a vampire and I won't waste another minute of my one and only life thinking about him. He is sickening and evil. He's not worth the paper I wipe my ass on.
And we can’t beat him.
He has the full throated support of of one of our major political parties. Forget about the day-to-day gossip about Bannon hating Ryan, and Ryan hating Trump, and Trump hating Ryan. And forget about the fact that Mitch McConnell has a visage so loathsome it cracks mirrors and causes spontaneous abortions in cows. When push comes to shove, they band together, and they always will. They are the party of money and you are poor. They will win, you will lose.
How is it that America, circa 2017, can do no better than these slimy reptiles? We have no one to blame but ourselves.
Don’t like Trump? Look in the mirror.
Don’t like Ryan? Look in the mirror. He always wins, doesn’t he?
Don’t like McConnell? Look in the mirror.
Why do these slimy reptiles keep making economic and education policy for us? Why?
Because we keep voting them into power.
They have constituencies. Their constituency is called America.
It's time to wake up and realize that this is a dumb, vicious country.
We elect dumb and vicious people because we are a dumb and vicious people. It really is that simple.
If we’re such great people, why do we have such shitty leaders?
Trump and the Republicans are our baby. We made them and we must own them.
Day before yesterday the hospital cut me loose (having twice cut me up) following the last of three stays since mid-December. Bowel obstructions, which now seem to be removed. This, plus a certain natural laziness, accounts for the nearly nonexistent blogging of these last few months. My plan is to ease back into things slowly, starting tomorrow.
See you then.
Once again Thomas Frank cuts to the chase. He starts by praising the Womens’ March, the town hall meetings, and the furious energy directed against our current President.
But opportunism never sleeps, and with the rage and the resistance of recent weeks some far less noble characters have seen a chance to develop a new con. They’re up on the resistance bandwagon right now, rending their garments, shaking their fists and praying that no one holds them responsible for the dead end into which they’ve steered us over the years. Inveighing loudly against Trump has become, for the people I am describing, a means of rescuing an ideology that has proven a disaster.
Applying the now familiar Tea Party comparison, Frank recalls that Partiers called for new leadership but essentially rebranded stale old GOP platitudes with a non-George W. label. Frank suspects something similar will happen with the Democrats this time around, as the section of the party which outside observers might say has been passed by struggles to maintain its hold on power despite the center of energy having clearly passed to the party’s left wing. This doesn’t have to be a fight to the finish, he seems to be saying, but we’re not going down that ole neoliberal road again.
As the often hilarous insights in One Market Under God demonstrated, given his interests and background he’s well positioned to catch the marketing angles political consultants will be looking to monetize.
After all, Donald Trump is a singularly ridiculous person. Every comedian in the world knows how easy it is to mock him. He is the most unpopular new president since polling began, and right now that fact must be flashing the thousand-watt word “opportunity” at anyone familiar with modern marketing techniques. Standing up in pseudo-defiance against this comb-over mountebank is a perfect way to position your brand as a radical sexy youth-rebel freespirit.
Harbingers of this approach are already visible. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has written a nonspecific but distinctly anti-Trump manifesto. Budweiser is running commercials perceived to be critical of Trumpism, as is Coca-Cola. Starbucks has made its antipathy clear. A bunch of tech companies have declared their undying hostility to Trump’s immigration policies. Before long, no doubt, Nike or Reebok will be encouraging you to make a stand against fascism with a specially branded line of resistance sneakers.
What will of course disappear in the thrilling waves of corporate resistance to come, I expect, is that many American companies have a lot to answer for themselves. One possible reason so many corporate types are against immigration reform, for example, is because of corporate America’s epidemic of H-1B visa abuse. It’s not freedom they care for, really, it’s profit squeezed out of desperate human beings.
The entire article is worth your time, I daresay, but in brief he recommends that the Democrats return from their white-collar professionals and Wall Street types to the original base of the party, working people of every gender, skin color, ethnic background, and sexual orientation; everybody, in other words, except those whose income arises from rents of various kinds imposed on workers. Totally doable, but it requires action, not just clicktivism, and that is hard.
From Mother Jones comes the most pathetic attempt yet to rationalize a vote for the most amoral, immoral, obscene, cruel, selfish, vengeful, untruthful and greedy specimen ever to run for the presidency — a subhuman who is in every respect the polar opposite of Mr. Lanting’s Lord Jesus Christ.
Lanting is a warm and generous host who’s eager to point out his favorite Bible verse, painted right there on his wall: “‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth’ (3 John 4).” He and Betsy DeVos were both raised in the tradition of the Christian Reformed Church — a little-known, conservative Dutch Calvinist denomination whose roots reach back to the city’s founders. They went to the same grade school in the city’s private school system, the Holland Christian Schools, which was established by members of the church. Like many people I met, Lanting wasn’t a Trump supporter initially — he voted for Ben Carson in the primaries — but he couldn’t bring himself to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, whom he calls “a professional spin doctor.” “Trump is much more likely,” Lanting says, “to bring Christ into the world.”
When the boss values loyalty above all, one should not expect widespread competence among the staff. Still, it does seem reasonable to expect that a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency would be aware that the Russian ambassador's phone is tapped and act accordingly. And it doesn't seem too much to ask that the presidential press secretary would be at least as sophisticated as the average middle school teacher with respect to communication tools. Or that the attorney general, as a former prosecutor, be aware of how important it is to answer fully and completely when testifying under oath.
Josh Marshall at TPM today continued his exploration of just what, exactly, is going on with the whole cohort of folks including Cohen, Sater, Artimenko, and the apparently now deceased Orlov. That's only one piece of the whole apparent Russian attempt to compromise the man now in the White House; then there's all the meetings that might have been legitimate but keep being lied about. Of course it's impossible to know for sure given the information that is currently public. But as Josh put it:
Now, are all these moving parts connected together in some dark puzzle? I have no idea. But look at it through the prism of the Mailer Standard. Trump did put Manafort in charge of his campaign and foreign policy operation as they started to congeal in the spring of 2016. Let's assume you're Donald Trump and your hands are clean, as far as it goes. Or let's assume you're someone with half a brain and you're charged with protecting Donald Trump. How confident are you that a thorough look at that skein of Putin-aligned oligarchs, deposed strongmen, billion dollar real estate deals, Russian organized crime and mysterious peace deals wouldn't turn up something at least awkward and possibly quite bad?
There is, indeed, the possibility that basically everyone Trump allows into his inner circle, his Cabinet, and his employ is so loyal and so mediocre as to remain blissfully unaware when they are being manipulated, till the press begins to point it out to them. In that situation you would certainly expect them to become defensive. I think this is the possibility Josh is raising (though I don't think he's committed to defending every aspect of it). Another possibility is that Trump et al. fancy themselves such transcendant deal-makers that they can't imagine themselves as anything but the manipulators. And finally there is the horrific but unfortunately no longer outlandish possibility that Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russian agents to use illegal means to influence the last election, a possibility for which little proof seems to exist yet around which a web of lies is being constructed. If nothing happened, why wouldn't you welcome an investigation? That, I think, is the question Josh addressed, but to my mind his type of innocent answer founders on the shoal of lies with which the principals defend themselves.
He also seemed to express surprise at the complexity of the reform process. “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
This from Politico:
After paying $41 million for the place in November 2004, Trump called it “the finest piece of land in Florida, and probably the U.S.”
In the summer of 2008, Trump found a solution to his problem in the form of one of the world’s hundred richest men: a 41-year-old Russian billionaire named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Then with a net worth that Forbes estimated at $13 billion, Rybolovlev had made his fortune in the wild west of 1990s post-Soviet Russia. He’d spent a year in prison on murder charges (he was later cleared) and wore a bulletproof vest when his own life was threatened. He would pay Trump $95 million for Maison L’Amitie in what was widely described as the most expensive U.S. residential property sale ever…
Some thought his asking price ludicrous. Lambiet, a former Palm Beach Post reporter who now publishes the local blog GossipExtra, noticed flaws and shortcuts during a personal tour Trump gave of the property in 2007. Trump, for instance, boasted that he’d installed gold fixtures in the bathrooms. But when Lambiet scratched a faucet, he found gold paint under his fingernails.
From the New York Times:
“There’s an opportunity right now for the Labor Department to redefine its role, to help people stop thinking about the relationship between companies and workers as always win-lose,” said Eric Liu, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and author of the forthcoming “You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen.”And if I had wings, I’d start flying.
“If Trump is smart, he’ll start stealing ideas from the right and left,” Mr. Liu added.
At The Guardian yesterday Arwa Mahdawi explained her theory of populist correctness which, in contrast to political correctness seen across the political spectrum, comes pretty much exclusively from the alt-right.
From the gender-neutral ashes of political correctness a new sort of PC culture has risen. You could call it populist correctness: a virulent policing of language and stifling of debate that is rapidly and perniciously insinuating itself into daily life in Trump’s America and Brexit Britain.
Stifling debate has sometimes worked to bring down a society, though one could argue that both the US and the UK have traditions of public debate that are old and deep enough to withstand some pushing from the authoritarian right. The so-called alt-right, a name chosen to obscure the white supremacy and racism, is thankfully not the entirety of the right wing; there are many on that side of the spectrum who sincerely believe in small government and big corporations as representing the salvation of us all. At the moment, though, it’s the alt-right that has the floor, and they’re not the type to relinquish the floor voluntarily. But far more of us are repelled than attracted by their presentation, and I predict that what might look solid right now will come crashing down around the players, who after all are carrying toolboxes bereft of anything other than their own egos. They are fragile and threaten unexpectedly to explode.
As well as silencing opposing opinions by branding them elitist, populist correctness works to rebrand ideas, creating a new vocabulary for a new world order. The right prides itself on being straight-talking, on calling a spade a spade, but when it comes to calling a Nazi a Nazi or a racist a racist — well then, things are more vague. They are the “alt-right”, please. Use unacceptable terminology and they will get very angry indeed.
But what’s this? I thought an easily triggered outrage button was the preserve of politically correct liberals? From the vitriol the right heaps on “sensitive snowflakes”, you’d think they have skins as thick as elephants. Far from it: nobody is offended by quite such a wide range of banal things as conservatives. Everything from insufficiently Christmassy Starbucks coffee cups to Budweiser ads to Kermit the Frog’s lack of trousers seems to cause an outpouring of outrage. And, while jokes about minorities or women may be considered just banter, don’t even try joking about white people — that’s reverse-racism! Indeed, many triggered rightwingers recently deleted their Netflix accounts in protest against a new comedy show called Dear White People.
These folks seem to need a safe space.
Read this whole story from The Guardian, and tell me how the so-called president can possibly avoid impeachment with Russian, German and American bloodhounds nipping at his heels.
What is it about Iran with us? A national schizophrenia? A disinterest in looking farther back into our national past than Mork and Mindy? What? For example, an article titled “Ayatollah Calls Trump ‘True Face’ Of the U.S.” appeared New York Times. Thomas Erdbrink, reporting from Tehran on what the Ayatollah actually said, did what a reporter for the indispensable Times is supposed to do — and on site! So far, so good.
But then (read carefully now) Erdbrink segued into some context, beginning with “The history of animosity between both countries is long and deep,” followed by what we think of Iran – four words: sponsor of terrorist organizations. “Iran has also been held responsible by the United States for several terror attacks, most decades ago. One of them, of course [?!], was the seizure of 54 members of the American Embassy staff in Tehran for 444 days during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has also been accused of involvement in a 1983 bomb attack at a Marine barracks in Lebanon, where 241 service personnel died…. Iran denies the accusations.
“Iran has pressed several claims against the United States. Iran holds the United States responsible for having supported Saddam Hussein with intelligence, funds and weapons after he attacked Iran [Note: Iraq attacked Iran.] in 1980, dragging both countries into a [sic] eight-year war where thousands of Iranians and Iraqis died. [Deaths as would be typical in eight-year wars.]
“In 1988, an American naval vessel, the Vincennes, shot down an Iran Air commercial plane, flying over the Persian Gulf [yes, Persian Gulf] to Dubai, in the united Arab Emirates. All 290 people aboard died. Iran called the attack deliberate and the United States called it a mistake. Under a settlement … the United States offered no apologies and was order to pay around $60 million in damages to families of the victims.” That’s it on the Times’s “history of animosity.”
Really, that’s it? ……Read on
…as we see from the Miami New Times:
But Rubio’s help in DeVos’ razor-thin approval is especially unsurprising. It turns out DeVos — a multibillionaire with zero educational experience — and her family have been especially generous donors to Rubio’s campaign coffers. In fact, Rubio accepted more DeVos cash than any other senator who backed her nomination today.…and from AL.com:
Rubio has taken a total of $98,300 from DeVos and her family members, according to Federal Election Commission reports crunched by the Center for American Progress (CAP).
That’s a decent chunk of cash, even in a GOP Senate where DeVos rained nearly $1 million. And as the CAP noted, DeVos hasn’t been shy about why she donates so heavily to Republican causes.
“I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” DeVos told Roll Call back in the late ‘90s. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right...We expect a return on our investment.”
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was released from a federal prison in Louisiana this morning and is on his way back to Alabama, a family spokesman confirmed this morning…Did I mention that Siegelman (below) is a Democrat and Rubio is a Republic? Did I have to?
Siegelman was indicted in 2005 and both were convicted in 2006 on bribery charges along with HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy. Prosecutors said that Scrushy paid $500,000 into Siegelman's campaign to start a state lottery in exchange for a seat on a state health board.
Siegelman was sentenced to 88 months in prison in 2007 and immediately taken into custody but nine months later got out of prison on bond in 2008 as he appealed his conviction. He was later resentenced to 78 months and returned to prison in September 2012.
You don’t have to read the whole book on right-to-life by Supreme Court Justice-in-waiting Neil Gorsuch; Vox has done it for you. And the issue turns out to be not nearly as simple as proponents on either side of the argument would have it. Take a look. The first two paragraphs below are from Gorsuch’s book, and the third is from Vox.
Clarence Darrow of Scopes Monkey fame proclaimed, “Chloroform unfit children. Show them the same mercy that is shown beasts that are no longer fit to live.” Novelist Sherwood Anderson and physician Abraham Wolbarst, two future members of the Euthanasia Society of America, openly argued that society had a duty to kill those with defects because they unnecessarily drained community resources.
Madison Grant, a New York attorney and Yale Law graduate who also served as a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History and cofounded the American Eugenics Society, proclaimed that “[t]he laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and [a] human is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.”… In 1939 Ann Mitchell, an ESA cofounder, welcomed the advent of World War II as a “biological house cleaning.” She counseled “euthanasia as a war measure, including euthanasia for the insane, feeble-minded monstrosities.”
Of course, euthanasia did become a war measure, specifically for Nazi Germany, which launched the T4 program the same month it invaded Poland; about 200,000 disabled people were killed in various Nazi euthanasia efforts. And the effort was substantially inspired by American euthanasia advocates. Gorsuch notes that Adolf Hitler himself wrote to Madison Grant, describing Grant’s pro-eugenics book The Passing of the Great Race as “his Bible,” and stated that he had “studied with interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.”
At The Rectification of Names Yastreblyansky reimagines Trump’s recent babblings on the occasion of Black History Month as “an intensely felt and personal poem in which his pain at the unjust suspicions to which he was almost subjected for half an hour brings him into deeper connection with the African American experience.” I wish I had written his post myself, but failing that, the best I can do is order you to go here at once.
A federal judge has ordered a golf club owned by President Donald Trump to refund nearly $6 million to members who said Trump’s team essentially confiscated refundable deposits after taking over the country club in 2012…Who put that pinko on the court? Oh, wait a minute:
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club violated the contracts with members by retaining the fees and locking out many members who had declared their plans to resign.
“At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Donald J. Trump was a private citizen. As a result the Court will refer to him as such in this decision. In doing so, the Court means no disrespect to him or the esteemed position he now holds,” wrote Marra, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
Baskar Sunkara at The Guardian hits the nail on the head.
If the last week has shown us anything, it’s that Donald Trump has power, but he doesn’t have much of a mandate yet.
We need to keep it that way — and be wary of the bad political leadership and strategy that can help him build one. November’s election is a powerful reminder that the Clinton establishment’s mix of socially inclusive rhetoric and neoliberal economics is a weak response to xenophobic populism.
An anti-Trump resistance movement must be broad, but it must direct its anger and energy not just at the enemy in the White House, but the failed leadership that let him get there. The Tea Party movement couldn’t have emerged with Bob Dole and George W Bush among their leaders. We can’t build our anti-Trump resistance, settled with generations of unpopular Democratic party leaders either.
We can build the resistance, but not on the same old path with the same leaders. The next generation of Democratic leaders has yet to make individual names for themselves; at this point it’s hard to say who will emerge to compete for head of the party. But that matters much less than the energy we find to put into local actions, possibly but not necessarily coordinated with other locations; how much we are able to act in whatever theater to modify the conditions that created and allow the regrettable situation we find ourselves in.
Our corrupt and vicious criminal justice system is one of the many actually important problems ignored in last year’s trivia-heavy presidential campaign. Here, then, are talking points that the 2020 candidates will no doubt find useful. Just kidding.
The primary reason for wrongful conviction is that the success indicator for police, prosecutor, and judge is conviction, not justice. Crimes are solved by wrongful convictions. High conviction rates boost the careers of prosecutors, and high profile convictions boost their political careers. The key to rapid and numerous convictions is the plea bargain.
And plea bargains suit judges as they keep the court docket clear. Today 97% of felony cases are settled with a plea bargain. This means police evidence and a prosecutor’s case are tested only three times out of 100. When the evidence and case are tested in court, the test confronts a vast array of prosecutorial misconduct, such as suborned perjury and the withholding of exculpatory evidence. In America, everything is loaded against Justice.
In a plea bargain police do not have to present evidence, prosecutors do not have to bring a case, and judges do not have to pay attention to the case and be troubled by a growing backlog as trials consume days and weeks.
In a plea bargain the defendant, innocent or guilty, is told that he can plead to this or that offence, which carries a lighter sentence than the crime that allegedly has actually occurred and on which the defendant is arrested, or the defendant can go to trial where he will face more serious charges that carry much harsher penalties. As it has become routine for police to falsify evidence, for prosecutors to suborn perjury and withhold exculpatory evidence, for jurors naively to trust police and prosecutors, and for judges to look the other way, attorneys advise defendants to accept a plea deal. In other words, no one expects a fair trial or for real evidence to play a role in the outcome.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are optimistic about the future. They spoke at Columbia University on Friday and gave hope to the fearful and the Trump-wary.
“I am confident that America will move ahead," Buffett said.They also cautioned people against short-term thinking and told the kids to focus on doing good works. Got that? Keep it in mind.
Gates, meanwhile, said the desire for innovation and support for research are “strong” and “largely bipartisan,” despite differences on how to accomplish and fund both.
“This administration is new enough; we don’t know how its budget priorities are going to come out,” but there is much intensity to ensure that the executive branch and Congress encourage “amazing things,” Gates said.
And there you have it. Thus sprake two of the most revered oracles of our, uhm, less than exalted culture. One, sounding like he suffers from echolalia from hearing too much Trumpspeak, assures us we’re going to like, totally do amazing things! The other regurgitates a limp cliche about America moving forward that sounds like something lifted from one of Barack Obama’s weekly radio addresses. Everything is fine. America is moving onward and upward, just like Thomas Friedman says, and all that divides us are disputes over strategy and funding. See you at the next Rotary Club meeting!
(I’m sorry, but Bill Gates’ pollyannish “technology will save us from everything” attitude is annoying beyond words; I really just wish that he and Mark Zuckerberg would buy a secluded island and go hide there forever and ever, and take Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria with them.)
In a totally unrelated bit of news, Forbes Magazine informs us that the ten richest Americans made six billion dollars in the first week of Trump’s presidency. Bill Gates might be unclear about the budgeting priorities of the Trump Administration, but the criminals on Wall Street aren’t. They’re positively bullish on what they’ve seen and heard so far, and the stock market has hit record highs. Unlike the rest of us, they’re experiencing certainty. Isn’t that nice? Do you think Warren Buffet’s optimism might have something to do with the fact that he made 2.4 billion last week? (Strange prick Larry Ellison, on the other hand, had to settle for a measly $928 million, loser!)
Don’t worry about walls, Muslim bans, pipelines, runaway climate change, purges at the EPA, or Trump’s genuinely clinical narcissism. Things will be just dandy. Amazing things will continue to happen at Microsoft (ha ha ha ha) and Warren Buffet will still make billions (and still be regarded by the people he screws as a kindly old grandpa). Just keep your chin up, do good works, and by all means, avoid short term thinking!
“I don’t like to lie, no. I don’t like to lie, no. It’s something that — it’s not something that I would like to be doing,” Trump said.Is that really what Trump believes? Or is he just getting cute on us with those double negatives? After all, two no’s do make a yes, right? Same way two wrongs don’t make a right? Something like that anyway.
Not misstatement, not alternative fact, not misrepresentation, not falsehood, not fib, not distortion or exaggeration or fabrication, not obliquity or prevarication or untruth or pretense or even tarradiddle.
Just plain old “lie,” right there on page one. Go thou and do likewise, crooked media.
Today the New York Times published a suggestion of mine for Trump’s inaugural address. It’s longer than 140 characters, but not by much. Mysteriously the piece didn’t show up in the print edition we get in downtown West Cornwall, but my sons found it on line here.
Among the comments I found this quote from Abraham Lincoln’s January 27, 1838 speech to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois. In a well-ordered universe these words would be tattooed by law inside the eyelids of every American president.
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction were our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
…a buck is a buck. From the New York Times:
Marji Ross, the president and publisher of Regnery, a conservative publishing house, said she considered Mr. Yiannopoulos’s book proposal but did not pursue it because she felt it would be too polarizing among mainstream conservatives…
“We had certainly planned to take advantage of those opportunities if Hillary Clinton had won the election, and we looked at several books that we had signed up or considered the day after the election and thought, well, those aren’t going to work,” Ms. Ross said. “Oftentimes, we have said here that what’s bad for America is good for Regnery book sales…”
As is frequently the case these days, what the plurality/majority votes for often produces the opposite of what voters apparently wanted.
A hard Brexit with deep cuts to immigration would force Britons into longer working lives in order to maintain a sustainable ratio of workers and pensioners, according to modelling conducted for the Guardian.
Rises in the state pension age are anticipated as a result of increased life expectancy and large numbers of baby boomers retiring. But further delays to pension payments will be necessary if current levels of immigration, which sustain the country’s old age dependency ratio, are not maintained, the Oxford University work indicates.
Prof Sarah Harper, the director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing and chair of the UK government’s foresight review on ageing societies, said: “The message from Brexit is if you don’t want immigrants, you’re going to have to work longer. That’s how the sums work.”
So what is it with societies’ unwillingness or inability to look to the immediate future and imagine realistically what might happen? Is it the pace of change, the amount of information needed to keep up with events, or the economic pressures involved in living in a new Gilded Age?
I’ve been pretty much out of service since before Christmas, when I had emergency surgery to unblock my obstructed bowels. The operation went well and so did the recovery, which was as pain-free as anesthetics could make it. Which was, apart from the first day after the operation, just flat pain-free. I was amazed and thankful.
Anyway here I am, and a Happy New Year to you, too.
From CNN.COM we learn that:
Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found.
The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia.
Yawn. Time to plagiarize myself, who wrote this in 2008 for Salon:
I know exactly how Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick felt on seeing his words from their author’s womb unfairly ripped by Barack Obama.
I’ve been feeling the same way ever since the presidential campaign of 1984, when I wrote this for Walter Mondale: “In Reagan’s America, a rising tide lifts all yachts.” Mr. Mondale lost every state but Minnesota, but my line lived on. Through the years it has been stolen by the best — Molly Ivins, Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Warren Buffett, Doonesbury, Rush Limbaugh — and always without credit.
Do I feel used? Cheated? No, I feel the same way I did in 1988 when the media went into snit mode on discovering that Joe Biden — the horror, the horror! — had failed to footnote a line or two he lifted from a British politician. I just feel indifferent.
The awful truth is that speechwriters have a secret, unwritten code. In obedience to it, the first thing we do on finding ourselves in the White House is to rummage through the papers of past presidents in search of things to pilfer.
Here’s one such thing, from Warren G. Harding’s keynote address at the 1916 Republican Convention: “We must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it, and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”
With the subtraction of a few syllables and the addition of a soupçon of affectation (“Ask not?”), Harding’s piffle could be and was recycled for John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address — just as Harding himself had swiped it from a speech Oliver Wendell Holmes gave in 1884. Nor was Holmes likely to have been the first to come up with the general idea, which after all basically reduces to nothing more than, “Don’t expect me to do everything around this house, young lady.”
And nor was I the first to come up with that business about rising yachts. I can’t find any earlier evidence of it on the Internet, but that means nothing. All us monkeys pounding on all those typewriters for all those years? Somebody wrote it before.
Virtually all writing is plagiarism anyway, whether the writer knows it or not. Very few ideas, except out at the cutting edge of science, have not occurred to somebody before and been written down in one form or other. The only function remaining for the writer is to repeat in today’s idiom what has already been written, somewhat differently, for readers in the past. This is particularly true in political prose, which tends to be light on facts and innocent of all but a few childish ideas.
To criticize a politician for plagiarizing, then, is no more sensible than to criticize a fish for swimming. It is what both animals are designed to do. The only sensible criticism would focus on how effectively political speech does the job for which it is intended. How skillfully does the politician mix and administer the small dose of simplistic placebos that the patient is considered able to handle?
For instance, this draft language for a speech was written in 1860 by the incoming secretary of state, William Henry Seward. Note that it is entirely free of meaning:
“The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriotic graves, pass through all the hearts and all hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.”
Seward’s boss repurposed this into:
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
This is equally free of meaning, but goes a considerable way toward explaining why Seward was the incoming secretary of state and Lincoln was the incoming president. It ain’t what you say but how you say it.
And that is why the Clinton camp has found itself reduced to rolling out the pop gun of plagiarism at this difficult point in the campaign. They have no other artillery.
But as somebody or other may have more or less said somewhere else, Obama probably has nothing to fear from smear itself.
It seems Donald Trump is having trouble rounding up A-list performers to play at his inauguration. So far he’s got the Radio City Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or the Ice Capades meet the Lawrence Welk Show. Pinch me, it’s gonna be huge.
(Not that the so-called A-listers are any great shakes. When I hear that Elton John, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion are performing at some gala event, I head straight to the medicine cabinet.)
I guess all that talk about torturing Muslims, grabbing pussy and calling all Mexicans rapists was a bit of a deal breaker for those sensitive artsy fartsy types in the music world. Hmm. Who could have known?
Now he has to slum around with Ted Nugent and Scott Baio for celebrity cred, which is like getting your vitamin C from orange flavored cough drops and a Fruit Roll-Up. I dunno, maybe he can sweet talk Creed and Nickleback into showing up?