Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, September 25, 2017

Missing The Point On Purpose

The anger and outrage about NFL players taking a knee during the anthem is certainly the topic du jour.  It became a topic, because Trump made it so with his asinine comments in Alabama - comments that got whoops and cheers from his "base."

Needless to say, social media has taken its half-assed take on this.  The most confusing response I've heard is that players who take a knee are disrespecting veterans.

Where the hell does that come from? Is it because veterans love the flag more than other people?  OK, I love my kids more than other people, but if other people don't love me kids more than I do, that's none of my concern.  Is it because veterans fought for the flag?  Who fights for laundry?  You fight for the Constitution and the principles that made this country unique.  Nothing is more American than protesting peacefully.  It's literally right there in the Bill of Rights, topic #1.

If you want to say they are disrespecting the country as a whole, OK.  I'll agree with you there.  Yes, by taking the knee, players are disrespecting a country that cares more about their posture during an anthem than about the unnecessary killing of African Americans by police.  Sadly, by missing the point on purpose, we are talking about the flag, the anthem, free speech...but not about the racism that is at the heart of this protest.

The people who are upset over this are also upset when protesters march in the streets, when they block traffic, when they shout down white supremacists.  Are you really upset with the protest?  Or are you upset with the idea that - contrary to the sanctities we toss about on MLK Day - we really are a nation with a serious race problem.  A problem that was largely invisible to white Americans until cell phones allowed us to film a man being choked to death for selling loosies, a child shot for playing with a toy gun, a man shot sitting peacefully in his car, a woman dying after being arrested for no obvious reason, and on and on and on.

It is much easier to retreat behind empty pieties about the flag than to have an honest discussion about the fact that black people in this country are far too often killed because the color of their skin presents a threat to some police officers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pivot!

Trump has really grown into the presidency!

Dialogue

Here is an interesting long form piece in the WaPo about a meeting between an anti-Islamic protester and Muslims in Texas.

A lot of anger has been expressed on both sides that has its roots in epistemological closure.  One side has its information, the other has its information.  There is simply no overlapping agreement on facts.  What was interesting about the piece was how - even though they couldn't break through some of the less grounded beliefs of the anti-Muslim activist - the simple act of talking actually seemed to make a difference.

This is another reason why Nazi punching is really not that helpful.  During the "Mother of All Rallies" (the same time as the Juggalo march), Black Lives Matter showed up to counter-protest.  The leader of the pro-Trump rally invited a spokesman for BLM to talk.  Few were moved.

But not all.

Several people afterwards came up and engaged the speaker, challenged him respectfully.  A few even admitted to having their minds changed a little.

Because of the self-reinforcing narratives that come with epistemological closure, it can be very hard to use facts to dissuade someone who is truly invested in their belief systems, but it is not impossible.  And it is exhausting to try and convince millions of Americans that, no, sharia law is not a threat to you in any way, shape or form.  That's just a dumb argument to have to have.

In the end, however, it might be our best hope.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wages Of Fear

Alabama's future Senator, Roy Moore, is a classic example of the Bible-humping theocons that populate so much of the Republican party.  His act is based on the old script of rot and decay at the heart of the Republic.  In Moore's mind, this decay is caused by sexual activity.  When you give/get a blow job, Baby Jesus sends a hurricane.

Moore is best understood as a Christianist.  If an Islamist is someone who wants to see Islam used as a governing ideology, a Christianist wants the same for Christianity.  And not the mellow, "love-thy-neighbor" Christianity either; the fire and brimstone kind.

Trump will go to Alabama to campaign for Luther Strange to try and derail a guy who will likely be a huge embarrassment for the establishment GOP if he gets elected.  But Trump and Moore are both products of the same withered stalk: America is a hellscape because X.

Trump's legendary rhetoric about inner cities being dystopian wastelands awash in crime ("Carnage!") is well documented.  Moore is pitching the same thing.  Trump blames the collapse of Murican civilization on the "blacks and browns" whereas Moore blames it on "teh gheys and atheists."

The central fact that both are wrong on almost all points seems lost.  America is not a hellscape.  Crime is at the lowest level it's been in decades.  Two things, however, give their message resonance. First, the stagnation in working class wages has people worried; second, the opiod epidemic has people terrified.  Those things are real.

Crime-racked cities with black people rioting in the streets is not.

I do worry that the constant negative beat of both Fox News and any local news broadcast only reinforces the idea that things are worse than they appear.

Right wing populism and authoritarianism requires a society to believe it is in the process of collapse.  Quite a few left wing radicals will echo the idea that society is collapsing.  To me this shows a lack of historical literacy or global perspective.

If we don't reverse it, we are doomed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A New Refugee Issue

Puerto Rico has been absolutely leveled by Hurricane Maria.  It was already in a free-floating economic crisis, and now they are likely going to be suffering a long, slow recovery.  Schools, hospitals, roads, homes...all destroyed.

Surprisingly few people understand that citizens of Puerto Rico are also citizens of the United States.  Many of them have extended family in the US, and they are likely to flee here as their country wallows in the misery that the combination of poverty and a natural disaster can bring.

It is with sickening certainty that I predict that Fox News and Trump supporters will double down on the Wall as a response to American citizens coming to America.

Breathtaking

Even a cursory scratching of the surface of the American Shit Sandwich Bill 5.0 shows a callous disregard for the lives and health of American citizens.  What is incredible - when you read the linked article - is how craven the supposed GOP moderates are when it comes to their "red lines."  They routinely said that "If the bill doesn't have X, it won't win my vote."  Well, Graham-Cassidy doesn't have all those Xs and it's still getting votes.

The most un/believable quote comes from Chuck Grassley.

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” he told local reporters this week. “But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

How do you justify stripping millions of Americans of their health care coverage in order to validate your content-free splenetic whinging about Obamacare?  At what point do you grow the fuck up and admit it was a lot more complicated than you implied on "Fox and Friends" during your inevitable anti-Democratic circle jerks?

In our system of government - as opposed to a parliamentary system - the legislature has to actually share in the responsibilities of governing.  In a parliamentary system, the government - the prime minister and her cabinet - write the legislation and the majority passes it, because in order to become prime minister, you have to have a majority.  In our system - as we saw for the last six years - we can have divided government that makes it possible for the majority in Congress to avoid their governing responsibilities.  The GOP has gone so far down the opposition party path that they literally cannot be bothered to understand THEIR OWN LEGISLATION.

This is professional and civic malpractice on a colossal scale.  At the moment, I would say the best hope of saving the Republicans from themselves rests on the same three Senators who saved us the last time - Collins, McCain and Murkowski.  We could see Portman and maybe Capito join them, if it looks like a lost cause.

But McCain isn't voting against the bill, he's voting against the process - the lack of "regular order.

The important thing will be to wrest control of Congress away from these buffoons as soon as humanly possible.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oh, Yeah. Call Your Senator

Providing your Senator is a Republican and not ethically vacant.  If such a person exists.

The latest iteration of the American Shit Sandwich Act is perhaps the worst yet.  And, still, it has perhaps the best chance of passing.

When you read their lame-ass explanations for voting for the American Shit Sandwich 5.0 Act, it's pretty clear that they only care about fulfilling a promise to their whackaloon, Fox News base rather than taking care of American citizens or actual federal spending.

They are sociopaths.

Your democracy, America.  Cherish it.

Also, thanks, Republicans.

Things Are Moving On The Russia Story

While we are captured by the tales of misery and woe from Latin America as Mother Nature wrecks great destruction on Puerto Rico and Mexico.  Those are legitimate and heartbreaking stories.

Meanwhile, Trump does a lampoon of a president at the UN, Iran takes the high road and Mueller seems to have Paul Manafort's ball in a vise.  The case against Manafort seems to get more powerful and far reaching every day, so why has he not been frogmarched into a police station?  One would have to think that they are working very hard to flip him.

Thanks, Republicans.

"Good At Politics"

For years, it was legitimate to say that while Republicans had no good policy ideas, but they were really good at politics.  They could mobilize their voters and win elections.

Maybe it was their voters and not their skills.

Maybe you shouldn't piss off someone with a national megaphone and a compelling story.

Damn....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Well, That's Not Creepy AF

Donald Trump wants to have a military parade in Red Square down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump has no consistent political ideology, but he has a reflexive respect for dictators for being "strong."  He is clearly a guy who gives no shits about Madisonian checks and balances.  That's why - given the supine nature of the Republican Congress - we are relying on the Courts to rein this doofus in.

Norms are important people.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Wheels Of Justice

Revelations that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped for some time certainly is a step forward in a story that has largely retreated from the front pages.  With Trump's seeming endless appetite for controversy and norm-shattering behavior we have largely ignored this burbling teapot over at Bob Mueller's place.

The Russia story isn't dead yet.

Ah, Crap

ACA repeal isn't dead yet.  Tough to see it Cassidy's bill passing the House, but we shall see.

This is why the debt ceiling deal works to Democrats advantage.  With that off the table, Democrats can try and grind the Senate to a halt.  Obamacare repeal has to be done by September 30th.  Now they can play out the clock.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Nancy Smash

Nancy Pelosi is the best Congressional leader of my adult life.  She knows exactly when to push her caucus and when to let them run free.  When she makes a legislative promise, she delivers.  And she brooks no shit.  Part of that comes from having a caucus that actually wants to run and fund the government, but she's also an adept herder of cats.

The "Pelosi is a failure" narrative is largely tied to Democratic reversals in the House from 2010 onward.  The problem is that Democrats lost in 2010 because of the political landscape post-2008 and the usual piss-poor turnout of Democratic constituencies.  This, in turn, led to partisan gerrymandering reinforcing the Big Sort of America into urban and rural camps.

In other words, Pelosi is being blamed for the weather.

Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell have, together, more or less destroyed Congress as an institution.  Yet they aren't subject to the sort of harsh treatment in the mainstream press that Pelosi gets.  I would argue that she would have a lot more favorable press if she were named Bill Pelosi.  As Hillary Clinton plugs her new book, it's worth keeping in mind that female politicians are often held to a different standard.  Which is, you know, bullshit.