Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Response to Simply General Defiance

(See: Just Above Sunset : Simply General Defiance)

This new muting-the-microphones debate rule doesn’t really seem like enough to stymie Trump’s plan to keep Biden from making sense, since it only applies to the first two minutes of each 15-minute segment, the rest of which will be a free-for-all format.

I’m not looking forward to the debate, assuming it even happens, but if the Trump people want to make it all foreign policy, I’d be fine with that. In fact, neither side talks much about Trump’s trashy foreign policy, and neither does anyone else, but I think the Democrats should welcome the opportunity to remind America how Trump has weakened the country’s position in the world.

And even talking about Hunter could be fine, if Biden does it right:

“Assuming the New York Post article is NOT a plant by the Russians — although all indications seem to point to the fact that it IS — all it would prove, at worst, is that some guy who works for Burisma had my son introduce me to him, not that I helped the company in any way. So what would be the big deal in that? But I never DID meet with the guy, so that email is phony and meaningless — especially compared, for example, to the attempts of the president and his personal so-called 'lawyer', trying to fabricate all these weird stories about me and my family in Ukraine, just to cover up for the crimes of HIS friends in Russia, and probably to detract attention from the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died because he decided this pandemic was no big deal and not worth worrying about."

But there's something I've noticed in the last few days. I think Trump may be giving up.

He seems to be attempting a Hail Mary, hoping that, if he has to lose — something he seems to finally realize he's doing — he’ll do it without a pivot, and on his own terms.

He may even be giving up on his belief that he can manufacture reality, and even truth itself, by simply repeating his fake version until the fact-checkers tire of correcting him. He may secretly be discovering that his attempt to get all of America to accept his view that Covid-19 is just another insignificant fact of American life, seems no longer to be working.

Even those in his base who always knew he was a jerk but backed him anyway seem to be abandoning him, once they came to realize that more Americans are dying of this virus than die in all of our wars. That, they might finally be realizing, can't be good, no matter how many conservative judges we get.

But what the fuck (his words, not mine), rather than walk everything back (it’s too late for that anyway), he may just have decided to end his political career by pretending it was all just one big stand-up routine. That seems to have been the part of being president he enjoyed the most anyway.

Assuming he’s accepting that he’ll probably lose, I hope he’s right, but only if my side gets to keep the House and gets to pick up, at the very least, half of the Senate.

Anything less than that and we may find ourselves facing not just the end of one wide-awake nightmare, but also the beginning of another.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Response to The Crazy Uncle

(See:  Just Above Sunset : The Crazy Uncle)

* Phillip Halpern: “This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.”

No, no, he misses the point about today’s bureaucrats! Although “bureaucrat” is usually a derogatory term, it shouldn’t be under Trump.

I see “bureaucrat” as another way of describing someone in the so-called “Deep State” — that is, a government functionary who, no matter his or her political leanings, simply supports the government going about its non-partisan business, no matter which political party in power wants to bulldoze its way through all the rules in order to achieve its personal agenda.

In fact, I think this year's Nobel Peace Prize should have maybe gone to America's Deep State Bureaucrats.

* Trump: “You know they keep saying nobody wears masks, wear the masks. Although then they come out with things today, did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the mask catch it. OK?”

This reminds me of a friend of mine I once worked with on a summer job who wore glasses. One day, one of the other workers (who was kind of dim) walked up to my friend and asked, “Hey, Tom, why do you wear glasses all the time? I can see you just fine!”

This little story also describes Trump wanting to slow down our testing, because the more we test, the more people seem to catch COVID-19.

* Trump: “I don’t know about QAnon,” Trump responded…

And yet, a Politico article from July 12 notes that, on July 4th, Trump retweeted 14 tweets from QAnon-supporting accounts, and that (by the time of that article) he had "retweeted at least 90 posts from 49 pro-QAnon accounts, often multiple times in the same day.”

Maybe he just did that blindly, without reading what he was retweeting?

If he really wanted to know something about QAnon, he should have asked his FBI. They do seem to know about QAnon.

* “...the [Trump] campaign, which last year ran an expensive TV ad during the World Series literally bragging that “he’s no Mr. Nice Guy…”

Which pretty much sums up America’s case against him. The opposite of “Mr. Nice Guy” is “Mr. Jerk”, euphemistically speaking, and you’d think that nobody has grounds for getting on my case for calling out some candidate who’s top reelection campaign promise was that he will continue to be a jerk.

He’s probably our first jerk president, with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson, and I would think no sane American really wants their president to be a jerk.

I must confess, I was never a huge fan of "Mr. Rogers", but I’m starting to rethink that.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Response to This Weak Man

(See: Just Above Sunset : This Weak Man)

(Hey, you think this is Schadenfreude? Naw! Try karma!)

Trump has a choice. He can either try to look like a strong guy, or look like a smart guy. I think he chooses the former because he has learned through experience that if you’re strong enough, you can overpower all those smart people, so much so that you can make truth itself irrelevant.

Why does Trump constantly lie? I think it’s largely to demonstrate his power to dominate, not just other people themselves, but also the way they think.

The way this works:

* First Trump tells a lie. Then someone (or many people) fact-check him, and prove what he said was false.

* Then he tells that same lie again. Mistakenly thinking he might have missed the first fact-check (since it probably wasn’t reported on Fox News), people correct him again.

* Then he tells that lie a third time, and so on.

* After a while, people stop correcting him, since they see no purpose in continuing to correct someone who’s obviously not paying attention, and besides, they have many other things to do.

Voila! Trump wins! And so does his lie!

This next part was in back in late 2019:

Between July 8, when we started counting Trump's false claims at CNN, and December 15, the day until which we currently have comprehensive data, Trump's most frequent false claim of any kind was that China is paying the entirety of the cost of his tariffs on imported Chinese products. 

"We're not paying for the tariffs; China is paying for the tariffs, for the 100th time," he told reporters in one typical remark on August 18. ... 

His assertion has been contradicted by numerous tariff-paying American companies and by multiple economic studies. But Trump said it on 49 separate occasions over those five months. And he said it 20 times in August alone, more than he did in any other month, as he faced scrutiny over his intensifying trade war.

Possibly he’s actually correct about this. Maybe he has some arcane explanation — that China pays for the tariffs in lost revenues on their products or something — but if so, he needs to argue that out loud.

But as you may have noticed, he rarely if ever actually defends his outrageous claims, he merely keeps repeating them, assuming that everyone will eventually give up looking for rationality in his barely-coherent run-on ramblings, and will just smile and say, “Well, hey, what can you do? This is just Trump, being Trump!”

Besides, who among us has time to spend fact-checking whether he really, as he has said over 175 times, inherited from Obama a greatly weakened military, but by increasing its budget, he rebuilt it up into a completely new and improved fighting machine, the likes of which the world has never yatta-yatta-yatta — while, in the words of Washington Post's humongous list of Trump’s exaggerations and lies:

* "Trump often falsely claims he's 'totally rebuilt' the U.S. military. The military budget had declined in recent years, as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because it's been so gravely depleted. … The biggest defense budget was in 2010 [under Obama], and in inflation-adjusted dollars it [was] nearly ten percent larger than Trump's 2020 budget”.

Or when he says, “We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World. The Fake News should be reporting these most important of facts, but they don’t!”

WaPo again: 

* "This is false. Nearly 40 Americans have died of covid-19 per 100,000 people, second worst in the world behind only the United Kingdom of the 20 countries most affected by the virus…”

And that list of fact-checks goes on and on. By July 9th of this year, the list of Trump’s over-the-top prevarications surged to over 20,000.

But while all of America hears Trump repeat these false claims, very few of us bother to independently verify whether there’s any truth to them. And while some us, including me, now just assume any claim he makes has a better than 50% chance of being wrong, most people are too busy with their everyday lives to give it even one moment of consideration.

In fact, according to one study, many people really don’t even care if he lies:

Conducted prior to the 2016 presidential election, the study focuses on credibility experiments. Subjects were asked to rate their belief in eight statements (four true, four false) that Trump made during his campaign. Some were attributed to him: “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” Others had no attribution: “Vaccines cause autism.” Then came the fact checks. …

There was a large bipartisan shift in belief after the fact check, suggesting that both conservatives and liberals can change their minds if they’re presented with convincing, unbiased information. 
But there was a catch: After a one-week delay, subjects partially “rebelieved” the false statements and partially forgot that factual information was true. Or, to quote the study: “Even if individuals update their beliefs temporarily, explanations regarding both fact and fiction seemingly have an expiration date.” 

None of this bodes well for American democracy.

And here’s the author’s takeaway from a similar study, The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue: Proclaiming the Deeper Truth About Political Illegitimacy (Hahl, Kim, et al.):

“Support for a lying demagogue is not simply a desire to ascribe positive characteristics to a preferred candidate. These Trump voters could have viewed him as warm and sincere, but they did not. They also could have chosen to justify his lie by insisting that it was true. Instead, they justified it as a form of symbolic protest, viewing him as increasingly authentic the more they did so.”

So let me repeat that: lies of a demagogue can be “justified … as a form of symbolic protest”.

Once again, none of this bodes well for American democracy.

I miss the old days when you could trust that your president wasn’t trying to sell you on all the allegedly great things he’s done, knowing that Americans will give him a pass, since we have all gotten so used to being bull-shitted all our lives by advertisers trying to sell us stuff that turns out to be not quite as advertised.

(Which reminds me: Please, do your country a favor! No more electing “businessmen” to run our country! For some mysterious reason, too many Americans seem to give businessmen much too much credit for knowing how to do things they have absolutely no experience in ever having done.)

And forget about truth, since once Trump finishes talking everybody into a brain-numbing stupor, rational argument no longer matters, much less literal truth. The only thing that’s true is what Trump and, presumably, his noisy minority base claim it is.

And by the way, I often get corrected for saying Trump isn’t smart, by people who insist that, while he may indeed be a crooked jerk, "he’s not stupid!”

I disagree! I think he’s not smart, he’s crafty! Crafty isn’t smart! Being a smart president is knowing enough about the world to know to do the right thing; being crafty is merely being "clever at achieving one's aims by indirect or deceitful methods”.

So my rule-of-thumb when choosing a president is, I want my president to be someone who actually understands the real world, and not some tough-talking low-life who’s only skill is sweet-talking just enough voters into thinking he’s got everything under control.

Before you read my next point, you need to understand that I am not a bible-thumping God-fearing man. In fact, I’d describe myself as an agnostic who can’t say for certain either way whether there is or isn’t a god, at least not the one I kept hearing about while growing up.

In fact, if I were forced to take a stand that there is a god, it would be that the universe is God, with God’s laws being the way everything in the cosmos works, and that there’s such a thing as cause-and-effect, the results of which are usually pretty predictable, and so if you don’t know diddly about cause-and-effect, you risk getting whupped upside the head by God.

So just for argument's sake, let's say that last sentence is true, but still with some of the traditional mythological old-guy-with-a-beard overtones.

Now here’s my point: I wonder if enfeebling Trump with the virus near the end of his reelection race is just an attempt by God — who must be smarting from too often being blamed for sending Trump down to us — to save the human race, along with all earth's other life forms, from Trump’s apparent master plan to destroy the planet.

And to linger on that religious optic for just another moment, you could even analogize the Republicans around Trump, who have been dropping like flies, to the Passover story. These people are the non-believers who insisted on ignoring God’s laws:

God tells Moses and Aaron to instruct the Israelites to paint blood from their Passover lambs on to the frames of their doors. Painting blood onto their door frames signified their faith in God's warning and marked them out from the pagan Egyptians; when the Angel of Death passed through Egypt he would pass over the doors marked with blood (hence the name, "Passover") without killing the firstborn males who lived within those houses.

In other words, those who arrogantly challenged God’s laws weren't saved.

And not to ignore that positive-testing elephant in the room:

There are many people right now saying we should "put politics aside”, even suggesting Biden pause his campaigning while we send our “thoughts and prayers” to the president and his family and to those other Republicans who tested positive after going to that recent Rose Garden shindig, but I think we need to be a bit more realistic about this, and maybe even ruthlessly so.

The fact that Trump and all these no-maskers caught COVID is not some unhappy accident, it’s virtual proof that COVID is not some partisan “hoax”, perpetrated by Democrats as a way to get rid of a president that they, for some unfathomable reason, don’t like.

Republicans, following the example of their lemming chief, insist that the Democrats politicize everything, including wearing masks, when in fact, I doubt there has been another president in American history other than this one who saw everything, everything, everything, through a partisan political filter, to the point of putting his whole country in danger.

Note well: Democrats didn’t give the president and his people the virus, they gave it to themselves.

They made fun of people who wore masks, prompting their gullible minions to go mask-less into Walmarts to fight for their “constitutional right” to infect their fellow humans; they refused to social distance; because they value money more than life itself, they used their state governors to reopen their economies too soon, while ignoring the safeguard standards designed to save lives; likewise, they routed teachers and kids from the safety of their homes, into the outside world where they risked catching a possibly killer of a disease, to then bring back to their families; they kept gathering themselves boisterously into crowds, inside and out of churches and weddings and bars, just to show how the scientists were plying us with fake information, while they recklessly tested the limits of their beliefs that all this virus stuff is just a bunch of made-up hooey.

Well, call it karma, but if nothing else serves as evidence that their beliefs were nonsense, their mask-mocking dear leader and his wife testing positive of the “hoax” should do the job — a “hoax”, we dare not forget, that has taken the lives, at this point, of about 210,000 or more Americans, more by far than any other country in the world — a fact you never hear the big man himself ever acknowledging.

No, I don’t want Trump to die, but not because I’ve have a change of heart and actually like the guy, because I really don’t — but for these reasons:

* If he dies, it makes what happens to the country a dangerous mystery. Pence becomes the candidate? He could, God forbid, possibly even beat Biden? Who knows. If Trump lives, we pretty much know what to do to handle the Trump problem: beat him in the election, and make sure he stays beat and doesn’t try to lock himself in the bathroom of the White House, hopefully accomplishing this in a way that doesn’t screw up our constitutional rule.

In other words, no need for the military to get involved; no military coup or any such thing. Still, I feel much more comfortable with us dealing with Trump alive than dead.

* But I also want him to live long enough to give him the opportunity to finally admit he was wrong.

Not that he would ever do that, of course, but assuming he doesn’t, even people who have supported him all along, through his most outrageous insults, tweeted lies, threats and misdeeds — from separating kids from parents just to scare the doo-doo out of any future refugees, to attempting to abolish universal healthcare for millions of middle-class and poor people and replace it with nothing at all, to ripping up a carefully-crafted treaty that was successfully keeping Iran from building nuclear weapons so that they could resume their building bombs, and that's just a few his bone-headed shenanigans among a nearly uncountable multitude of them  — will have to finally concede that he was wrong about his approach to just about everything, and once nearly everybody finally admits he’s wrong, he’s lost all his power over them, and over the country, and over the world.

Just now, I’m seeing video of the president, waving to his supporters from an SUV while taking a gratuitous joy ride down the streets outside the hospital, maybe endangering the health and even life of his driver and the Secret Service agent in the front seat. (His doing this just might be due to the reported "mental side effect" of one of the crazy drug cocktails he seems to have insisted they put him on.)

So while I don’t want him to die from this, I must admit I do hope his health takes at least a temporary turn for the worse, just enough so that he and his crowd get God’s message, that not only can the Truth Make You Free, it just possibly can, if you defy its power, also make you deathly ill.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Response to The Real Loss Now

(See: Just above Sunset : The Real Loss Now)

The following little tale was written for Huffington Post by Aaron E. CarrollDirector of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research:

The fable, as it is told, involves a scorpion and a frog. 

The scorpion needs to cross a river, so he asks the frog to carry him on his back. The frog is skeptical; after all, scorpions kill.

The scorpion calms the frog, explaining that if he stung him on the swim across, they would both die. Therefore, the frog can be assured the scorpion will do no such thing.

“Trust me,” says the scorpion. “We’re in this together.”

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog seizes up and they both begin to sink, the frog croaks, “Why?”

“I am a scorpion.  It is my nature.”

This is not a morality tale. It is a parable about the nature of things. The scorpion isn’t evil any more than the frog is good.  But the frog ignores what the scorpion is at its peril.

We, as a country, are in trouble.  If we don’t find our way out of this mess, the stability of the United States is in danger.

Although one might assume the dangerous mess Carroll was talking about was the Supreme Court mess, it wasn’t. This was published back in early 2010, and it had to do with health care, including the rising cost of prescription drugs.

But you could be forgiven if you thought it was about a sincere Lindsey Graham, at that Senate hearing in 2016, asking us to trust him:

"I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

That was Graham back then, this is him now:

“We have the votes.”

Short and sweet and to the point. The only thing he should have added is, “Hey, we’re Republicans! It’s in our nature! It’s the Democrat's fault for trusting us!"

If I could go back in time — but assuming if I did that, I could get Mitch McConnell’s ear — I would advise him not to use any silly "moral argument” for refusing to bring the president's nominee for a vote, that we should let the American people have a say in the next SCOTUS justice. Yes, that might make sense to some people, all Republicans, but maybe not as many as there would be voters four years later who would want to punish him for his hypocrisy, with their votes.

In other words, it might hurt him more later than help him back then.

Instead, he should simply have said, “We are doing this because we can. We’re doing this because nowhere in the rules does it say we can’t.

He might even suggest the possibility that the Democrats might themselves consider using it against a Republican president some day, if the opportunity presents itself.

You might think that would go over worse than the sanctimonious and pretentious case he actually made back then, but I don’t think so. I would think many, from all sides, might admire his no-nonsense honesty.

(Okay, let’s forget that word “admire”. It just seems out of place when referring to Mitch McConnell. But I hope you see my point.)

The truth is, the principle here is not a moral one, it’s a pragmatic one. You do what you need to do when the opportunity arises. It’s like “Jeopardy James” 
Holzhauer, who defied the tradition of choosing the first “answer” in a category, instead going for the higher value last question. If you find a smarter way to play the game than the way everybody else plays it, you go for it, even if it means breaking custom.

In truth, we Democrats might find it smart to be on the lookout for opportunities to block a Republican president’s nominee coming up for a vote, and maybe not even wait for the end of his term.

Where does it say you can't refuse to hold a vote at any point — maybe the beginning, maybe the middle, at any time in the presidential term you want to, as long as you have the votes? After all, as the other side has shown us, if’s not really cheating if there’s nothing in the rules to rule it out.

But, you may be asking, won’t this just add to the disfunction of the government, setting a precedent that the other side will find a chance to use that against us some day?

Unfortunately, yes, it would, and that would be a shame.

After all, as I often get caught saying, the founders created a system of government that would rely on an honor system, one that presumed their descendants would be honorable and intelligent enough to understand that, if they were to abandon their sense of honor, the whole project would go down the toilet (which, you have to admit, was quite prescient of them, since the toilet hadn't even been invented yet.)

Don’t believe me about the honor system? Then answer me this: 
How many years in jail do you get for violating the Constitution?

So the real problem when it comes to our constitution is, we have wandered a ways out of bounds and don’t know how to get back to where we belong.

In fact, I would argue that, whether they know it yet or not, the Republicans may not even want to go back, stuck with a leader who is growing tired of the American system, as too inefficient and possibly too forgiving of citizens who can’t — or, as he probably thinks, won’t — pull their weight, and recently seems to be toying with the idea of abandoning small-d democratic ideals altogether. I would say, without fear of contradiction, that he really would like to be the American Putin.

You know, there have always been right-wingers warning us that the commies will somehow take over America, I think probably championing movies like the 1984 flick “Red Dawn”, about a group of high school kids fighting back, described here in Wikipedia:

The United States has become strategically isolated after NATO is completely disbanded. [Sound familiar?] At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies aggressively expand their sphere of influence. ...

On a September morning, in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses when he sees Soviet troops parachuting from An-12 transport aircraft landing in a nearby field…

An alt-right daydream, of course! (Hey, I need to get me an AK-47 and plenty of ammo, just in case we get lucky!)

My answer to this was always, not gonna happen! For one thing, it wouldn't even get started, since virtually nobody here would welcome them, and everybody would fight back. No enemy would even bother trying. They’d know better.

That was before I found myself saying that Trump could never get anywhere as president. For one thing, the Republicans themselves hate him so much, they would probably impeach him before Christmas of his first year.

But then we all watched, and saw how it might start, right before our eyes on cable news.

So who to blame for where we are today?

Probably too many to list, but I might start with Newt Gingrich, who got the disintegration started by teaching the not-unwilling Republican politicians how to insult and denigrate, and to their glee, annihilate their rivals in congress.

Or maybe go back even before that, probably to Nixon.

If you’re old enough, you might remember that old custom of each party essentially rubber-stamping a president’s appointments, figuring he had a right to pick his own people, no matter how much his politics irked you.

Then one day, Reagan nominated Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, and partly because of his roll in Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, but maybe because he was such a flaming right-winger who, among other things, apparently hoped to roll back all civil rights gains, the senate simply refused to confirm him. From that time onward, you're getting “Borked” described getting done to you what the Democrats did to Bork.

And from that point on, when one congressperson referred to another as “my good friend”, it was often hissed through a scowl. The gloves came off. No more Mr. Nice Congress.

But if we’re looking for someone to blame for the latest Supreme Court kerfuffle, not to mention what seems will probably be conservative dominance in the Supreme Court for years to come?

Submitted for your consideration, the “Notorious” Justice Ruth!

She could have chosen to retire during the Obama administration, ensuring a Democrat in the seat, but instead, chose to place a bet on allowing herself, the second woman ever on the Supreme Court, be replaced by the soon-to-be first female president of the United States, which was, at that point, looking like a solid shoo-in.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Response to The Same Mistakes

(See: Just Above Sunset : The Same Mistakes)

Down South?

"Deep in their bones they know they lost that Civil War – that’s rather obvious…”

I’m not convinced of that. A friend of ours down here in Atlanta who grew up mostly in Macon, Georgia, once told us she was never taught in school that the South had lost the war! She said it wasn’t until her family moved to Ohio when she was in high school that she learned the North had won.

So much for an American common narrative!

It always seemed odd to me that all those Southern “Tea-Partiers” celebrated something that happened in Yankee Boston, also not realizing that the intent of the original Tea Party was largely a defense of the right of rich local merchants like John Hancock to continue smuggling, just like they always did, maybe to keep the cost of imports down, but not so much to do with "Taxation without Representation". But whatever. 

But while I have always been a bit puzzled about this “cancel culture” business that Trumpers keep talking about, I have to admit I might agree with some of it, especially when it comes to banning a mostly-benign movie like “Gone With the Wind” as "racist”.

Yes, they have a point that the book it came from, being the perspective of an early 1930s authoress who grew up in the south, hearing all those tales handed down from the days of yore that plantation owners “treated their slaves like family” and that, once given their freedom, those “uppity ungrateful darkies” really lorded it over their defeated masters, but also overlooking that Scarlet imagined she was exercising her birthright to slap Prissy silly, simply for not knowing nothing about birthing no babies, which certainly served as an insufficient example of how white people actually dealt with black "members of their own family" who didn’t do as they were told. And in truth, we can be pretty sure that episode of the movie mostly sugar-coats actual history.

But frankly, my dear, I never really liked that movie anyway. I remember telling my boss at CNN when he told me that his boss, Ted Turner, held that film in high regard — that I thought it was a “chick flick” that glorified some spoiled bitch who never did learn to act like a nice human being. (Besides that, shouldn’t a war movie have more scenes of men shooting at each other?)

And okay, maybe people who don’t share my own grasp of the historical context of this bullshit flick should probably only see it in conjunction with an explainer of some sort.

About that NY Times Magazine "1619 Project”? I really don’t know that much about it, but from what I’ve read, I do see some possible problems.

The first, the least of them, is they’re leaving the impression that it’s named after the first year African slaves arrived in North America, when in fact that's not actually true. Slaves from Africa were first brought into Georgia and South Carolina in 1526, almost a century before 1619, when they landed in Virginia, but those were brought by the Spanish, not the British, which I suppose makes a difference because the British colonies eventually became ourselves, although some might see that distinction as arbitrary.

But the project presents a different problem in its intention, as it says, "to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of [the United States'] national narrative”, along with a suggestion that 1619 might now be considered the "nation's birth year.”

This reminds me of an 1890s American history textbook I once bought at an antiques fair, that I discovered, on arriving home, was probably designed for use in Roman Catholic schools since every chapter seemed to focus on either a particular travail or achievement of Roman Catholics in America. How odd, I thought, that Catholics found it necessary back then to place their own selves at the very center of all American history.

But this is exactly what the 1619 Project seemingly hopes to do for African Americans. While I confess that other versions of the American story might be faulted for making African Americans feel sidelined in their own land, the solution is not to arbitrarily declare that the country began only once their own ancestors arrived on the scene, which would be like Donald Trump tracing the history of the country only as far back as when his grandfather arrived from Bavaria in 1885.

(My personal belief, by the way, has always been that 1776 was not our nation’s birth, and that everything preceding March 4, 1789, when our new Constitutional government called itself to order in its provisional capital in New York City, was merely the pre-game show, since the previous U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation was not really of a nation made up of states, but instead merely a collection of individual nation states in their own right, each being, in a technical sense, just as sovereign as France or the Netherlands. 
In fact, some of these little nations were even ruled by presidents, rather than governors. In truth, what was referred to as the United States only became a nation once the country that our Constitution called for came into being, which was in the spring of 1789.)

In any event, who really thinks Donald Trump (who is probably the first American president ever, since Abe Lincoln himself, to be inaugurated without ever having learned that Lincoln was a Republican“'Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,' Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. 'Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that' … appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the 'party of Lincoln'") is the right guy to be preaching to the rest of us about the shortcomings of American education?

In fact, I’m thinking he could have learned of Lincoln's politics had he actually taken that SAT that he reportedly paid someone else to take for him.

But still, I agree with Trump — (Quick! Could someone please gag me with a spoon?) — that we would have a hard time teaching anything about the founding of the country if we erased from our collective memory any record of any founder who owned slaves, since the knowledge of they’re having done that should serve as a great example of a major feature in our founding, that we are a nation that allows itself to correct its mistakes and improve over time, and not be dragged down to hell by realization of all the things we’ve done wrong — a realization that every American kid should be made aware of.

And only someone who refuses ever to apologize, much less admit to his mistakes, since that would be a sign of weakness, could disagree with that, nor even comprehend why the majority of Americans — that is, those who won’t end up voting for him! — actually don’t want to see their country made over in his likeness.

In fact, anyone having even vague knowledge of our founding era probably knows that many, if not most of our founders — even those who themselves owned slaves — knew slavery was evil and a trap that the country, at some point in its future, would have to extricate itself from.

But Confederate generals and whatnot? Forget it!

Rather than being American heroes, those people were the kind of folk we traditionally teach our children not to be — turncoat traitors who killed Americans, and who also happened to be fighting for the perpetuation of a right of humans to own other humans. These people contributed no more good to our story than Benedict Arnold did. All Americans and their children need to know that we don’t celebrate American traitors and villains.

And don’t forget, we’re talking here about a guy who confessed to Bob Woodward that he gets along better with autocratic leaders than with democratic ones:

"It's funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. … But maybe it's not a bad thing. The easy ones I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much.”

He can’t seem to understand why, but he prefers the company of jerks like himself, and doesn’t so much like our American allies. This is an American president who doesn’t really understand his job, nor does he even understand his own country. Why would any democracy want to grant any such chief executive jurisdiction over the education of its children?

On the other hand, to be fair, there may be legitimate reasons to beware of Joe Biden, who very possibly could be much much worse than Trump!

In fact, I heard the other day that he recently said he was “happy to be back in Vermont", when he was actually in New Hampshire! Have you ever heard of anything so frightening? I get goosebumps on my neck just contemplating the thought that this guy could someday be running our country!

And besides, this Biden guy is in his goddam seventies! What do we do if he dies?

Unlike his opponent, of course, who comes with a built-in advantage in that, if he were to die, nobody would panic.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Response to Those City Folks

(See: Just Above Sunset : Those City Folks)

Donald Trump may or may not be a "stable genius", but if so, why does he have such a hard time understanding the simple concept of not putting “the-cart-before-the-horse”?

For example:

1. Racial unrest in America is what is behind all this so-called "violence in the cities"  except, of course, for that which is just made up by Fox News.

Trump brushes off questions about race in America and accuses reporters of ignoring the “real” issue, which is the violence. If he were a true genius, you’d think he’d realize that we’re not going to solve the so-called violent protests until we solve the problem of Black people being chronically mistreated by White-run America, especially by our cops.

One might suspect he doesn’t even want to talk about race in America because he just doesn't see the problem. I think he figures we can just go on living forever with our racial injustice in the same way we can learn to live with North Korea having the bomb.

In any event, Trump, the stable genius, doesn’t understand that race-relations is the horse, and peace in the cities is the cart. If the cart's not moving, it just might be that you have a sick horse.

2. The reason that Obama’s great economy, which Trump has been quite successfully taking credit for since his inauguration, suddenly stopped working for him is he has been ignoring for too long the reality that the Coronavirus is a much bigger deal than the flu. 

Maybe, when you're a president, you can pick and choose the solutions to the nation’s big problems you have to solve, but you don’t get to pick and choose the problems themselves. The inconvenient truth is, when national crises present themselves to presidents, they show up uninvited and pre-packaged by the history that preceded them.

Because of his dithering early on, Trump has neglected this huge pandemic that everyday flesh-and-blood Americans know is a threat, whether he knows that or not, sending our bullish economy into a nosedive, and it will not come back up until everybody gets serious about dealing with what could justifiably be called the “Trump Virus”.

(Maybe back when it was only in China, one could call it the “China Virus”, but now that it’s in Trump’s jurisdiction, it seems only right that he take credit for it.)

Anyway, everybody knows you can't just force everyone into the cart and assume it'll start moving on its own, you first need to look up front and make sure you got yourself a healthy horse. Any rural Trump-loving farmer could've told you that.

I suspect it’s because Trump knows so little about America’s past that he’s never heard of that old saying about not putting “the-cart-before-the-horse”.

Joe Biden’s actually smart! I'm guessing that, back when he was in class learning about the horses and the carts and whatnot, Don was out in the parking lot, squeezing lunch money out of his lessers  not because he needed the money, but just for practice, just in case someday he decides to go into politics.

And I'm also betting that, back in the day, Biden's dad never loaned him a million bucks so he could go out and pay someone to take his SATs. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Response to Nothing Left To Stop

(See: Just Above Sunset : Nothing Left To Stop)

Concerning this Post Office business:

Something I wish we all were discussing is, shouldn't the United States Post Office go back to being a regular department of government, like it used to be? Maybe Biden should tout that idea, or even campaign on it.

My belief is that, before we choose whether a service should be performed by government rather than the private sector, we need to decide if…

(1) We the People think it’s an essential service, and one that we’re willing to cover the losses for with our taxes, and

(2) that it can’t either be performed at all, or can’t be performed adequately for the country’s needs, if left to the private sector.

Given the fact that most people think that, in its present state, it can’t do the job we want it to — that is, deliver letters and packages anywhere in U.S. jurisdiction in the world, no matter how far away, for the same price — and by “people", I mean not just “normal people” but also Republicans! — then it should go back to being a governmental department. It’s really just that simple.

Whether it can pay its own way shouldn’t even be a consideration once it's been determined that the American people think it’s an essential service of government.

The way this is being presented is, if it's having financial problems, then we need to “privatize” it — remembering that the word “privatize”,  in this case, is just another word for “abolish”. There’s no need to convert the Postal Service into a private company that isn't able to handle our needs, since there are already private companies out there doing that.

And who do we have to thank for a Post Office Department that suddenly can't perform the functions it had been doing for hundreds of years? 

First, there was President Richard Nixon, who, following the settlement of a nationwide postal strike in 1970, abolished the "Post Office Department” and, for some obscure reason, converted it into the United States “Postal Service”, an "independent establishment" of the federal government which, though still under the thumb of the government but with no help from taxpayers, will now be required to support itself.

And then, in 2006, something else happened to make it even harder for the service to pay its way. This is from Eric Levitz in New York Magazine:

The Postal Service’s financial problems are largely an artifact of a 2006 law that arbitrarily requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years worth of its retirees’ health benefits.

Its status as an independent, self-sustaining agency is also relatively novel and unnecessary. The federal government could cover the Postal Service’s annual losses for about $14 billion a year — which is roughly one-tenth of the amount of money that Congress has added to the Pentagon’s annual budget since Donald Trump took office. 
Our country can easily afford to sustain an unprofitable public institution that provides 600,000 Americans with good jobs, and 90 percent of all U.S. residents with a service they approve of.

Nixon gave libertarian conservatives what they’ve always wanted, even though the American public never has, and apparently did so after little if any public discussion. We the People are now going to have to undo these so-called reforms foisted upon us by the likes of Donald Trump, and then pay more attention from now on.

First of all, do we demand that the Pentagon, for example, “pays its own way”? God knows what foolishness that would lead to  and in fact, there’s been some consideration by this president to rent out the army as sort of a mercenary force to countries willing to pay the freight.

For the same reason, we should not expect the White House itself to earn enough to cover expenses to run itself. How? From tour ticket sales? Maybe the building could be converted to a hotel, complete with four-star restaurant? Maybe they could charge to have a photo taken with the president! (You think he hasn't considered that idea?)

Speaking of which, it might be a good idea from now on for us to put a cap on how much the White House can spend. If we do that, then maybe some corrupt president wouldn’t assume the rest of us should pick up the cost of his flying Air Force One to Florida every weekend, and then charge us rent to house Secret Service agents.

The idea should be that, after a certain amount, the president could foot those bills himself. And if he decides not to pay for housing the agents? He could just leave them behind in Washington. No skin off our teeth!

But that’s just one of many American reforms a President Biden could promise, another being getting rid of the Electoral College, which most of the country should, by now, be ready to admit has not served us well.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Response to Hurting God

 (See: Just Above Sunset : Hurting God)

Jason Mulder, an evangelical Christian in Sioux Center, Iowa, says:

"I feel like on the coasts, in some of the cities and stuff, they look down on us in rural America. You know, we are a bunch of hicks, and don’t know anything. They don’t understand us the same way we don’t understand them. So we don’t want them telling us how to live our lives.”

That may be it right there. Both sides don’t like each other because each thinks the other is telling them how to live their lives — and they’re both right.

Still, any equivalence of the two sides may be imaginary, especially if most evangelicals think of themselves as those “Dordt Defenders” who cast out those who don’t share their religious prejudices. (In fact, not all those on the losing side of the 1619 "Synod of Dordrecht were merely expelled, at least one of their leaders was beheaded.)

As it is, I may indeed harbor a dislike of those evangelicals, although not because they’re Christians — heck, Barack Obama is a Christian and I like him just fine! (I myself am an agnostic, though not an evangelistic agnostic; I don’t really much care what you believe.) In fact, my dislike is more because of their dislike of me and my belief system.

So these evangelicals in Iowa admit that Trump is probably not a real Christian, even though he may be just their local Mafia Don who has agreed, for reasons of his own that they don't care to be aware of, to protect their neighborhood.

But do they really think he was sent by God? If so, my response would be, if you really believe in a God that is good, you almost have to also believe in that other god, the bad one. And so then the question becomes, which one sent Trump?

And if it turns out that he was sent up here, rather than down
, wouldn’t this give credence to those accusations of the "coastal elites”, that those midwestern red states are populated by "naive hicks"?

I like the way E.J. Dionne nails it when he says, “The more religion is associated with right-wing politics, the more alienated from religion progressives become, and the more inclined they are to dismiss religious people altogether.”

Or maybe it’s just that the moderate left doesn’t choose to make deals with Satan!

True, a higher percentage of liberal Democrats may be religiously unaffiliated, but at least we never beheaded anyone because of their choice of religious inclinations.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Response to That Interview

No, Trump's problem is not his staff, or even that he “doesn’t have control” over his reality.

His reelection problems all spring from the fact that he was (1) elected accidentally, and (2) elected as a “minority president”, which he still is.

Donald Trump won in 2016 because his particular schtick appealed to a small bunch of voters who were annoyed that the smart people who were running the country and making the country the way it was were people they didn’t particularly like. 

And, of course, these voters were able to prevail because of America’s stupid "Electoral College" system of electing presidents (which should have been eliminated long ago, but don’t get me started on things we need to do to make this a “more perfect union”) allows a minority group of quasi-crazies who don’t want the same things the rest of us do, if situated in just the right states, to get their way.

But one problem with this is, the quasi-crazies themselves have no idea of how to run a country, which means that nor will their candidate, and also, that their candidate will likely win with smoke-and-mirrors, and smoke-and-mirrors will fail when it comes to actually governance when real problems arise, such as having a heaven-sent prophet (in the person of a kneeling football player, warning that Black Lives Do Matter) ignored for several years, and a predictable global pandemic not being handled the way it should be, and early enough to do some good, the failing of which naturally causes the economy to collapse.

(Yes, Donald Trump was way too showbiz to comprehend what was being asked of him, but maybe it really wasnhis fault! Maybe the fault was with America not taking enough care to avoid electing a natural-born loser — after all, Trump didn't elect himself!)

It’s not that Trump has lost his magic touch, it’s that magic is all illusion, and real crises are not fixed by smoke-and-mirror illusions, which is all Trump has in his toolbox. (He's really what we call a "one-trick pony".)

And as for Newt Gingrich?

“I think it took several months to realize that all the tools that worked brilliantly for four years were not in tune with where the country was,” Gingrich said.

No one should forget that Gingrich was the guy who started digging the hole we find ourselves in today, and the fact that he probably doesn’t realize that is reflected in the fact that he really thinks that Trump’s tools "worked brilliantly for four years”.

The voters who elected Trump, and especially those who eventually came to believe in him, expected him to eventually pay off with something good, but what he ended up delivering turned out to be a huge disappointment, and too late for any of his magic to turn around.

It’s funny watching a discussion amongst his Republican goons about what Trump can do to pull himself out of his nosedive, when the answer seems to be obvious:


(Or so I hope, along with just about everyone else on the planet.)