In a single picture: Continue reading How Democrats Lost, How Democrats Will Win
It was a Republican shut down but Trump took a lead, so we shall call it the Trump Shutdown.
There is a non-zero possibility that a bill to keep things going will pass in the Senate and House, that Trump will veto it, and that Congress will override Trump’s veto. Not too likely, but it could work out that way.
My advice to students I’ve had the chance to supervise is extensive, but includes the phrase “look both ways.” In that case, I refer specifically to library research. This worked better when most of our research was done using dead tree fragments. Here’s how it works. You find out about a book of interest. You go find it on the shelf in the library. Instead of just pulling it off the shelf and checking it into your carrel, you stop for a moment and look both ways. There is a good chance that the books right next to the one you found are by the same author, or about the same topic, or in some other way related. Indeed, you may have located a useful source, the one you sought, but didn’t know that the same author also did research in exactly the area you are working, wrote the classic tome on it, and in fact, that classic tome is what you thought your thesis was going to be on based on this great idea you had at the bar last night! Continue reading When investigating Trump, Look Both Ways
A lot of people will object to the title of this post. I will be told to take the post down. I will be told to modify the title or to change what I say in the post.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is correct, and his presentation is brilliant. Watch the following interview (in two parts) and read his book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.
Chris Hayes is correct to point out that the historical source of Coates title is critically important and deeply disturbing (this is something we’ve talked about here in the recent past). He is incorrect, as Coates points out near the end of the second segment, that there will be a future in which we debate the relative merits of the Trump vs the Obama presidency. I have no idea what possessed him to day that (I see Hayes slip into the false balance mode now and then when he’s tired, maybe that’s what he did there for just a moment).
On the book:
“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”
But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.
We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
General John F. Kelly is retired from the US Marine Corps, where he commanded the Southern Command. He replaced political operative Reince Priebus as President Trump’s Chief of Staff.
The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking staff member in the White House, and was formalized as such in 1961. This is not a Senate confirmable position. What the Chief of Staff does varies from administration to administration but it is almost always about the same. This person can be the puppeteer, in the case of a President who is weak and in need of a guiding hand. This person is always a gatekeeper. Communication with the president is actually communication with the POTUS/COS and if the actual president is present is the decision of the Chief of Staff. If a president is not present or unable to make an important decision, it is not the Vice President who steps in, but the Chief of Staff, short term. Or, at least, this is what we have come to understand from the combination of glimpses into real life and realistic fiction about the workings of the Executive.
The Trump administration has never been in control. Trump has blundered from tweet to tweet, changing and randomizing American policy, bringing the US to what feels like the brink of a war with North Korea, destroying all of our relationships with other nations, frightening and angering most of the citizens with bone-headed domestic policy blunders, and generally being annoying. Much of this confusion and clownish governing happened prior to about two weeks ago, peaking with the rolling out of a particularly awful communications director, a character from a first draft of a Carl Hiaasen novel. And when the insanity reached that crescendo, they called in the Cavalry. Or, actually, the Marines. In the form of General John Kelly.
At the time, everyone said the same thing. The General, being a general and a Marine and all, would impose order, control Trump, bring some sense of normalcy to the White House.
But that didn’t happen. Of all the bad things that have happened in the train wreck known as the Trump administration, some of the worst things have happened since Kelly landed on that particular beach. It was after Kelly arrived that we moved to the brink of a new Korean War. It was after Kelly arrived that Trump lost the confidence even of many of his supporters with his blatant nod to the white supremacist movement. Most recently (though I’ve not checked my twitter feed in 45 seconds so who knows) we have top advisor Steven Bannon declaring his own war on All The Staff, reversing Trump’s North Korea policy, and doing an end run around the State Department to advance an entirely new policy with China. Who knows where that will go?
So, there are two facts that tell me that there is a fallacy lurking here, for which I think I have a simple explanation.
Fact 1: Everybody knows that a disciplined Marine General like John Kelly means the restoration of order. This fact is so clear and certain that after two weeks of unmitigated chaos exponentially worse than any prior two week period in the Trump Circus, it is still held on to by everyone.
Fact 2: Fact 1 is clearly untrue.
The fallacy is that being of a military background (in this case a Marine General) fully qualifies a person to know how to generate and impose, restore or maintain, and manage, order.
It could be that John Kelly was actually a lousy general, or that he is purposefully trying to Ruin America, or perhaps some other explanation pertains. But none of that seems to apply.
Rather, I think this: Order exists in the military when you get there. Ask around. You probably know people with this story. A person who is wandering, directionless, unable to maintain order in their own life, joins the military and there finds order not because the military inspires it in them, but because the military imposes it on them. This changes their life, for the better, and thereafter they can thank the already in place inherent fundamental order of the military.
Marine generals do not create order and discipline, nor do they bring it with them to unordered chaotic climes where they can put it. The military has evolved over centuries of time, and is older than most existing nations. It has the order and discipline built in, it is a hierarchical structure based on chains of command and the concept of order itself. It is not a coincidence that the essential communication, utterance, linguistic event, in the military is called an “order” an that order is obeyed on pain of punishment anywhere from doing 100 pushups up to execution by firing squad.
Marine General John Kelly moved from an environment where order is the order of the day, often in the form of orders inevitably obeyed, to a place of deprived chaos. He moved from a milieu in which his wish was someone else’s command to the job of baby sitting a psychotic megalomaniac with zero impulse control who is, in fact, his commander in chief. Having a retired Marine General put in charge of a Trump in this manner, at this time, is actually the worst possible idea. Marine Generals give orders and they are followed. A Chief of Staff for Trump can not order Trump to do anything, and is likely unequipped with the laser pointers, shiny objects, yummy cookies, and psychological tasers needed to control the stupendously horrific combination of the world’s biggest baby who happens to also be the word’s most powerful person.
I suspect Reince Priebus had more of the skills to manage Trump than Kelly will have in ten lifetimes. Controlling the staff and the communications is Kelly’s only option, and that is clearly far less than what is needed. There may be no controlling Trump in any event, but this commander will never be controlled by any general.
General John Kelly can not serve as an effective Chief of Staff on the basis of his experience in an environment of order, precisely because the remnant of that environment is the Commander in Chief that he needs to, but can not, boss around. He might have been a good Chief of Staff for other reasons, or on the basis of other experiences, but that apparently is not the case.
I believe this is the fallacy. I believe this is a deep fallacy, because it is unnoticed even though it is right in front of everyone’s face. I expect that someday we will know of a thing called the “Kelly Effect,” when someone moves from a place of great order to a place of chaos, and the chaos wins.
If you give your children over to the Boy Scouts for a day or two, they may do something to them akin to abuse. This happened.
The Boy Scouts knew what they were getting into when they invited Donald Trump to speak at their national event. They even posted warnings for the troop leaders and scouts, on their blog.
As a unit leader or staff member, you can help make the president’s visit a success by ensuring that any reactions to the president’s address are, as we state in our Scout Law, friendly, courteous, and kind. This includes understanding that chants of certain phrases heard during the campaign (e.g. “build the wall,” “lock her up”) are considered divisive by many members of our audience, and may cause unnecessary friction between individuals and units. Please help us ensure that all Scouts can enjoy this historical address by making sure that your troop members are respectful not only of the president, but of the wide variety of viewpoints held by Scouts and Scouters in the audience tonight.
The speech was a travesty. It was rambling and foggy, the sort of thing that might make one worry about drug abuse or a brain problem. It was insulting to many people. It was inappropriate, including profanity and reference to sexual exploits of famous people (see below). It was dishonest, unfair, un-American, and stupid.
Many felt right away that the Boy Scouts should be asked to formally and publicly disavow the speech or make some sort of comment on what happened. For my part, I called the Northern Star Boy Scout office (that’s our regional Boy Scout thing) and complained. My friend Dave wrote this public letter:
Dear Boy Scouts of America,
During the Kennedy administration, I was a cub scout in Vienna, Austria, a city on the front line of the Cold War. Parts of that city, and nearly every other city in Europe, were still in ruins after the war ignited by an out-of-control demagogue placed in power by a minority of the voters. Part of my mother’s family had to flee their homes to America, while others were murdered by agents of that government.
That is why I forced myself to watch the current president’s speech to the Boy Scouts Jamboree in its entirety. It was a disgrace. It began with outright lies and accusations. (“The fake press will say there were 200 people here.”) It trashed his opponent, who was favored by more voters, though not by electoral tampering with the majority, and whom many Boy Scout parents must have voted for. It favored one religion over another. It used what at least used to be a swear word. It sowed divisiveness amongst Americans. It urged disrespect against a former President. It denigrated the nation’s government itself. It promoted its political campaign rhetoric and co-opted the audience into shouting its slogan.
According to the speaker, he is an honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. I urge you to rescind that title.
I expect that as honorable officials of the Boy Scouts of America, you will issue a statement to all troops identifying the remarks that were inappropriate and did not conform to the Boy Scout regulations about politics.
David J. Formanek
All the media, being fake and all, have gone after Trump (though I’m not sure about FOX news), and generally speaking, the reaction is strong and widespread. Even as this is happening, of course, Trump-trolls are scanning social media for anti-Trump comments, and complaining about how we are taking away Donald’s “free speech.” Which, of course, no one has done. We have the First Amendment right to complain about what the president says, and forces that intend to curtail that right are truly nefarious.
(Note: One item on a local FOX news page decries the comparison liberals are making between Hitler, the Hitler Youth, and Trump’s Boy Scout Speech. That comparison certainly has been made by many! I just watched the famous Hitler to the Youth speech (not the Hitler Youth, just German youth). The comparison is apt, but Hitler was a much more focused orator than Trump.)
Many parents of scouts, and many former scouts, reacted negatively to Trump’s speech and in many cases to the Scouts’ lack of good decision making and failure to take responsibility for the fiasco they knowingly created. See twitter examples below. The BSA, for its part, has as of this writing said nothing other than that they do these events and invite the presidents, so what?
Clearly, the Scouts, as an organization, are clueless, even if many of their members are still prying their jaws off the floor. They should know something about the Constitution by now, and recognize that Donald Trump is the greatest threat to it since Major General Sir George Prevost. After all, the Boy Scouts of America have been in a Constitutional fight or two.
In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA’s “expressive message” and that allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message.
It is inappropriate to subject youth, especially in the context of an organization that desired to have no undesirables near their boys just in case, to the sort of Drek spewed by Donald Trump at this Jamboree. It is Orwellian, at best, to pretend nothing bad happened, that the Boy Scouts of America didn’t do something horribly wrong by inviting the profane and obnoxious pussy-grabber-in-chief to speak to their kids. The Boys Scouts of America have committed the unforgivable sin of pretending that nothing is wrong, that all is normal, of standing by while our Democracy burns, and perhaps, adding fuel to the fire.
My son will not be joining the Boy Scouts. What about yours?
Example Tweets About The Trump Youth Rally
— Leila Rice (@Leila_A_Rice) July 25, 2017
The Internet is amazing. They've already translated Trump's entire Boy Scout speech from the original German.
— Sage_dude (@Sage_dude) July 25, 2017
As a Scout leader, my stomach is in knots about what Trump did today. If you haven't watched it yet, don't. It's downright icky.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 25, 2017
Who in the world makes menacing political speech at a BOY SCOUT JAMBOREE?!?
Oh, yeah. THAT guy. https://t.co/DI0YV0Wrwf
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 25, 2017
I served proudly as a Boy Scout in my youth. Trump has none of the virtues of a scout, and his speech to them was, like him, embarrassing.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) July 25, 2017
‘These are our children!’ MSNBC host unloads on Trump over Boy Scout Jamboree speech https://t.co/q33aHT5xre
— Joe Hickman (@joehick58) July 25, 2017
— The Hill (@thehill) July 25, 2017
The William Levitt Digression
I put this as an appendix because to get the full force of it all, you have to read a lot of rambling and offensive text and look stuff up in Wikipedia.
I remember growing up in New York State learning that William Levitt was famous for creating white suburbs developing land on Long Island and elsewhere in order to facilitate a white flight from increasingly non-white Manhattan. He may or may not have been involved in the conspiracy to keep public transit busses off Long Island because they were used by black folk to get to places like Coney Island. Anyway, from Wikipiedia:
Levitt refused to integrate his developments. The Jewish Levitt barred Jews from Strathmore, his first pre-Levittown development on Long Island in New York, and he refused to sell his homes to blacks. His sales contracts also forbade the resale of properties to blacks through restrictive covenants, although in 1957 a white couple resold their house to the first black family to live in a Levitt home. Levitt’s all-white policies also led to civil rights protests in Bowie, Maryland in 1963. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed Levitt’s racist policies, and the Federal Housing Administration prepared to refuse mortgages on his next Levittown. Nevertheless, Levitt would not back down and continued planning another whites-only Levittown in Willingboro Township, New Jersey. He fought legal challenges in New Jersey courts until the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
Trump, also associated with promoting and renting segregated housing in New YOrk, went on a long tirade about how great Levitt was, and how the Scouts should aspire to be him.,
… When I was young there was a man named William Levitt. You have some here. You have some in different states. Anybody ever hear of Levittown?
And he was a very successful man, became unbelievable – he was a home builder, became an unbelievable success, and got more and more successful. [Note: Levitt was like Trump, went bankrupt and otherwise failed quite often at business.] And he’d build homes, and at night he’d go to these major sites with teams of people, and he’d scour the sites for nails, and sawdust and small pieces of wood, and they cleaned the site, so when the workers came in the next morning, the sites would be spotless and clean, and he did it properly. And he did this for 20 years, and then he was offered a lot of money for his company, and he sold his company, for a tremendous amount of money, at the time especially. This is a long time ago. Sold his company for a tremendous amount of money.
And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.
[This may be a reference to Levitt’s divorse, affair with his secretary whom he later married, and his later affair and marriage with a french art dealer, but who knows. Maybe Trump knows more than just that. Anyway, Levitt might have been a fellow pussygrabber.]
Should I tell you? Should I tell you?
You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.
So look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right? So he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate, and they didn’t know anything about building homes, and they didn’t know anything about picking up the nails and the sawdust and selling it, and the scraps of wood. This was a big conglomerate based in New York City.
And after about a 10-year period, there were losing a lot with it. It didn’t mean anything to them. And they couldn’t sell it. So they called William Levitt up, and they said, would you like to buy back your company, and he said, yes, I would. He so badly wanted it. He got bored with this life of yachts, and sailing, and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored too, believe me. Of course having a few good years like that isn’t so bad.
[None of that is true. Levitt became the titular head of the company after he sold it, and it was even named after him, but he never re-owned it. Not that this matters; Just letting you know the alt-facts are flowing. Most of this story is incorrect, muddled, or made up.]
But what happened is he bought back his company, and he bought back a lot of empty land, and he worked hard at getting zoning, and he worked hard on starting to develop, and in the end he failed, and he failed badly, lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party. And it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party.
[Reminder: this is a speech to the Boy Scouts of America.]
It was the party of Steve Ross – Steve Ross, who was one of the great people. He came up and discovered, really founded Time Warner, and he was a great guy. He had a lot of successful people at the party.
And I was doing well, so I got invited to the party. I was very young. And I go in, but I’m in the real estate business, and I see a hundred people, some of whom I recognize, and they’re big in the entertainment business.
And I see sitting in the corner was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt, of Levittown, and I immediately went over. I wanted to talk to him more than the Hollywood, show business, communications people.
So I went over and talked to him, and I said, “Mr. Levitt, I’m Donald Trump.” He said, “I know.” I said, “Mr. Levitt, how are you doing?” He goes, “Not well, not well at all.” And I knew that. But he said, “Not well at all.” And he explained what was happening and how bad it’s been and how hard it’s been. And I said, “What exactly happened? Why did this happen to you? You’re one of the greats ever in our industry. Why did this happen to you?”
And he said, “Donald, I lost my momentum. I lost my momentum.” A word you never hear when you’re talking about success when some of these guys that never made 10 cents, they’re on television giving you things about how you’re going to be successful, and the only thing they ever did was a book and a tape. But I tell you – I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment.
And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum, meaning he took this period of time off, long, years, and then when he got back, he didn’t have that same momentum.
I’m so glad the Boy Scouts got to hear that inane and inaccurate story.
I speak, of course, of America.
America became very ill early last year when one of the two main political parties seriously embraced a fake candidate for the most important job in the land.
America was given a very poor prognosis in August when that party endorsed this clown for president. Then, in November, the fatal blow happened, but as is the case with many fatal things — being sentenced to death, being told you have incurable cancer, etc. — it took a while before the death throes.
From some point in time, around January, though the late winter and spring, we gained the full realization that the country’s election had been hacked (already suspected), but that the people who voted for the clown didn’t care. Then the leaders of the world singly or in small groups wrote off America and its leader, and so on. The last moments of life consisted of this or that horrific tweet or tweet storm, perhaps yesterday morning’s short video of the clown pretending to beat the crap of the press at a boxing match was the moment.
Unlike in the movies, it is sometimes hard to tell exactly when death happens. We understand it as a range of time.
Now, there is still life in this country. But it is not the essential life. It is the life we find in a dead carp washed up on a stinking muddy bank. The maggots, the bacteria, the bits of still greenish water plant stuck to the gills. Life, yes, but not the life. There are those who had wished the clown would be elected so that he could destroy America and we can start over. They got the first part of their wish. The second part is unlikely to be realized in their benighted lifespans. Today the stinking carp-clown is putting together a list and we all know what he is going to use that list for.
Do you, America, have the understanding you need, the bravery you need, and the commitment you need to renew the revolution? I think not. You’ve shown no evidence that you do.
There are advantages to living in a third world country. But those advantages come only after the fall has completed, and that will take some decade or two worth of misery, and those advantages will only pertain to the richest of the rich. They, the richest of the rich, have taken, finally, what they want.
The bad news is this: The hyper-privileged have won. The good news: They won a stinking dead carp. Enjoy, suckers.
A fish rots from the head.
And, can we hear the tapes please, before they get Wooded?
As the Republican led US Senate has voted to confirm (or deny) the party leader’s cabinet picks, they’ve done a poor job, approving, for example, people who have acted in direct opposition to the areas of government they are expected to serve, or in some cases, being abjectly incompetent. The Republicans in the Senate were not vetting the nominees. Some of the Democrats were, but even there, we saw failures of conscious.
The Senators need to be reminded that the critical choices made by the Trump administration tend to be poor ones. Look, for example, at the first NSA choice. General Flynn was caught engaged in acts that were at least unethical and annoying, if not downright illegal and, worst case scenario, treasonous. Why would we expect the Trump administration to had better choices to the Senate for their approval?
I’m pretty sure the Republicans in Congress have no clue what “advice and consent” means or what the Constitution says, or history says, about this.
The total number of Senators voting for each of Republican President Trump’s nominees is less than usual, with many, sometimes most, Democrats voting against the various and often very unqualified nominees. The Democrats who did vote for these individuals will be held to account over coming years, especially those who voted for Tillerson, and others who may ultimately be linked to currently developing scandals.
But now we have an interesting development. One of the most awful choices ever put forth for a high cabinet post ever, in any government by any president — equal to in level of insult and injury to the Betsy DeVos nomination which Congress narrowly approved — was Andrew Puzder as labor secretary.
The public outcry about putting this particular fox in charge of that particular hen house should not have exceeded the outcry against Tillerson or the others, but the general public and, certainly, Trump’s Republican Congress, appear not to understand too much about what happens in government and why it is important. But an attack by Oprah, armed with withering truth, seems to have mattered. Outrage over Puzder’s misconduct in business and personal life, some of which could be an embarrassment even to the Trump administration and to Republicans generally, was too much.
Moments ago, Puzder made a move we wish so heartily that Republican Donald Trump’s father had done years ago: he withdrew just in the nick of time.
By the way, have you read Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by former actual good Secretary of Labor Robert Reich?
America was once celebrated for and defined by its large and prosperous middle class. Now, this middle class is shrinking, a new oligarchy is rising, and the country faces its greatest wealth disparity in eighty years. Why is the economic system that made America strong suddenly failing us, and how can it be fixed?
Leading political economist and bestselling author Robert B. Reich presents a paradigm-shifting, clear-eyed examination of a political and economic status quo that no longer serves the people, exposing one of the most pernicious obstructions to progress today: the enduring myth of the “free market” when, behind the curtain, it is the powerful alliances between Washington and Wall Street that control the invisible hand. Laying to rest the specious dichotomy between a free market and “big government,” Reich shows that the truly critical choice ahead is between a market organized for broad-based prosperity and one designed to deliver ever more gains to the top. Visionary and acute, Saving Capitalism illuminates the path toward restoring America’s fundamental promise of opportunity and advancement.
The most recent polling indicates that Donald Trump has a 43% approval and 53% disapproval rating. So he is not exactly loved by the American people, which is odd because he seems so lovable. And, he has told us that the American people love him. And his victory in the November election was unbelievably big league. But, that’s how it is, according the scientific polling.
Approval and favorability are apparently slightly different, but the pattern holds. The same polling tells us that the American people have a 45% favorable attitude about the president, which would be tremendous for any product in a market economy. But for a president it is not so good, as a majority of Americans, 52%, look at the president with an unfavorable eye.
But what about some of the specific, Trump Brand signature issues? How’s he doing, and what do people think?
Building The Wall
The wall is still not built, but Trump still intends to build it. But, the promise was that Trump would “make Mexico pay for it.” The president has now learned that you can’t do that, and it is in fact not going to happen. And, the wall is still not built yet.
According to this recent poll, 56% of Americans oppose building the all, 37% are in favor of it, if Americans are paying for it.
The Muslim Ban
Trump promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and to practice extreme vetting. One of the main reasons he got elected was because of this promise. How’s that going?
Trump’s idea of “extreme vetting” seems to be “don’t let anyone in who is trying to get in legally.” Which, of course, leaves the death squads that are streaming across our borders leave to come, but leaves people like graduate students, professors, folks who went overseas to visit their grandmothers, etc. in the lurch.
Also, the ban on Muslims only banned some Muslims, from certain countries, so Muslims from countries where Trump does business are unaffected. So there may be an ethical issue there.
As you know, a key Federal court ruled unanimously to uphold a lower court decision to stay the ban because it negatively affects people and states. No higher court ruling has come down about the Second Amendment violation but that may happen later. There are more law suits against this ban than hairs on a dog, so we can expect a lot more news in this regard.
Meanwhile, the recent pol shows that 49% of Americans are opposed to the ban, with 45% in favor of it.
More interestingly, though, the vast majority of Americans, a whopping 66%, think Trump’s ban was poorly executed (27% thought everything went just fine). A majority of Americans recognized the “Muslim Ban” as an effort to ban Muslims. (Trump’s people claim it never was, even when it was called a “Muslim Ban.”) A strong majority (65% over 22%) do not think Muslims should be banned. In a sense, the courts are helping Trump out here, by shutting down this whole operation so we can move past what has turned out to be one of the most self damaging political nosedives witnessed in American history.
By the way, a strong majority of Americans trust Judges over Donald Trump to make the right decisions for the United States.
Repealing and Replacing Obamacare
Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. Most observers were under the impression that Trump and Congress, between them, had no idea what to replace Obamacare with. Boy, were they ever right! Congress made a couple of initial procedural moves that will allow them to later undo Obamacare, ran in to major opposition, forgot to have any ideas about reforming Obamacare, and then stopped.
The White House has been mostly silent on the issue. Polls show that a strong plurality of American support Obamacare (far more than those who oppose, with 47%-39% supporting-opposing). A YUGE majority of Americans, 65%, do not want Congress to repeal Obamacare and, rather, keep what works in the plan.
Keeping his Tax Returns Secret
Trump never did release his tax returns. He promised to release them after an “audit” was over. But soon after the election, spokes-minuteman Kellyanne Conway, announced a new policy: since Trump won, it must be true that nobody cares about his tax returns, or why would the majority of Americans have voted for him?
There are two problems with this “logic.” First, a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. Second, at present, an overwhelming majority of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns. (58% say yes, 31% say no.)
Keeping his business ties ethical
At his first press conference, Donald Trump showed us piles of folders containing all of the plans to unlink him from his businesses. A lawyer explained how all the ethical rules would be followed. We were also told that all the ethical rules did not apply to the President anyway, and that nothing would really be done.
The folders, we learned later, were as empty as his earlier promises to disassociate his business and his activities as president. Indeed, just yesterday, Kellyanne Conway went on Fox News, representing the White House, and urged listeners to buy Trump’s daughter’s products. Perhaps, technically, though I don’t know, Trump himself has no direct ties to this business. But it is his daughter’s business so legal and ethical constraints apply. Conway should not have made the statement she made.
Had she been a Democrat, the calls for her being fired would never end. But since she is a Republican, there was a minor outcry. But, the event was a clear enough case of unethical behavior that even the FOX news people sensed something was wrong:
By the way, 62% of Americans think Trump should fully divest himself from his businesses.
The Investigation of Voter Fraud
In his never ending but always unsuccessfull effort to not be the Biggest Loser, Trump issued the blatant lie that millions of people, mainly Illegal Immigrants, voted illegally in the last election, and that this is why he actually lost the vote. As you know, great efforts were made to recount the votes in several states, and this showed no problems. Also, the Secretaries of State across the country declared that there was no measurable problem with the voting. The White House has been relatively silent about this issue lately, perhaps because they sensed that the country was against them on this. Indeed, it seems that about 55% of Americans think there was no illegal voting by millions of people in the last election.
During the election, Trump told us that he’ll be big league presidential. I assume this means, among other things, being, or at least, seeming, credible.
How’s that going?
Well, the poll I’ve been referring to all along (see below) pits the New York Times against Trump in credibility, which is appropriate because Trump has been engaging in an aggressive Twitter war against the Paper of Record. The result? 52% of Americans think the NYT is more credible than Trump, 37% think the opposite.
Saturday Night Live, the fictional, comedy, all the stuff is made up TV show of fame, doesn’t do quite as well as the New York Times. A mere 48% of Americans put SNL above Trump in credibility, with 43% saying the opposite. So, while it may be stranger than fiction, it seems that Trump is less credible than fiction in the minds of a plurality of Americans.
People are about evenly divided on whether or not Trump should be impeached, with about 46% saying each “yes” and “no.” That is a lot of people who want to see his presidency ended immediately. But, one might expect a higher percentage of people saying “Impeach” than indicated here, given all the above information.
Rachel Maddow has a theory as to why more people don’t, at the moment, want to see Trump thrown out of office. I’ll let her tell you. Watch the whole video, but the key moment starts about 4 minutes.
I hope you watched that whole thing to see how Trump supporters seem to not know about, or care about, the Constitution.
I have no idea if this will be of interest to this community of science oriented and smart readers, but a group called The Republicans is having a big convention this week.
Here’s the basic schedule:
Mon 18 July 1:00 PM EST: Convention Opens
Tue 19 July 5:30 PM EST: Resume convention
Wed 20 July 7:00 PM EST: Resume convention
THU 21 July 7:30 PM EST: Resume convnetion.
Funny how every day they start a bit later.
Here are some of the speakers expected to attend. This information is culled from the NYT.
Watch the RNC Convention Live Here
Florida attorney general who had an interesting conversation on CNN with Anderson Cooper after the Orlando massacre. Like this:
Collins is the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. Why is she speaking at the convention of the anti-science party that would just as soon shut down NASA?
Here is the only info I could find addressing that, from SpaceNews:
Collins, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who has publicly criticized the way the Obama administration canceled NASA’s Constellation return-to-the-moon program, is scheduled to speak July 20, the day before Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee, is due to give his acceptance speech.
In February, she testified at a House Science Committee hearing on long-shot legislation that aims to restructure NASA’s management by, in part, creating a board of directors to choose a NASA administrator who would be given a 10-year term. Currently, NASA administrators are nominated by the White House, confirmed by the Senate and serve at the pleasure of the president.
Testifying alongside former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin — a Bush administration appointee who stepped down when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 — Collins told the committee she and NASA colleagues were “shocked” by the administration’s 2010 decision to cancel Constellation, saying the timing of the decision, so close to the shuttle’s 2011 retirement, left the agency with few options.
“I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies behind closed doors, without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly and many times more expensive in the long run,” she testified.
Obama’s April 2010 decision to cancel Constellation and direct NASA to send its Orion crew exploration vehicle to an asteroid instead of the Moon followed months of public debate about the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program by a presidential commission. That commission, led by former Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO Norman Augustine, concluded that Constellation was unsustainable and should at least be revamped.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
Some background on Fallin’s politics, from her Wikipedia article:
Fallin was criticized for bias after ordering state-owned National Guard facilities to deny spousal benefits (including the provision of identification cards that would allow them to access such benefits) to all same-sex couples.
Under Fallin, Oklahoma has pushed for increased use of lethal injection as a means of ending life in capital punishment, Fallin pushed strongly for the execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett to proceed in spite of the lack of tested drugs to use for lethal injection… Lockett’s execution was attempted on April 29, 2014, but was abandoned when he could not be sedated and was left writhing in pain. Lockett died 43 minutes later of a heart attack. Fallin appointed a member of her staff to lead the investigation into the botched execution….
Fallin was a supporter of a controversial Ten Commandments monument that had been erected on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds in 2012.
During her term as governor, Fallin has signed 18 anti-abortion measures into law. In April 2015, Fallin signed into law a measure banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure, except when necessary to save the life of the woman. In May 2015, Fallin signed into law a measure that tripled the mandatory waiting period in Oklahoma for an abortion, extending it to 72 hours. The measure also included other anti-abortion provisions.
Fallin is part of a group of Republican governors who have said that they will refuse to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.
In April 2014, Fallin signed into law S.B. 1023, which prohibits cities in Oklahoma from establishing citywide minimum wages or sick-leave requirements….
In May 2015, Fallin signed into law a measure prohibiting Oklahoma local governments from enacting local bans on oil and gas drilling. …
In April 2015, Fallin signed into law a measure that expanded charter schools statewide
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst
Some background on Ernst culled from Wikipedia:
Constitutional and federal issues
Ernst has proposed eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency
Ernst has expressed her support for allowing law-abiding citizens to “freely carry” weapons but abide by rules against carrying in public buildings like schools.
… said that Obama had “become a dictator”, and that if he acted unconstitutionally, he should face the proper repercussions as determined by Congress, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” …
… opposes the federal minimum wage…
On the subject of global warming, Ernst has stated: “I don’t know the science behind climate change, I can’t say one way or another what is the direct impact from whether it’s manmade or not”, and believes that any regulatory role by the government to address it needs to be “very small”…
warned … a 1992 United Nations voluntary action plan for sustainable development, could force Iowa farmers off their land, dictate what cities Iowans must live in, and control how Iowa citizens travel from place to place….
… Ernst indirectly endorsed Paul Ryan’s partially privatized Medicare model … supports replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…
… co-sponsored a failed bill to amend the Iowa constitution to have marriage legally defined as between one man and one woman. She opposes same-sex marriage.
… voted for a fetal personhood amendment in the Iowa Senate in 2013 and has said that she would support a federal personhood bill.
African American Jamiel Shaw Sr., who’s son was “killed by an undocumented immigrant” will speak. Darryl Glenn, running for Colorado Senate may speak. Highly conservative former football player Tebow may speak, as well as “ultimate fighter” Dana White.
And now …
What do you think of this: Cleveland Police Ask For Emergency Suspension Of Open Carry Laws During Republican Convention
Ohio is an “open carry” state which allows gun owners to carry them in plain sight. People have been exercising this right around the site of the Republican convention…Strangely, in the area around the convention, “tennis balls, metal-tipped umbrellas or canned goods” are prohibited. But AR-15s or other firearms are not. But now, the Cleveland Police Union has made an emergency request to suspend open carry for the duration of the Republican convention.
Will there be a convention bump for Trump?
There is usually a convention bump. Four years ago, the bump thing was interesting (see this post).
Here is the starting point for this year’s bump-tracking:
Will Trump pass Clinton in polls after the convention?
Monday’s RNC Convention Speaker
Today’s speakers include but are not limited to:
Which of these speakers will end up in a Trump cabinet, and in what position?
Pokemon Go at the RNC Convention?
Apparently it is a thing, tough I’m not sure what it all means.
Will convention delegates be playing Pokemon Go during the convention?
Hey, wait a second!
— Greg Laden (@gregladen) July 18, 2016
Gun mayhem fails to develop so far
Protests Erupt Over Rules, Chair Rules Against Roll Call Vote
NBC covers it here.
The Republicans seem bent on entering a major war in the middle east. Or somewhere.
Also, they are calling for the end of the Geneva Convention. They seem to prefer the “war criminal” method of “defending ourselves.”
Who are all these anti-war war mongering republicans?
The Republican Nominating Convention First Night: How did it go?
I just watched all the clips from last evening’s coverage, mainly on MSNBC. Here is what happened.
Bla bla bla BENGHAZI! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla Bla Benghazi BlaH! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla bla bla BENGHAZI! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla Bla Benghazi BlaH! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla bla bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla bla bla. Bla Bla. Bla Bla Benghazi BlaH! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla bla bla BENGHAZI! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Bla Bla Benghazi BlaH! Bla bla bla bla bla BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. BENGHAZI!!! Bla Bla. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama.
Then, this morning, I watched and listened to news and social media to see what impacts the RNC had. And this is what we have:
Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama. Melania Trump Plagiarizes Michele Obama.
So, that’s how it went!
Here is the moment on MSNBC when Melania Trumped Benghazi:
Public Service Announcement:
They even have a short list of candidates. Unfortunately, the only available copy of the secret internal report on running a third party candidate has the list blacked out (see above).
According to Scott Bland at Politico:
Conservative donors have engaged a major GOP consulting firm in Florida to research the feasibility of mounting a late, independent run for president amid growing fears that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination.
“All this research has to happen before March 16, when inevitably Trump is the nominee, so that we have a plan in place,” a source familiar with the discussions said. March 16 is the day after the GOP primary in Florida…
The document, stamped “confidential,” was authored by staff at Data Targeting, a Republican firm based in Gainesville, Fla. The memo notes that “it is possible to mount an independent candidacy but [it] will require immediate action on the part of this core of key funding and strategic players.”
This, of course, would guarantee that both the Republican candidate, probably Trump, and the independent candidate, would lose. So, it is a kind of apoptosis.
Here’s the thing. Why would they do this? Why would the Republican Party build up a power base linked to a philosophy, then, when the ultimate candidate emerges, who represents that philosophy of hate and fascism comes to fore, bail?
One possibility is that the importance of corporate control of the President is the central guiding force for strategy. After all, we are talking about unspecified “donors.” Those donors are not concerned with the political philosophy of the candidate, just that the candidate be controlled.
It is interesting to compare this effect across the two parties. One could say that Clinton is more the corporate candidate and Sanders is not. But, Democrats are not actually (despite pernicious rumors the contrary) destroying sanders or planning to put him down. A lot of Democrats, including many in power, like Sanders. But when an insurgency candidate (which, it seems, is defined as not, or less, bought and paid for) comes along in the Republican party, the Programmed Party Death Button is seriously considered. The parties really are not the same.
I wouldn’t expect anything to come to this if it is a real effort to get a particular candidate to win. But if this really is an effort by the Republicans to put themselves down, then the chances of a third party run may be much higher, because it doesn’t have to work. It just has to break everything.
The Potter Metaphor
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others — succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.
One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.
Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.
It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.
Death Eaters, Good Witches and Wizards, Republicans, and Democrats
Ask yourself, what is the message of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, other than racial purity and a high degree of intolerance? There is only one, revealed by Voldemort himself, and others including the Sorting Hat, in a few places throughout the story. The only thing that really counts is power. There is no good and evil. Just power.
That is a simple message, easy to understand. You don’t have to be smart, or learned, or thoughtful, to get this point. It may be untrue, but if you say it enough times, and live by it, it becomes true to the faithful. Professor Quirinus Quirrell is a prescient example of how this can play out, that character written almost as though Rowlings had a crystal ball allowing her to see the future of politics in the four largest Anglophone countries. Quirrell is like a working class Tea Party faithful. It does not matter how much pain he will suffer to serve his master, he will remain faithful, and he will keep repeating the message, and in this way, he will continue to believe the message.
Now ask yourself, what is the central theme for the the rest of the Witches and Wizards? There really isn’t one. I’ve alluded to consensus, and there is that. Fairness too, a theme we see played out, naturally, in the sports related manifestation of the greater metaphor, on the Quidditch field. But really, they are all over the place. They vary greatly in approach, what they think is important, what they are good at, and what they like to do. They are like Democrats.
Rowling’s three main protagonists, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, have differences that could and occasionally did interfere with their camaraderie. They couldn’t be much more different in background, proclivities, and abilities. Harry is rich, Ron is poor. Harry and Ron are not particularly intellectual, Hermione is an egghead. Harry throws himself into danger, the others are more cautious. And so on. Often, they annoy each other. This is seen in the early days of their relationship and comes to a head later in the series more than once. But when a task that requires multiple approaches is set before them, they manage to succeed by using these differences. Their power does not come merely from fetishizing power, it comes from piecing together a battery that is stronger as a whole than the sum of its parts. Again, they are like Democrats.
The 2014 Election
During the 2014 election, and this has happened before, many Democrats ran against their leader, President Obama. A Republican strategy would have been different. Keep the message clear; our leader is the greatest ever and we are all on the same page.
A large scale, if imperfect, overhaul of the country’s health care insurance system was badly needed and totally undoable, yet President Obama did it. Democrats fell into the trap of over acknowledging the imperfection, and many with other important agendas (like addressing climate change) decried the health care reform effort as a distraction. Well, the Affordable Care Act certainly is imperfect, and climate change action may have suffered from the distraction, but Republicans would not have used these points a razor to cut their own wrists. Democrats did. Democrats acted like Harry, Hermione and Ron over-bickering and failing to get through the challenges set to keep them from the Sorcerer’s Stone. Had the three young wizards acted like Democrats usually act, Voldemort would have succeeded in his plan to seize power before the second book was written. Had Democrats, in the 2014 election cycle, acted like Rowling’s characters actually did (fictionally) act, this may not have been a midterm washout.
What Democrats Need To Do
Democrats need to be more thoughtful about when they go about the important business of eating their own young. American politics has a two-stage configuration, conveniently divided by Primary Day. Before Primary Day we fight within parties, and after Primary Day we fight between parties. Or at least, that is the theory. But that is not how Democrats often do it. With a simple message that is usually not muddled at any stage during this process, Republicans can be in lockstep as they advance their political agenda (gaining power). Democrats see this as a deficit. There is no real conversation in the Republican party. A small number of loudmouths yell out the marching orders and everyone marches. The few who do not are fallen upon and devoured quickly. Democrats recognize that this approach does not solve problems. Republicans recognize that this approach wins elections.
What Democrats need to do is to take a page — one page — from the Republican playbook. They need to recognize what it takes to win elections, and go win some. This does not mean failing to have the conversation, failing to try to solve problems. It can be accomplished, rather, by doing a better job at dividing up the process into its proper stages. Democrats have compensated for their failure to come together the day after Primary Day by getting very good at the technical aspects of getting out the vote, that sort of thing. But Democrats who don’t think the Republicans won’t figure this out and get just as good at it are deluded. Having a great database and a great call center to get out the vote is necessary but not sufficient over the long term. Democrats have refined the medium, now they must refine the message.
Today is the day after election day, and we see Democrats already fighting about what went wrong. That is probably helpful, that is an important conversation to have. Democrats need to shift quickly into fighting about the solutions to our nation’s and our world’s real problems (at the local level too) and pretty quickly start fighting about who to put up for election next term. Fight and bicker and whinge but try to keep the conversation productive. Then, on Primary Day, put on the marching boots and the big girl and boy pants and all head in the same direction and act like a team. No, don’t act like a team, be a team. If your favorite candidate and your favorite issue failed to emerge as everyone else’s favorite, acknowledge that you are not the only person on the planet, suck it up, and get on board. It only seems like our election cycles go on forever. In truth, it is only a few months between Primary Day and Election Day. Everything you do that is off course during those months is self harm. Stop doing that.
Then, start up again with the bickering and consternation, conversing and cajoling, until the next cycle. Rinse, repeat. The Democratic Party represents a larger share of the American Public than does the Republican Party, yet it is not in the majority. This is not because Republicans win more. It is because Democrats lose more. Stop doing that.
People are getting mad.
GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer Confronts Park Service Ranger at WWII Memorial: You Ought to Be ‘Ashamed’
On Wednesday afternoon at the Word War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) confronted a female U.S. Park Service Ranger as she was preventing non-veteran tourists from entering the temporarily-closed park due to this week’s government shutdown. “How do you look at them and deny them access?” Neugebauer asked the unidentified ranger. “I don’t get that.” In his breast pocket, he carried a small American flag.
“It’s difficult,” the ranger responded.
“Well, it should be difficult,” the congressman shot back.
“It is difficult,” she reiterated. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” Neugebauer insisted.
“I’m not ashamed,” the ranger replied.
A few onlookers got involved in the conversation, including one federal employee wearing a bike helmet. “This woman is doing her job, just like me,” he told the congressman. “I’m a 30-year federal veteran. I’m out of work.”
“Well, the reason you are is because [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid decided to shut down the government,” Neugebauer said to the man.
“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget,” the onlooker said before the congressman turned and walked away.
“The House did its job,” another onlooker chimed in. “It passed appropriations; the Senate hasn’t.”
The Texan Republican was one of many House GOP members who voted to pass a government funding bill that would also delay the implementation of Obamacare. Senate Democrats and the White House would not agree to those terms, resulting in no budget and the shutting down of non-essential government functions.
There is a call for an ethics violation investigation against Neugebauer.
This is the year of the woman in the US Congress and elsewhere, despite the best efforts of some to make sure that the opposite happened.
This is the year in which the Right Wing carried out the most anti-woman campaign ever since suffrage, or at least, so it would appear, along with a continued attack on non-hetero persons. A defining moment in this campaign occurred in February, when the Republican controlled House carried out a nearly comical hearing on women’s reproductive rights. Continue reading I, for one, welcome our new female overlords