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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk

We saw it on IMAX, and I recommend that version.  It's spare on dialogue, but the imagery and the concussive effect of those sound effects was powerful.  I read a review that described it as a monster movie where the monster was war, and that was very apt.

Don't wait to see it at home.  I don't care how awesome your HDTV is.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pardon Me

I've been saying for a few weeks that eventually - once Mueller gets too close - Trump will simply start issuing pardons to people like Flynn, Kushner, Donny, Jr., and Manafort.  He will eliminate the ability of Mueller to flip these people against him.  Then, after closing down many avenues of investigation, he will fire Mueller (and likely Sessions and Rosenstein).

And there might very well be nothing we can do about it until 2018.  Even then, while Democrats might win back the House, they will not get anywhere close to winning enough seats in the Senate to remove him from office.

Once again, we are going to have to rely on Republican politicians to do the right thing by their country rather than by their party.  In other words, we are screwed.

As Chait and others note, this is an assault on the rule of law.  That idea - that the powerful are not above the law, that the law is the expression of the popular will - is the critical idea that makes democracy possible.  Without it, democracy collapses.

That's not hyperbole.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Press Fallacy

This kind of pisses me off.

There are two problems with Milbank's analysis.

First, as Linda Sanchez notes, Democrats have had an agenda.  OK, it's a fair criticism that Democrats either offer too many programs as opposed to a bumper sticker.  But the Republicans have been running on bumper stickers for years.  Guess what?  You can't govern from a bumper sticker.  Repeal and replace is easily understandable.  Get rid of the parts you hate and keep the parts you like is easy to understand, but it's not an agenda.

Democrats have both a philosophy and an agenda.  Hillary Clinton had a YUUUUGE agenda.  And every speech she made on the minimum wage or college tuition was swamped in her "goddamned emails."  Policy is booooooooring.  Horse races are fun!  Scandal is fun!  Do Democrats have an agenda?  A philosophy?  Yes, Dana Milbank.  They do.  Report on it.

Second, the negative appeal of the Republican message is that government doesn't work.  Have you ever had a government service fail you?  How many people equate the DMV with the federal government?

Democrats have the burden not only of "having an agenda" but also convincing a cynical public that the government will actually ACHIEVE that agenda.  As we've discovered, one of the flaws in the ACA is that it doesn't work WELL ENOUGH, not that publicly supported health insurance is the death of freedom.

You can promise whatever you want, but a large section of the public believes - wrongly - that all politicians lie in their promises.  That Trump lied to them doesn't bother them, because they expect to be lied to.  Democrats promising universal community college is just an empty lie, even if it's not.

The Mad King

Trump's biggest enemy might be his own weeping piehole.  Every interview turns into a piece of evidence against him.

Of course, I can't tell if it's for a criminal case or a commitment hearing.

Thanks Republicans!

Fuck Cancer

My father went to high school with John McCain.  Yesterday morning the melanoma that they cut out of him more than a dozen years ago finally took his life.  We saw it coming and yet yesterday (and for weeks and years to come) it blinded sided me from time to time.

So to the McCain family that will never read this, know that the family of an old schoolmate is pulling for you and yours.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mitch Slapped

Adam Jentleson (No, I don't know who he is either) has a tweetstorm about Mitch McConnell.  Basically, Mitch McConnell broke the Senate and neutered individual GOP Senators in order to create a lockstep caucus so that they could win control of the Senate.  Then they could "do anything."
Now, the American Shitburger Act has demonstrated that the same levers that McConnell used to stymie Democrats and break the Senate are used against him.  Is there a more conservative friendly version of ACA possible?  Maybe, but that would require working with Democrats and listening to moderates.  That's not remotely possible.

Meanwhile, McConnell has always been a loathsome human being.  There is something uniquely repulsive about the man.  If he is not going to give his caucus victories, then what - exactly - is his usefulness?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mmmmm. Hamburgers

Josh Barro is a Never-Trumper who has become a de facto moderate Democrat.  He still has some roots in the conservative movement, and he has some advice for Democrats who want to win elections.

It's interesting advice.

There were some lonely voices, notably Jon Chait, before the election warning Democrats about their PC problem.  Given that Chait placed his argument on the Internet, it quickly got heated and dumb.  He agrees, of course, with Barro's argument that the problem Democrats have is that they are self-righteous prigs.  I think Barro's argument about hamburgers is bizarre, but the overall critique of the Left being obsessed with offensive behavior has some ring of truth to it.

I voted for one Republican in my lifetime, and it was Bush in 1988.  I had waded through the PC-wars of the late '80s and found them stifling, judgmental and unproductive.  That had at least some impact on my vote.  I didn't vote for Bush some much as I voted against Dukakis and the modern PC culture.

Now, having said that, there are certain things worth fighting against.  As Barro says,

It's possible to stake out the ground that, for example, characterizing Mexican immigrants as a mass of criminals and rapists is wrong, but what you wear at Halloween isn't really a concern so long as you're not in blackface. It's possible to push for the policies you think are important on climate change without making people feel guilty about their hamburgers.

Now, I can hear the arguments that if someone appropriates someones culture as a costume or as a party, that's disrespectful.  College students don't carry about Hindu spring festivals, they just like bright colors.  The problem I think the Left has created for itself is that it has equated emotions with acts.  If something or someone makes you feel bad, tell them why.  If they continue to do that, they are an asshole.  Don't hang out with assholes.  If someone punches you in the face, call the cops.

To be a liberal means on some level to value human liberty.  American liberals came to see inequality as the hallmark of a lack of freedom.  Jim Crow was an easy expression of inequality leading to a lack for freedom, but so is unequal pay, marriage inequality or excessive corporate influence on politics.  There is very little reason for liberal to give up their positions for a more equal America.  Those positions are popular, not universally so, but popular nonetheless.

You can never convince someone to change their mind by labeling them.  You can't make anti-racists by calling people racist.  Leftists and some liberals have thrown up their arms in exasperation over the Basket of Deplorables.  Look, you don't want the Deplorable vote.  You want the person who might vote for Obama, but couldn't vote for Clinton.  Clinton got hammered from the Left for being a "Neoliberal shill" but also from the Right for being an avatar of PC finger wagging.

I don't know if the "campus Left" and "online Left" will allow much deviation from the PC line, but there has to be a way to repackage the goals of a "kinder, gentler America" into something that appeals to voters who might like your policies but not your hectoring over gender.

"Liberty and justice for all" feels like a nice place to start.  The Right has effectively stolen the idea of liberty from liberals, but liberals need to steal it back by arguing that "the law in its majesty allows the rich and the poor equal freedom to sleep under bridges" is a piss poor form of freedom.  If you are  a slave to your paycheck, are you free?  Thomas Jefferson didn't think so, why should we?

The "justice for all" in an obvious call out to BLM and criminal justice reform, especially on drugs.  I've become convinced that until we fix our drug laws, we will continue to plunge both our country and Mexico into crime and violence that needn't otherwise exist.  "Justice for all" is equality before the law, and that not only means the poor are treated fairly, it means the rich and powerful are help to account.

The Democrats probably could continue to inch leftwards on economic issues, but they have to adopt a new tone when it comes to political correctness, one that focuses on the freedom to criticize and not the license to silence.  I doubt it will be that easy, but it is clear that culture is the divide Democrats have to cross.

Can't Nobody Do Nothing?

So the American Shitburger Act has apparently finally, really, no takebacks, completely died.  This parrot is deceased!

So here is where the modern GOP finds itself.

- They transformed themselves into the Party of No during Obama's presidency.  From the very first, they engaged in obstruction and delay to prevent him from achieving his goals.  This - combined with the lingering effects of the Little Depression - led to Republican gains in 2010.  Being the Party of No worked for them for 7 years.

- Being the Party of No does not lend itself to having ideas or doing stuff.  They can rollback certain elements of Obama's presidency at the margins, but they can't produce a positive, proactive agenda of their own.

- Or rather they can, but it is massively unpopular.  The institutional GOP cares about reducing the tax and regulatory burden on the rich.  That's it.  And that is unpopular.  It is likely that the only achievement of this Congress will be cutting taxes for the rich, and even than seems iffy, given the Byrd Rule.

Mitch McConnell is the most important figure in the Senate over the past forty years, because he has fundamentally changed/broken the Senate as an institution.  But being a bombthrower typically does not make you a good carpenter.

Nice job, Republicans.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tired Of All This Winning

As many have noted, Trump has certainly seemed to prove the "Fifth Avenue Rule" whereby Trump can shoot someone in the face on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters.

However, the WaPo has a new poll and it does show some important trends.  First, somehow Trump has an 11% approval rating among Democrats.  I literally can't even.  He has only lost about 2% among Republicans (from 84% to 82%).  Again, Trump is not an outlier, he IS the 2017 Republican Party.

The most precipitous decline in among Independents, where he has fallen from 38% to 32%.  Those are obviously unsustainable numbers for re-election.  The last time a president had numbers this crappy it was Dubya Bush post- Social Security privatization/post-Katrina.  That led directly to the 2006 Democratic wave.

We are seeing the Russia story slowly build up steam.  While quite a few non-political junkies (and most Republicans) aren't paying much attention to the story, the relentless drumbeat is having an effect.  Only about a third of Republicans think Russia tried to influence the election.  This poll was in the field just as the Donald Junior story was breaking, so it's tough to say if this will have any impact on Republicans current war with reality.

The struggles for the Democrats in the poll aren't shocking.  Few can find a coherent message beyond opposition to Trump.  Given that there is no singular figure to hone a message, that's unsurprising, but they will need to craft some sort of overall message for 2018.

I would suggest:

- Fixing and improving the ACA, including a public option.
- Increased minimum wage
- Increased taxes on Wall Street/1%.
- Using those tax increases for infrastructure and...
- ...Free community college
- Criminal justice reform, especially vis a vis marijuana laws and mandatory drug sentencing
- Increased support for opiod treatments

It's coherent and simple and largely conforms to what Democrats have run on in the past.  I'm sure Martin Longman would like throw anti-monopoly into the mix.

The Republicans are unpopular because they have the floor and no one likes what they are saying besides Republicans.  Democrats are unpopular, because they are currently simply in opposition to Trumpelthinskin.

One of those is fixable.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Rotten To The Core

Let's not forget that while Trump is sui generis, he's also a perfect emblem of the GOP in 2017.  And it's their fault - entirely their fault - that we are saddled with him.

Seriously read Jennifer Rubin.  It's a cry from the heart of someone who saw what was once a conservative party become a reactionary hate group.

Have Things Really Changed?

Martin Longman thinks the collusion case is proven, and I'm not going to argue with him.

But the sole voice of reason and reality and Fox News had one of his moments when he strips away the non-stop spin and calls the reality what it really is.  Trump continues to hold on to his supporters, but even 35% of Republicans think the Russia story needs to be investigated.

When Trump's collapse comes it will be sudden and surprising and yet not sudden and surprising.  On the Watergate timeline, this is remarkably fast moving. Perhaps if the American Shitburger Act fails in the Senate, they will quickly pass a horrific, budget busting tax plan, get Donny to sign it, then cash out on this nightmare of a president.

Mike Pence is currently lying about the American Shitburger Act, so he's just another bog-standard Republican though slightly stupider than most.  But at least he's not a Mussolini wannabe, so there's that.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Render Unto Caesar

I gave a nod at trying to decipher the merits of this piece.  The methodology seems pretty ad hoc and the causality is muddled.

But it did spur a thought I've been mulling over since my sojourn in Georgia.  I wonder how much of the toxicity of Republican politics is tied to its reliance on religious, especially evangelical, voters.

The modern creed of the GOP is faith.  Faith that tax cuts for the rich will create working class jobs.  Faith that the climate isn't really warming.  Faith that their vision of morality - at odds with the secular 21st century agenda on LGBT rights, marriage and abortion - is morally superior and should be the law of the land.

The opposite of Faith is not Doubt.  Doubt is simply the terrain Faith navigates.  The opposite of Faith is Evidence, and observable evidence is the backbone of the scientific method.  The Bible said a prophet made the sun stand still in the sky.  If you read that as literally true, you have to accept that A) the sun revolves around the earth or B) the laws of physics that keep us glued to the planet's surface don't exist.  The Bible has a creation story; the fossil record has a different creation story.  One exists on faith, one exists in evidence.

Once you commit yourself to the idea that there is an Invisible Sky Daddy who controls every facet of creation, you have to ask yourself: "What's up with the Holocaust/pediatric cancer/Sandy Hook/Syria?"  Let's just take Sandy Hook.  How come Invisible Sky Daddy couldn't convince the voices in Adam Lanza's head to make him swallow a bullet?  If he can make the earth stop rotating on its axis and keep everything from hurtling into the void of space, why couldn't he just stop 20 little kids and 6 of their teachers from getting slaughtered?

In order to square this circle, you have to avoid hard questions and uncomfortable evidence.  You have to convince yourself that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark.  You have to claim that Invisible Sky Daddy gets enraged when a gay couple gets married, but really couldn't be bothered to stop the Holocaust.

Once you take on that cognitive armor, it's pretty easy to keep it strapped on all the time.  And that is what they do.  They reject any idea that contradicts their existing viewpoint.  Crime is going up; Trump's Russia story is fake news; solar activity is causing rising temperatures.

Friedrich Schiller and Max Weber referred to the Enlightenment as the "disenchantment of the world."  Yet it is clear there are a sizable number of Americans who have turned their back on the very movement - the Enlightenment - that created the institutions of the United States.  It can be no surprise, therefore, that those who have turned their back on the Enlightenment are turning their backs on the institutions - notably the rule of law - that are essential of American democracy to survive.

That these re-enchanted Americans are comfortable with authoritarianism should come as no surprise.  Fundamentalist religion - whether Christianity, Islam or Judaism - is patriarchal and dictatorial to its core.  The Invisible Sky Daddy is nothing if not a Lord, a King, the Host of Hosts.  God demands you obedience and your enemies shall perish (read the Psalms; it's revenge poetry).  How is that different from what Trump promised them.  The fact that Trump makes a mockery of most of Jesus' teachings is irrelevant.  This isn't a theological or ethical discussion, it's a shibboleth.

The basic moral, ethical philosophy at the heart of all great religions is empathy, compassion and devotion to the divine in your fellow human beings and the world around you.  But the new magical evangelism isn't about those things.  It's about obedience to the word of God.

And obedience - blind, unquestioning obedience - is about as un-American a trait as I can think of.

I Feel Like I'm On Crazy Pills

I'm honestly not sure how we can survive as a democracy when one of the two political parties behaves like this.  The post-Reagan GOP made a decision to embrace a set of governing policies that don't make sense; they don't comport with reality.  Massive tax cuts don't work the way they say they do.  Climate change is real.  Poverty and inequality are corroding our nation.  People don't like moral busybodies telling them how to live.  They can't "do" health care.

It has gotten to the point where Trump isn't the outlier that some Republicans want you to believe he is.  He is, in fact, a perfect arbiter of the state of the contemporary GOP.  Some of them get that.  But the herd mentality that exists in both parties exists on an order of magnitude greater in the GOP.  Democrats have clustered together around certain policies just because the Blue Team supports them.  What is unique about the GOP is that are perfectly comfortable arguing against objective, factual, measurable reality.

Some of this can be seen in Josh Marshall's new "Trump Razor."  Trump and those in his orbit see everything as a media strategy.  They have thrived off the chaos of the modern media environment and that chaos derives from the idea that anything is up for debate among screaming panels on CNN.

I don't know how we can have a functioning political system unless the GOP's fevered madness is broken, and that can only happen with a wave election the likes of which we haven't seen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And Oh By The Way...

The GOP have come out with their latest efforts to appeal to anxious white working class voters. Not only does it blow a $7.8 billion hole in the treasury, but it funnels the overwhelming bulk of the tax cuts to the top 0.1%.

Yglesias is right.  The whole debate about whether to use economic populism to appeal to WWC voters at the expense of college educated suburbanites is a false choice.  Trump was able to sell himself as a champion of the common man, because he shared some of their resentments.  But he's still richer than you are.  And these policies would basically cement the idea of the GOP being in the thrall of the 1%.

You run on class warfare.  The 99% against the 1%, and even some of the 1% will be on your side.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

They Are All Fredo

Honestly, I get in the car for a day and the Trump Crime Family goes full Fredo?

Trying to figure out why DTJ dropped his full admission on to the Internet is making people dizzy with speculation.  He pretty much comes out and proves every dark conspiracy theory out there.

This could be the acid test for the shoot-someone-in-the-face theory that Trump has about his popularity with his base.  At least one apologist had to do a double take, but until Faux News starts hammering him on this, I'll hold my breath.

My personal feeling is that they are going to set Don Jr up as the center of it all and then Don Sr will pardon him.  And then they will erect a massive golden middle finger on the south lawn of the White House that rotates to follow people as they walk by.  His 27% base will excuse everything and the GOP Congress will continue to stroke their chin and express some concern, but you know...

Thank you, Republicans.  This is really making America great again.

Heckuva a job, Whitey.